NormaTec membrane switch with embossed keys, a lens, and gradient color patterns

You can’t choose the perfect switching solution without considering the technology it uses. There are different types of electrical switches, each of which uses a different technology.

Some of the most common types include flex membrane switches, printed circuit board (PCB) switches and silver-printed circuits. While they all control one or more circuits, there are nuances between them. Nonetheless, membrane switches like flex and PCB membrane offer several advantages over silver-printed circuits.

Conductivity

Membrane switches offer a higher level of electrical conductivity than their silver-printed counterparts. Electrical conductivity, of course, is a measurement of how easily electricity can travel through a given material or object. A high level of electrical conductivity means electricity can easily travel through it with minimal resistance. A low level of electrical conductivity, on the other hand, means electricity will struggle to travel through the given material or object. Membrane switches are designed to offer a higher level of electrical conductivity than that of silver-printed circuits.

Moisture Resistance

Another reason to choose membrane switches over silver-printed circuits is moisture resistance. Moisture can oftentimes damage electrical switches. It can cause short circuits where the electricity travels beyond its normal pathways. Alternatively, moisture can cause switches to develop corrosion, which can then eat away at the material from which they are made. The good news is that membrane switches are resistant to moisture. They feature a sealed top layer that prevents the ingress of moisture.

Supports Plating

Unlike most silver-printed circuits, membrane switches support plating. Plating is a finishing process that involves the application of another layer of material over an existing layer. Membrane switches can be plated with gold, for example. They don’t feature a ton of gold. Rather, gold-plated membrane switches have a thin layer of gold that’s applied over an existing layer. Other types of switches, including silver-printed circuits, may or may not support gold plating such as this.

Hard Soldering

It’s also worth mentioning that membrane switches support hard soldering. Most switches require at least some form of soldering. The parts must be soldered together to ensure they don’t shift or otherwise move out of position. Silver-printed circuits, though, typically feature silver paste. The silver paste is applied as an adhesive, which serves the same purpose as soldering. Membrane switches, conversely, support hard soldering. Hard soldering offers a higher level of security by holding the parts together. It’s a better and more effective solution than adhesive-based silver paste.