Membrane switches play a key role in the function of many modern-day electronics, including microwaves, air conditioners, washing machines, clothes dryers, in-vehicle control systems and more. They are characterized by the use of a membrane switch in which the circuit is printed on PET or ITO. This is in stark contrast to traditional mechanical switches, which are typically made of copper and plastic. So, what are the benefits of choosing a membrane switch over its mechanical counterpart?
One of the greatest benefits of using a membrane switch is its waterproof characteristics. Granted, not all membrane switches are waterproof, but they can certainly be designed with this feature. This makes them particularly useful in outdoor applications where there’s a high risk of moisture. Traditional mechanical switches would likely short out and cease to function after being exposed to water. This isn’t a problem with certain types of membrane switches, however, as the rubber membrane acts as a protective layer between the electrical components and the weather.
Another reason why so many companies prefer membrane switches is because they support a variety of different backlights, including light-emitting diode (LED), fiber optics, and electroluminescent (EL). LED backlights are highly efficient, drawing very little power. The downside to using them, however, is that some may create bright spot. This makes LED a good choice for indicator lights, but not so much for entire panel back lighting. EL is among the newer backlighting technologies used in membrane switches, delivering an impressive half life of 3,000 to 8,000 hours depending on the quality.
Membrane switches also have a low profile, thanks to their “membrane” design. The keys sit low, sometimes even flush to the surface of the respective device or machine. This allows for a smoother, cleaner-looking device that’s preferred for many applications. And because the keys of a membrane switch have a low profile, they offer a higher level of ergonomics when compared to their mechanical counterpart.
Of course, these are just a few of the many reasons why membrane switches are taking over. Before choosing a switch, consider your specific applications and its requirements. There’s really no such thing as single “best” type of switch. Granted, membrane switches are certainly gaining momentum, but there’s a place for mechanical switches.