Electrical switches come in a variety of shapes and sizes, some of which are smaller and more compact than others. Printed circuit board (PCB) membrane switches, for example, are better suited for small electronics than conventional mechanical switches because of their small size. Unless you’re familiar with them, though, you might be wondering how PCB membrane switches differ from other electrical switches exactly. To learn more about PCB membrane switches, keep reading.

Overview of PCB Membrane Switch

A PCB membrane switch, as the name suggests, is an electrical switch that’s characterized by the use of a printed circuit as well as a flexible construction. They feature a printed circuit board made of copper-covered cloth or resin-infused fiber. In high-precision applications, gold may be used to ensure reliability with the PCB membrane switch. Regardless, all PCB membrane switches feature a printed circuit as well as a flexible design.

Like many other electrical switches, PCB membrane switches support the use of a backlight. Common backlighting solutions used in PCB membrane switches include electroluminescent (EL) and light-emitting diode (LED), which may be used in conjunction with light guides or fiber optic to evenly distribute the light.

PCB Membrane Switch vs Flex Membrane Switch

Many people assume that PCB membrane switches are the same as flex membrane switches. While similar, though, they each feature unique characteristics. Flex membrane switches, for example, feature thin dielectric materials, whereas PCB membrane switches feature a fiber material inner layer. Both PCB membrane switches and flex membrane switches feature at least one electrical contact made of a flexible material.

Benefits of PCB Membrane Switches

PCB membrane switches offer several benefits, one of which is high electrical conductivity. All circuits are designed to control electricity, so their performance is heavily influenced by their conductivity. If a circuit features highly resistive materials that restrict conductivity, it may fail to open and close the circuit as the appropriate times. Thanks to its highly conductive construction, however, this isn’t a problem with PCB membrane switches.

PCB membrane switches also support hard soldering. In other words, manufacturers aren’t required to build them using adhesives or epoxy; they can build them by soldering the individual components together.

Whether it’s indoors or outdoors, PCB membrane switches can withstand extreme environments. Their sealed design prevents the intrusion of liquids, which could otherwise damage other types of electrical switches. Other benefits of PCB membrane switches include a finer pitch and support for plating (e.g. gold plating).