Switches are the foundation on which nearly all electronic devices operate. Consisting of two or more conductive paths, they are designed to control a circuit. When a switch is activated, its respective circuit will open or close. While all switches work by controlling a circuit, though, there are many different types of switches, including tactile. What is a tactile switch exactly, and how does it differ from other switches?

The Basics of Tactile Switches

A tactile switch is a type of switch that produces a physical sensation in response to its circuit being activated. Like all other switches, tactile switches control a circuit. If a tactile switch currently has an open circuit, pressing it will close the circuit. If it has a closed circuit, pressing it will open the circuit. With that said, tactile switches are distinguished from all other types of switches by producing a physical sensation when pressed.

Pressing a tactile switch will typically create a “snapping” sensation that you can physically feel with your finger. This “snapping” sensation is referred to as tactile feedback. It provides reassurance knowing that the electronic device identified your command. When you feel the tactile switch snap, you’ll know that you pressed it hard enough to activate the switch’s underlying circuit.

Some of the benefits offered by tactile switches include the following:

  • Fewer errors
  • Increased user satisfaction
  • Durable construction
  • Long-lasting
  • Resistance to moisture and environmental pollutants
  • Supports backlighting

How Tactile Switches Work

Tactile switches typically work with the use of an elastic material that springs back up after being pressed. Membrane switches, for instance, are considered tactile switches because they are made of an elastic material. They feature webbing made of an elastic material — such as silicone rubber — that’s placed around the center of a circuit.

When you press a tactile switch, you’ll feel a “snapping” sensation. The elastic material allows them to produce this physical sensation. It will pop back to its original upright position, thus giving you peace of mind knowing that the tactile switch identified your command and changed the position of the circuit.

In Conclusion

Tactile switches work in a similar way as other switches by controlling an underlying circuit. The circuit can be opened or closed by pressing the switch’s button. Tactile switches receive their namesake, however, by producing tactile feedback when the circuit is activated. Whether you open or close its circuit, the tactile switch will produce a physical sensation that’s known as tactile feedback.