Membrane switches are utilized in many products, including remote controllers, air conditioners, microwaves, and human-machine interfaces (HMI). Its primary function is to regulate the flow of electricity in a circuit, like all switches. Electricity may flow between two components when the button is pressed down. Electricity cannot flow while the control is released, breaking the circuit. However, mechanical switches can also carry out this fundamental task. What distinguishes membrane switches from mechanical switches, then?
Material of Construction
Most of mechanical switches are copper and plastic, though there are several outliers. Silver and copper are the two most conductive materials in existence. However, copper is also less expensive and simpler to get because it is more widely available, making it a preferred material for building mechanical switches.
Contrarily, membrane switches typically consist of an electrical circuit printed with conductive ink on a sheet of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or indium tin oxide (ITO). A membrane switch must be printed using conductive ink. It won’t be able to regulate the flow of electricity otherwise. Use of a non-conductive ink will prevent electricity from passing through it. Because they are all conductive, copper, silver, or graphite ink is used in most membrane switches.
Only membrane switches are flexible, which is another way they vary from mechanical switches. In actuality, membrane switches are “a momentary switch device in which at least one contact is on, or constructed of, a flexible substrate,” according to ASTM International, a technical standards body based in Pennsylvania. This definition’s keyword is “flexible,” which means membrane switches can bend and stretch without breaking—at least to a certain extent. Because mechanical switches lack this advantage, they are inefficient for several applications.
Switches made of membranes are sturdy and long-lasting in addition to being flexible. Even certain membrane switch types have characteristics that make them resistant to water. For instance, a Kapton circuit is produced when copper and polyimide are used in place of printer silver. Kapton switches outperform conventional membrane and mechanical switches regarding current capacity and moisture resistance.
Maintenance & Sealing
The maintenance requirements of mechanical and membrane switches are another significant distinction. Membrane keypads are integrated into the components; thus, there are no gaps through which dust, dirt, or other debris could reach the circuitry. So, compared to cleaning a mechanical keypad, cleaning a membrane keypad is much simpler and takes much less time. A membrane keypad is much simpler to seal than an automatic switch.
It’s a myth that membrane keypads cost more than their mechanical counterparts, although this isn’t always the case. Membrane keypads are more affordable than mechanical switch alternatives, which makes them a desirable choice for clients who use their products frequently. Membrane keypads are less expensive for the end user since they are simpler to build and have fewer moving components because the keys are all incorporated together.
The purpose of flexiable membrane switches and mechanical switches is to regulate the flow of electricity. The former offers a higher level of strength and durability, is constructed from various materials, and has a flexible design.
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