The short answer is a simple yet resounding “YES”. Once considered the standard for HMIs, the membrane switch was pushed into the background after the introduction of touchscreens. After all, touch-sensitive devices have long been established as well. However, a touchscreen is not suitable for every application. Certain environmental conditions, device specifications, individual user preferences or safety requirements continue to speak FOR tactile input devices and thus FOR membrane switches. Membrane switches are amazing tools for product designers and device manufacturers looking for a cost-effective yet highly functional interface for human-machine interaction. In short, membrane switches can be used in all industries.

The advantages of a membrane switches:

> Geometries and components can easily be customized to your installation dimensions
> Custom designs make each membrane switch unique
> Sealing and protection concepts according to IP protection classes for demanding application environments
> Lower acquisition costs compared to a touch solutions
> Often shorter lead times compared to complex touch solutions
> Long service life (we guarantee at least 1 million switching cycles) and they can last up to 15-20 years
> Operation at extreme temperatures possible
> Low power consumption

The components of a membrane switch:

The basic version consists of a polyester film package of several layers (also called sandwich structure). Here, the printed circuitry (polyester film printed with a conductive paste) forms the heart of the membrane switch.

> Graphic overlay / decorative film : The top layer of a membrane switch is the graphic overlay or decorative film. It is the design of the user interface and should be  intuitive and appealing for the target        audience.
> Adhesive: The adhesive layer bonds the overlay to the rest of the components.
> Dome retainer: This layer ensures that the integrated metal domes do not slip even after years of use and thus does not cause any malfunction.
> Spacer: This layer compensates for different heights of metal domes or LEDs.
> Circuitry or circuit board: The printed circuitry – the heart – is located on this layer. For flexible membrane switches, we screen print the circuitry with a conductive paste onto a polyester film and feed them out via a connecting tape with protected graphite ends. For rigid membrane switches, the circuitry is located on a circuit board, which can be additionally equipped with further electronic components at the customer’s request. This layer will also have the integrated metal domes for tactile switches and the status LEDs or  the SideLEDs for homogenous backlighting of keys, symbols, etc.
> Adhesive: The adhesive on the back is selected based on the substrate (plastic, metal, smooth or textured).

The composition can be customized and built up according to application requirements. If additional functions are needed, such as backlighting or the integration of additional electronic components and interfaces, we simply replace the flexible circuitry with a thin circuit board to equip with electronic components. We can easily integrate additional layers, such as light separation or EMC shielding.

Virtually endless customizations:

Membrane switches are durable and reliable solutions with virtually endless design options and various functional components based on the application.

> Graphic overlay with photorealistic designs, mirror and metallic effects, brushed metal look on polyester film
> Embossing and durable domed keys using GT technology
> Status LEDs and even backlighting including dead front design
> Double contact for high safety requirements (two different actuating forces in one button)
> IP protection against dirt and liquids
> UV Protection for outdoor applications
> EMC shielding
> Antimicrobial surface for hygienically demanding environments
> Combination with displays and touchscreens

Membrane switches as great alternative to touch solutions:

We all remember interrupted supply chains, long waiting times, material bottlenecks: so many companies were affected by the procurement crisis on the world market in some way. A wide variety of components were difficult or even impossible to supply. Electronic components, IC’s, displays, touchscreens and other electrical components were not available. Manufacturing technology also plays a role: touch displays require certain chemicals that were hard to get due to interrupted supply chains. Our solution: create alternatives that can be implemented without extensive changes to project planning. For HMIs, this means that membrane switches are not affected by procurement issues and delays as much. Of course, at first glance, a touch system is the more modern technology: hip, meanwhile also mature and equipped with some possibilities. When developing new devices or redesigning existing ones, it helps to ask the following basic questions about the right input device at the beginning of any project planning:

> Where will my product be used?
> How robust does it have to be against environmental influences?
> Are safety functions necessary?
> How much space is available for HMI?
> How should the HMI be connected?
> What role does haptic feedback or finger guidance play?
> How much should the HMI cost?
> What service life must the HMI fulfill?
> Does it necessarily have to be a complex touch system or is a membrane switch perhaps the right choice right from the start?

Use smart membrane switches to secure your competitive advantage:

With our technology tap2.cloud we make your products fit for the future. We integrate NFC technology into your membrane switch, building the bridge to the online world. With tap2.cloud, you can easily connect and identify your devices. In connection with the IoT cloud, you link custom content and thus offer your customers new services: digital product specifications, operating instructions, direct ordering of spare parts or a repair service available to your customers “on tap” on their smartphone. This cloud solution makes your device management simple, smart and digital and even meets the special requirements of a digital nameplate according to DIN SPEC 91406. Even the supposed “standard” of HMIs, the membrane switch, is constantly evolving! In addition to countless customization options and extensions, a membrane switch with integrated NFC technology even supports the step into digitalization.

New development or redesign? We are your partner from prototype to volume production.

Contact us and start your project today!