Devices and screens have taken over our professional and personal lives. So, by now, we’re all accustomed to entry methods like keyboards and touchscreen. But for many types of products, including medical equipment, industrial equipment, consumer electronics, the membrane switch remains the best choice for user interfaces.
A membrane switch is a thin, flexible switch that uses printed circuitry to create a customizable user interface. There are many advantages of membrane switches, including being compact, lightweight, cost-effective, and durable.
While a membrane switch has a relatively simple design, they can also be accentuated with a host of differentiating features, depending on your needs and objectives. One popular enhancement is tactile feedback.
What is tactile feedback?
Tactile feedback is a way to replicate the experience of a physical button within the membrane switch format. A common question we get from customers is, does my product need a tactile membrane switch?
There’s no right or wrong choice between a tactile or non-tactile membrane switch. The decision typically comes down to the function of the final product, the environment in which it will be used, as well as user-experience considerations. Allow us to explore the advantages and disadvantages of both options.
Pros and Cons of Tactile Membrane Switches
Let’s start with reasons why you may want to go with a tactile membrane switch. Since most people today are familiar and comfortable with physical buttons (such as on most computer keyboards), tactile feedback can improve the confidence and accuracy of input within the user interface. Tactile membrane switches can include a few important features:
- Embossed (or raised) contact areas that feel like traditional buttons
- The shape, size, and actuation force can be customized
- A clicking sound can be created when the user pushes the button down
Tactile membrane switches are common in applications where the clarity and accuracy of input are very important. A few examples include medical equipment and industrial products where an error can have significant consequences.
The main drawback of the tactile feature is that it adds material, which increases material and assembly cost. The addition of moving parts can also slightly reduce the durability of the membrane switch.
Pros and Cons of Non-Tactile Membrane Switches
Not every application requires tactile feedback. In fact, a non-tactile membrane switch can still offer a pleasant user experience. Without the embossed “buttons,” the interface can be smoother, sleeker, and easier to clean.
Instead of the physical sensation of a button, non-tactile membrane switches can use backlighting or sounds to provide feedback when the user presses the contact areas. Examples that come to mind include the control panel of a home appliance or the dashboard of a vehicle.
Product designers may opt for a traditional membrane switch for simplicity, more design flexibility, or a sleeker appearance. Non-tactile components are also generally more cost-effective.
Designing and Manufacturing Tactile Membrane Switches
Tactical feedback can add functionality and convenience to your device, but it also adds a layer of complexity to the membrane switch. This makes it extra important to find a manufacturing partner you can trust to produce a high-quality component.
Here at Tapecon, we’ve successfully created just about every type of membrane switch you can imagine, including those with tactile features. We provide value at every step of the process, from providing design consultation all the way through testing, production, and assembly.
Get Started with Membrane Switches
At Tapecon, we have over 100 years of experience helping customers solve their complex product challenges. Learn more about our membrane switch applications.