Metal tactile dome switch with embedded LEDs

Tactile, Non-Tactile Keypads & Metal Dome Membrane Switches

Membrane switches and keypads are used in control systems for a variety of industries, from agricultural to medical to industrial. They are used as a user interface between a person and the operating system of equipment or machinery. There are two main types of membrane switches available, tactile and non-tactile, that differ in their method of feedback.

Deciding which keypad feedback to use for your application is related to what the keypad will be used for. Both tactile and non-tactile membrane switches are useful, but they differ in their construction and primary purpose.

Tactile Keypads Provide Tangible Feedback for User

Tactile keypads are momentary contact switches, meaning they are only active while being pressed. They provide a physical feedback to the user through a metal dome or formed plastic dome beneath the overlay. When a key is pressed, the dome collapses and contacts the conductive under layer, completing the circuit and creating an action sequence.

When the user removes pressure from the key, the dome pops back up, eliminating the circuit connection and causing the action to stop. They are internally vented and sealed to prevent contamination.

Tactile switches are used for many household devices, like remote controls and appliances. They also work great in noisy environments where a physical response is a more efficient message than a sound or visual cue.

Advantages of Tactile PCB Membrane Switches

Tactile membrane switches offer several benefits. These include:

  • Immediate indication that a switch has been activated
  • Metal domes are durable in extreme temperatures
  • Improved accuracy
  • Metal dome switches are available in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and actuation forces. Stainless steel domes may also be available with an optional nickel plating 

Non-Tactile Keypads Utilize Light and Sound for Effective Feedback

Snap Action Tactile Dome Switch with Embedded Bi-Colo Membrane KeypadNon-tactile keypads are similar to a tactile switch, but when pressed, there is no tangible feedback response. Instead, they require another way to alert the user that the switch has been activated. Typically, they rely on an audible or visual response from the unit. 

Instead of a metal or plastic dome beneath the overlay, the non-tactile switch uses two layers of polyester with a conductive coating on each layer. When a user pushes a key, the polyester layers flex and make contact closing the circuit and initiating an action.

Since they may utilize a thicker graphic overlay for increased ruggedization and protection, non-tactile keypads are frequently used for applications used in extreme environments. Non-tactile keypad constructions are exceptionally reliable and can be easily incorporated into complex user interfaces.

Advantages of Non-tactile PCB Membrane Switches

  • Very ruggedized design
  • Long life cycle
  • Easily made into custom shapes and sizes
  • Lower cost

Metal Dome Membrane Switches

Manufactured from nickel plated stainless steel, metal dome switches are momentary switch contacts that become normally-open tactile switches when used in conjunction with a printed circuit board, flex circuit, or printed membrane circuit. Tactile metal dome switches provide an extremely reliable user interface and are installed through a pocket design concept, or directly on printed circuit boards with pressure-sensitive adhesive tape or dome cover.

Tactile Metal Dome Switch Advantages

Since metal dome switches are available in a wide range of shapes and sizes, including fully customized options they are often found in electronic devices, test equipment, industrial controls, and other types of measurement equipment. Metal dome membrane switches provide the following beneficial features:

  • Lightweight design
  • Low-profile
  • Many actuation force options
  • Reliable tactile response
  • Fully ruggedized design
  • Integrates well into most all applications

Contact Dyna-Graphics for Tactile, Non-Tactile & Metal Dome Membrane Switches Today

Dyna-Graphics provides state-of-the-art membrane keypadstouchscreens, and other HMI solutions to meet a broad variety of specifications and requirements. To learn more about tactile and non-tactile keypads and which one is better suited for your applications, contact Dyna-Graphics or find a local representative today.

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