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Membrane Switches – The History behind their Origination

Author: Elec Flex
by Elec Flex
Posted: Jan 13, 2019

For quite a longer time-period, mechanical keyboards were the only option. But with the passage of time and technology advancement, a new player entered the market. The membrane switches exploded in popularity and quickly came to dominate the industry.

But when the membrane keyboards and switches got first invented 30 years ago, they were ridiculed as a low-cost but unreliable method of inputting data. After decades of improvements and with new technological advancements, often unnoticed by consumers, membrane switches are now established as effective input and keyboarding hardware for many different technical applications.

Thanks to their unquestionable advantages, these switches today have become high-tech subsystems indispensable to many industries.

Do You Know its History??...

The membrane switches at first got originated as technical screen printing. Initially, printed membranes were simply used as decorative elements to enhance the appearance of traditional switches or as a cover for short-stroke keys.

It was in the early 1980s, the first real membrane switches came to market and the membrane construction of the keypad was polycarbonate. The switch consists of two conductive layers and was separated by a spacer. Upon pressing, the spacer compresses and voltage starts flowing between the two layers.

Previously, membrane switches lacked any tactile feedback and hence it was impossible to calculate exact distances between layers. So engineers switched to using polyester as the base material and changed the design in regard to structure and composition, which eliminated all the problems of the early years.

It was in the 1980s when the first membrane switches with domed keys were made. This introduction of metal domes enhanced longevity and tactile feedback. Another major step in the evolution of membrane switches was the addition of LEDs.

At first, LEDs were used to backlight keys but today they provide a wide variety of display options for membrane switches. The biggest breakthrough however in the invention of the switches was the increase in switching cycles to over one million operations when gold-plated metal snap domes came into the picture.

Over the years, membrane switches have become a lot easier to add to designs. Mouse pad, touch screen, analog potentiometer, display – all of these elements can be incorporated quite easily. The back of the membrane keyboard also came directly fitted to a custom circuit board.

Cleaning membrane switches are also quite easier and ensure maximum hygiene standards can be met. The switches make flat designs possible and can be inserted behind plastic, glass, and other non-conductive surfaces. They also give the switches a cutting-edge design option.

Overall, membrane switches today, offer engineers a wide range of IP rating options, a low profile and great flexibility in design. In fact, the keyboards have become the input standard for numerous industries.

Membrane switch manufacturers also want their devices, switches, and keypads to have long lives and that do not wear out despite a large number of keystrokes and switching cycles. Design engineers should look for the guarantee of those components tested over one million operations and in a variety of environmental conditions.

Good tactile switching behavior is another essential factor for user acceptance. So designers should choose membrane switches that are easy to clean with a variety of cleaning materials and completely sealed.

Last but not least, even the switches should be easy to install and have the ability to use a wide variety of connectivity options.

At ElecFlex, we have an extensive understanding about Europe and US quality standard in membrane switch and related products. Our highly-experienced, well-trained staffs enable us to meet all your needs on products. For any of your needs, you can reach us on +1-514-625-0821 or write to us at PHIL@ELECFLEX.COM.

About the Author

This article is written by C khuzwayo on behalf of, this is having topics on Membrane Switch, Membrane Switch Manufacturer, Membrane Keypad, Membrane keyboard, Graphic Overlay and many more.

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Author: Elec Flex

Elec Flex

Member since: May 01, 2014
Published articles: 10

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