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Enhancements sustain membrane switches' lead over mechanical types

Makers boost the category by targeting more applications, including wet and harsh environments.

China suppliers of membrane switches are broadening their selections as the category continues to replace mechanical counterparts in consumer electronics, home appliances, security devices and industrial equipment. Many are introducing models that suit various installation environments under efforts to expand the application base.

Membrane switch

Shenzhen Xinjiejia's JYJAB1108 model is a one-button tactile membrane switch with a metal dome.

Companies build on the product’s design flexibility, thin and lightweight configuration. They employ imported plastic, epoxy, PU and UV coating, and a hermetic sealing technique to improve resistance to water, dust, oil, chemicals, toxic gas or high temperature. Spray painting is also done. For additional watertightness, makers add a cushion layer between the front panel and circuit.

As a result, some units can have up to IP67 rating, making them suitable for bathrooms, steam saunas or even underwater. Others targeted at outdoor setups have glare reduction and scratch protection. To make the keys uniform in height and tactile effect, companies generally utilize embossing.

Suppliers will also launch more variants with LED annunciators, taking advantage of falling diode component costs. The LED window is usually made of PC and can be transparent, translucent or matte.

To take advantage of rising demand, most makers are increasing capacity. Nanjing Zhongshan Membrane Switch Co. Ltd plans to add one production line in coming months. Shenzhen Xinjiejia Electronic Membrane Switch Co. Ltd constructed a second factory in Zhengzhou, Henan province.

Suppliers such as Tortai Technologies Co. Ltd expand their business by offering related services. Tortai covers design and manufacture of individual components and turnkey products. Its lineup comprises rubber-keypad, PCB and metal-backed membrane switches.

The sector in China has 100 to 200 manufacturers. Most are located in Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces. Others operate in the provinces of Jiangsu and Fujian, and Shanghai. The majority follow ISO 9001:2008- or 9001:2000 guidelines.

OEM and ODM are the key business for all. Some companies have Philips, Delta, Emerson, Siemens, Flextronics, Omron and Samsung on their clients list.

Tactile membrane switches lead

There are two general categories in China, namely tactile and nontactile or flat. The former type, which uses metal or polyester domes, dominates output.

By further classification, there are PCB and flexible PCB, LED, EL and fluorescent units, and varieties based on the back plate material such as aluminum.

Products have a life span exceeding 1 million presses, with some surpassing 500 million. The typical operating and storage temperature ranges are -40 to 80 C and -40 and 85 C. The rest of the specifications, including actuation force and connectors, are customized.

Makers add touch panels, LCD screens, PC or ESD/EMI shielding layers on request. Tortai will include an ESD layer in its upcoming releases.

RoHS guidelines are followed, with some suppliers securing additional REACH approval.

The types of plastic used include PET, PC and PVC. Silicone is also utilized. For mounting adhesives, 3M’s 467MP and 468MP are mostly adopted, with the 9448, 9080, 300LSE and 9671 regarded as options. Shenzhen Xinjiejia’s JYJAB1108 model employs the first two and matte PET.

The majority of makers source raw materials from local distributors of international companies. They also turn to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. Mitsubishi, Sabic and DuPont are among the key providers.

There are companies such as Shenzhen Xinjiejia that produce their own requirement. The supplier makes touchscreens, PVC/PC/PET labels, stickers, conductive film, flexible PCBs and faceplates. It also offers push-button switches.

Although input costs are expected to remain at current levels, labor expenditure is still high and may lead to a price increase of up to 10 percent in coming months.

Product gallery

Membrane switch

Product gallery

Honlex Flexible PCB Industrial Co. Ltd

Model: HL65
Description: Polyester or metal domes; <100ohm contact resistance; <100mA operating current; -35 to 70 C operating, -45 to 90 C storage temperatures

Membrane switch

Nanjing Zhongshan Membrane Switch Co. Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: LED embedded membrane switch
MOQ: 50 units
Delivery: 10 days
Description: PET, 3M468MP adhesive; 1 million-cycle life span; 0.4 to 1mm tactile, 0.1 to 0.3mm nontactile

Membrane switch

Tortai Technologies Co. Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: LED Membrane Switch
MOQ: 300 units
Delivery: 10 days
Description: Metal domes, connectors; EL backlight; LED circuit layer

Note: This article "Enhancements sustain membrane switches' lead over mechanical types" was originally published by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.

All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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