Microswitch manufacturers are boosting the product’s electric and mechanical properties to move upmarket.
Suppliers in China are enhancing microswitch performance to bolster competitiveness with growing demand from both traditional and emerging markets expected to boost the line in coming months. Although entry-level and midrange models continue to dominate the country’s selection, several enterprises are releasing more variants with better electric and mechanical characteristics and value additions to move upmarket.
Efforts are mainly directed toward improving durability, increasing current and voltage ratings, reducing operating force and extending life span. For the last, the most common is more than 1 million cycles, and enterprises are targeting to raise this to 2 or 3 million. Huizhou Greetech Electronics Co. Ltd’s G5 series has an operating force that can be lowered to 15gf and current of 26A, making it suitable for high-power devices.
Suppliers are likewise incorporating water, explosion and high-temperature resistance, anti-dust property and metal sealing. Shenzhen Xingyisheng Electronics Co. Ltd has launched versions with LED lights for controlling animation and special effects.
Also part of the agenda is to boost output of SMD variants, which currently have a 10 to 20 percent share of most manufacturers’ yield. Suitable for compact designs, the type is increasingly utilized in miniaturized electronic products and portable devices.
Offering competitive prices is another strategy adopted by local enterprises to edge out foreign counterparts. Huizhou Greetech, for example, provides models 30 percent less expensive than units from Germany with the same structure and specifications.
Rivalry in the line is fierce, with overseas vendors Honeywell, Omron, Alps and Burgess leading the high end. Even so, suppliers are optimistic of achieving higher sales in coming months. Huizhou Greetech, for instance, expects revenue this year will post the same 50 percent growth experienced in 2010. Yueqing Sanxiong Electronic Co. Ltd, meanwhile, is positive its export sales and volume will surpass last year’s levels.
In preparation for an upturn in orders, makers are improving efficiency by purchasing new automatic equipment and hiring foreign trade personnel.
A diverse application range is keeping China’s microswitch industry afloat. Although the rising popularity of touch panels is dampening demand from the computer sector, other fields continue to generate orders for the line. The most common adopters are home and commercial appliances such as ovens, washing and vending machines, water heaters, gaming consoles and shredders. The products are also integrated into sprinkler and water pipe systems, and industrial equipment, and some PCs and peripherals. Inquiries also come from the aviation and automotive industries, with planes, spacecrafts, tanks, actuators of turnstiles and electronic parking brakes as major applications.
There areabout 100 suppliers in the line in mainland China. The Pearl and Yangtze River Delta regions are the key hubs, with the majority of companies located in Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces. Wenzhou in the first, Dongguan and Shenzhen in the second, and Suzhou in Jiangsu province play hosts to more than half of the maker pool. The bulk of vendors are local operations, and the rest Taiwan- or Hong Kong-invested.
Most have more than 10 years of manufacturing experience and offer other types of switches, including tactile, push-button, slide, boat, toggle, rocker and leaf. They also provide related components, connectors, jacks and sockets. Production complies with ISO 9001 and 14000.
Microswitches from China differ mainly in structure. Based on dimensions, there are the basic, miniature and subminiature variants. In terms of rating, products are categorized into general, DC, and small- or large-current units, with the first leading supply because of broad applications. As regards the number of poles and closed positions, the selections include SPST, SPDT, SPCO/SPTT, DPST, DPDT and DPCO.
Many models incorporate auxiliary press parts made of stainless steel to strengthen durability. The most popular one is the lever kind, which is divided further into arc and roller, and short, standard and long varieties for different operating force options.
There are also hinge lever, pin plunger and panel-mount configurations. The first has short hinge and roller variants, while the second comes in short and slim spring versions. The last can add a common or cross roller that can change the switch’s outline and function slightly.
Products use screw or solder terminals. Models with customized lugs or those combined with other structures such as a flexible rod or a clapboard are also available.
Microswitches last 30,000 to 10 million mechanical cycles. The typical life spans are 100,000, 200,000, 500,000, 1 million, 3 million, 5 million and 8 million. Mainstream units have current ratings of 3 to 10A, and voltage between 30 and 200V.
Versions from China meet RoHS requirements, with some also complying with ENEC, UL, CQC and cUL.
Microswitches are basically made of plastic and metal. The latter is used for the contacts, which determine the life span and sensitivity of products. Low-resistance elements such as brass, copper, silver and its alloys, and gold are commonly adopted. Contacts can be in general-purpose, split, maintained and adjustable-gap configurations.
For the shell, most manufacturers prefer PBT for its good fire resistance and high rime rate. Others utilize bakelite plastic, PVC or PA46/66 for cost considerations.
Materials can be sourced locally, but many companies choose those from Japan and US suppliers for the quality.
Spending on components rose significantly last year, pushing some makers to adjust prices accordingly. Several, however, kept quotes unchanged to sustain sales and attract more buyers. A number of manufacturers expressed plans to implement markups this year should outlay continue to climb. Others said they are maintaining long-term relationships with material providers to secure stable supply and favorable rates, and in turn avoid price increases.
Basic models from China go for $0.02 to $0.09. Midrange variants with water resistance and anti-dust characteristics are between $0.10 and $0.95, while units with high current and low operating force are $1 or above. Adding a lever and a roller raises the price by $0.40 to $0.50 and $0.30, respectively.
Microswitches from Hong Kong come in varied compact sizes and power ratings. They also have assorted operating forces, lever styles and actuator designs. Most are built for 10,000 to 100,000 working cycles, but suppliers can alter this rating for greater price flexibility. High-end units are made to last up to 2 million cycles.
To boost competitiveness, companies likewise adapt to buyers’ diverse specifications. They are leveraging customization capability to meet requirements of main markets home appliances, A/V, office automation, communication, automotive and toy sectors. The majority implements enhanced QC to ensure a consistent level of quality. In addition, enterprises use components sourced from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Germany, the US and Singapore for the bulk of output.
Manufacture is done in mainland China factories. Manual labor continues to be employed extensively in these facilities despite the steady adoption of automation. Normally, at least 10 percent of the total workforce carries out QC assignments.
The territory has about 20 suppliers of microswitches, with most also offering a range of other types, and jacks and related components. Although the line accounts for not more than 10 percent of total sales and fewer than five companies consider it the main product, manufacture continues because of stable demand.
Dongnan Electronics International Co. Ltd is one of the area’s key players in the line. Its vertically integrated factory is in the mainland’s Zhejiang province. As a veteran exporter, the manufacturer ships 0.1 to 25A-rated variants that meet CE, RoHS, VDE, TÜV and CQC requirements. Products are also UL-listed.
Bond Tact Industrial Ltd offers AC microswitches and 30VDC detector versions. Currently, it has more than 2,000 models of the first, and hook, tactile and other types. The maker is a certified Sony Green Partner.
See-Plus Industrial Ltd supplies low-voltage AC and DC switch versions. The company provides A/V jacks, terminal blocks, DIN sockets and USB connectors as well.
Huizhou Greetech Electronics Co. Ltd
Shenzhen Xingyisheng Electronics Co. Ltd
Yueqing Sanxiong Electronic Co. Ltd
Note:This article 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.
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