Today's tactile switches are being called on to do more than ever before. Automakers, consumer electronics manufacturers and other OEMs want the switches to be smaller, last longer and even offer tunable sound characteristics.
For switch makers, adding all those features is a challenge.
“Today, there's more and more function needed on printed circuit boards, so there's less and less room to put on a switch,” says Jean-Michel Bourin, product director for C&K Components, a maker of electromechanical switches and controls.
Still, switch manufacturers are finding ways. C&K, for example, offers miniaturized switches measuring less than 3-mm square and 0.5-mm thick. C&K and others offer long-life switches lasting up to a million cycles, in some cases. And they're making tunable tactile switches that produce different sounds in different applications.
“The trick is to develop two switches that offer the same tactile feeling while producing two different sounds,” Bourin says. “It's what customers want today. They want to have the same tactile feeling in the door and on the steering wheel, but with different sounds on each.”
Moreover, makers of tactile switches are also tweaking contacts and actuators in an effort to produce a wider variety of different tactile feels. As a result, tactile switches are filling a variety of new applications needs, ranging from cameras to mobile phones to Bluetooth head sets.
Here, we're showing two new such switches — one from C&K and another from E-Switch. Both were introduced in the past six months.
E-switch's ultra-mini switches
E-Switch's TL3200 combines an ultra-miniature design with dual LEDs in a single- or dual-color options. Measuring 4.5 x 6.8 x 2 mm, they're available in red, green or yellow. The devices have a life expectancy of 30,000 cycles and an actuation force of approximately 160 gf. They also offer a contact resistance of 500 milliohms and an operating temperature ranging from -25 to 85C. E-Switch is targeting the new tact switch in applications ranging from telecommunications and consumer electronics to medical devices and computer servers.
C&K's long-life tact switches
C&K Components' KSC and KSR Series tactile switches are designed for automotive and consumer electronics applications and offer an operational life of up to 200,000 cycles. Measuring 6 x 3.8 x 1.75 mm, the switches feature silver or gold plating, G terminations and rubber actuators. Configured with normally open contacts, they offer a range of up to four actuation forces. The company's KSC switches, meanwhile, are targeted at the industrial sector and offer life of one million cycles — the equivalent of 274 operations every day for 10 years. Measuring just 6.2 x 6.2 x 2.5 mm, the KSC switches have a range of five different actuator forces.