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Membrane switches improve HMI versatility and serviceability

by Glenn Farrell, on Mar 14, 2023 12:59:17 PM

Membrane switches are a versatile form of human-machine interface.

Companies that are replacing clunky mechanical switches with streamlined membrane switches are reaping the benefits: 

  • improved aesthetics 
  • quality 
  • space efficiency 
  • simplicity
  • serviceability
  • opportunities for customization

Experience the Versatility of Membrane Switches in Your Facility 

For the longest time, heavy duty mechanical switches were the only option in industrial environments. They were a solid, reliable, easy-to-use model of user interface. 

Today, the value of printed membrane switches has surpassed the familiarity of mechanical switches, even in industrial settings

Companies in industrial sectors, such as oil and gas, manufacturing, and industrial power, have been slower to adopt membrane switch technology.  

Why has the transition from mechanical to membrane switches been slower? In part, the sleeker, less rigid membrane switches haven't been considered a necessity as they have been in the aerospace and medical device industries.  

The benefits of membrane switches in industrial settings are unmistakable. 

IMPROVED AESTHETICS is one benefit of membrane switches. When digitally printed, membrane switches provide a graphically dynamic user interface with unlimited design options. 

IMPROVED QUALITY is another benefit. With the elimination of the moving parts of a mechanical switch, the membrane switch provides a longer life. 

SPACE EFFICIENCY is a visually obvious benefit. When membrane switches replace clunky mechanical switches, you can reclaim valuable space.  

This happens, in part, when extensive wiring is eliminated. Also, conductive inks can be printed on flexible, lightweight substrates, further contributing to space efficiency and versatility. 

But don’t mistake the small size and sleek design of a membrane switch for a reduction in complexity and superior functionality.  

The ALL-INCLUSIVE CONSTRUCTION of membrane switches translates into simplicity and serviceability.  

  • Simplicity: While the functionality of a membrane switch is complex, its design supports a simple “plug-and-play” approach. This is because all conductive traces are printed on a single “tail,” which connects to the circuit board. This single tail replaces the extensive hardwiring and multiple circuit board connections otherwise required by a mechanical control panel.  
  • Serviceability: As an example, an industrial control panel with five functions requires five separate connections to a single circuit board. If the circuit board needs to be replaced, or if any part of the control panel needs repaired, the entire unit—control panel and circuit board—must be removed from service until maintenance is complete. This contributes to downtime and increased expenses. 

A membrane switch, on the other hand, can simply be “unplugged” and replaced. The control panel can be put back into service without an extended delay.  

Additionally, membrane switches are entirely and securely sealed. This design ends the risk of water, dirt, or contaminant ingress, making membrane switches a favorable choice in rigorous industrial environments.  

CUSTOMIZATION OPTIONS go far beyond the type of switch, circuitry, and graphic overlay.  

  • Backlighting is a significant benefit in industrial settings because it aids operator use. Backlighting options include LEDs, fiber optics, light guide films, and electroluminescence.   
  • Pressure-sensitive adhesives are used to mount a membrane switch to its enclosure or to adhere one circuit layer to another. Having adhesive options allows you to consider the enclosure's texture and minimize risks related to harsh chemicals, extreme temperatures, moisture, humidity, stress, UV exposure, and vibration. 
  • Shielding, which eliminates electrostatic discharge, electromagnetic interference, and radio frequency interference, can be constructed with solid aluminum foil or printed with carbon or silver ink.  
  • Silicone rubber keypads can be added to the graphic overlays of membrane switches. Because silicone rubber is moldable and compressible, it offers a comfortable and durable tactile experience. It also provides a waterproof and dustproof finish, which is vital in harsh industrial settings. 
  • Other customization options include connectors, NEMA gaskets, venting, and backers. Even the tail’s length, angle, and point of insertion can be customized to a layout that is ideal for your circuit cabinet.  

Download The Cubbison Company’s Membrane Switch Design Guide to view how membrane switch design can be customized as a replacement for industrial control panels. 


More companies are recognizing the value of membrane switches as a replacement for clunky, outdated mechanical switches.  

If you would like to talk about how membrane switches can deliver value to your facility, contact us by emailing or by calling 800-733-4133. 

Topics:membrane switchflexible electronicsprinted electronics