Tactile membrane switch vs. non-tactile membrane switch

The differences and how to choose

So, you want to manufacture a membrane switch. You’re not alone! Membrane switches have been rising in popularity in recent years because they’re cost-effective, extremely customizable, and naturally protective against contaminants. When designing your membrane switch, one question that’s bound to come up is whether you’d like a tactile membrane switch or a non-tactile membrane switch. In this post, we’ll explore the differences in these two membrane switch technologies, the advantages of each, and considerations you’ll want to consider when choosing between the two. 

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What’s a tactile membrane switch, and how is it made?

A tactile membrane switch produces a “snap” or tactile feedback in response to a command. When a button is pressed, it provides a tactile sensation for the user that helps them confirm that the switch has been actuated. 

As with all membrane switches, tactile membrane switches are built using several layers of materials. The layers are assembled in a way that creates a compact and sealed unit, protecting the internal components from environmental factors like dust and moisture. The tactile feedback is achieved through the addition of dome-shaped elements in the spacer layer to create a dome array. When a button is pressed, the dome collapses, creating the tactile sensation and completing the circuit, and then springs back into its original and upright position. 

The tactile domes in a membrane switch are generally made of metal (most commonly stainless steel, nickel silver, or phosphor bronze) or plastic (polyester or polyimide), depending on the desired tactile response, durability requirements, and the specific application.

Benefits of tactile switches

Tactile switches reduce the risk of errors with membrane keypads because the user can feel and hear the buttons or keys pop back up. This improves the user experience and protects against erroneous input. The tactile feedback also helps reduce user fatigue, contributing to a more comfortable interaction (especially during extended use). What’s more, the level of tactile feedback can be customized to meet specific application requirements or user preferences, creating a tailored user experience. 

Tactile switch applications

Tactile membrane switches are often used in applications where precise feedback is necessary. Some examples include: 

  • Computer keyboards 
  • Remote controls 
  • Medical equipment interfaces 
  • Industrial control panels


What’s a non-tactile membrane switch, and how is it made?

As you might have deduced, a non-tactile membrane switch doesn’t provide tactile feedback when actuated. In contrast with the typical construction of tactile switches described above, non-tactile membrane switches are built without dome-shaped tactile elements, creating a smooth and continuous press when actuated.

Benefits of non-tactile switches

Also called flat or touch switches, non-tactile membrane switches are often preferred because of their smoother and quieter actuation and lower force needed to operate. They can also be built smaller and are more easily sealed, protecting them from outside contaminants such as dust and moisture.

Non-tactile switch applications

Non-tactile membrane switches are suitable when low-profile, smooth actuation, and/or quiet operation are priorities. They’re often used when physical feedback isn’t necessary, and frequently when a sleek design is important: 

  • Medical devices 
  • Automotive controls 
  • Appliances
Membrane switch for industrial environment

Choosing between tactile and non-tactile membrane switch manufacturing

Both types of membrane switches offer reliable and cost-effective solutions for a wide range of industries. But how do you decide between the two? Generally, the decision between tactile and non-tactile comes down to the following factors: 

  • User preference. Tactile switches are preferred when users need confirmation of their actions, while non-tactile switches are chosen for their smooth and quiet operation. 
  • Application requirements. Consider the specific requirements of the application. For example, if a low-profile design is crucial, non-tactile switches may be preferred. 
  • Durability. Both tactile and non-tactile switches can be designed for durability, but the choice may depend on the specific environmental conditions the switch will face. 
  • Cost. In instances where cost is a high priority, non-tactile switches are generally less costly due to their simplified design and smaller number of components. 

With membrane switch experience dating back to the 1980s, NMG has been at the forefront of membrane switch design and manufacturing. Our wealth of experience and commitment to quality allows us to deliver tailor-made solutions that precisely meet the unique needs of customers across various industries. Let us help you decide what membrane switch is best for your application! 

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NMG has more than 85 years of experience partnering with organizations to bring their industrial, IoT, lighting, medical, telecommunications, consumer, and aerospace products to life. We solve your most complex challenges in engineering design, manufacturing, and supply chain management.  

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