Recently we discussed the prominent industries that utilize membrane switches by giving an overview of three key factors that keep membrane switches relevant. We would like to dive into the details of of each of the critical components: Tactile Feel & Design, FDA Requirements, and Reliability.
There are few markets as demanding, competitive and as highly regulated as the medical device industry. Membrane switches have been in use in medical devices for nearly two decades, and advancements in materials, processes, and design have made them an ideal choice for many medical electronics. The infamous recall case in 2013 regarding non-responsive buttons on anesthesia equipment showcased the critical nature of interface products. Since then, the FDA’s focus on quality program has been pushing forward to keep products in compliance allowing membrane switches to solidify itself as the number 1 interface method utilized by interface manufacturers.
A device needs to both pass the FDA’s requirements for safety and efficiency and prove its value to providers and patients. Membrane switches do this by making the providers job easier or by adding “quality of life” features that improve reliability. The seal ability of membrane switches also means that they can easily be wiped down to clean and keep sanitary. There are no cracks or crevices for dirt and bacteria to linger in. Reliability and cleanliness, as well as functionality, are crucial for proving a medical device’s value.
Tactile Feel & Design
Tactile feel is the feeling of a key press and the force and actuation that accompanies that key press. This feeling that allows a user to know that an action has been registered by the equipment or computer. Membrane switches let users have that feedback while maintaining reliability in the section above. In addition, membrane switches can be shielded from electrostatic discharge (ESD), electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI). This “shielding” makes the technology ideally suited for use in hospitals, where a number of critical machines may be running. We cover membrane switch design options (backlighting, embedded LEDs, ESD shielding) in our Membrane Switch Design Guide in more detail.
These benefits, combined with numerous others such as shorter lead time and enhanced economy of space, make membrane switches an obvious choice for use by the medical community. A sealed tactile membrane switch is a reliable, low-cost, proven approach to meet the demanding needs of the medical technology market. It offers advantages with graphics, cleanliness, sealability, shielding, illumination, tactile feedback, and compliance. If you are looking to introduce your novel device into the market, Sigma 6 Electronics, Inc. has more than 30 years of experience in the research, design and manufacturing technologies around membrane switches, making us the perfect partner for all your interface needs. Contact us today to learn more.