Jerome SmolinskiIntuitively, in order to have a more compact device, the components in the device must all become smaller. However, the aesthetics and functionality of electromechanical components must also be preserved or enhanced in order to meet application requirements. Switch manufacturers are utilizing innovate designs to meet industry demands for miniaturization and reliability, thus providing customers with solutions for a wide variety of applications.

Universal Quick-Connect Terminal Switch design
Low profile, universal quick-connect switches support a modular installation concept. This advanced design allows the switches to be plugged into the panel and locked firmly into place, simplifying both assembly and maintenance. In addition, the user can store individual switch elements separately and configure them during final assembly to meet application-specific needs, while saving storage space and costs.

Some configurable panel switches such as the one shown above require only 27mm of mounting depth behind the front plateUniversal quick-connect switches only require 27mm mounting depth behind the front plate in emergency-stop and signal lamp applications. The universal quick-connect switches can be deployed in extremely flat applications and can eliminate the need for PC board mounted switches.

The universal switches, such as the RAFIX 22 FS Series available from C&K Components, are available in pushbutton, selection, key and signal lamp and emergency-stop configurations. Rated to IP65 splash-water protection in accordance with DIN standards, the mounting diameter in the front plate is 22.3mm in accordance with IEC 60947 specifications. The RAFIX 22 FS Series switches are the lowest profile quick-connect switches available on the market.

Miniaturization trends in the consumer industry are well documented, and the shrinking of components is critical in order to enable their sleek designs. Detect switches serve the power-down function in MP4 and video players; as well as the power up/wake up feature in e-book and multimedia phone keyboards. These types of applications often require switches with an extremely low profile that take up minimal real estate on the PC board. Micro-miniaturized surface mount detect switches are an optimal choice for the shrinking consumer electronics market in terms of profile. These switches can measure as small as 5mm x 4mm and a height on a PC board of just 0.9mm, while others offer a smaller dimension of 3mm x 3.5mm with a higher board height of 1.4mm.

Alternatively, a typical slide switch can be used, but it does not offer the same miniaturization, with measurements of approximately 10mm. For consumer applications that demand miniaturization and reliability, products similar to C&K Components’ KMTx Series Nano-Miniature SMT Top Actuated Switches are ideal. The switches feature the smallest footprint, high number of cycles within the smallest packaging, and the smallest thickness with an integrated actuator (push plate) on the market.

TSW SeriesIncreased functionality
Increasing the functionality of electronic components is a key element in the overall compatibility in shrinking electronics. Often, this means switch manufacturers are combining sensitive touch and tactile technologies. Combining such features allows the end product to feature high-speed movement using the sensitive switch technology while possessing a central click in four tactile directions for added precision and item selection. Switches like C&K Components’ TSW Series 7-way scroll wheel offer these capabilities in a compact package just 21cm in diameter and a sensitive operating force that is rated at 60g per cm.  

Life span of miniature components
Scroll switches are a popular solution in shrinking electronics because of their miniaturized packaging and functionality. Additional attractive qualities to the scroll switch are its longer life expectancy than other switch technologies. Some scroll switches feature life cycles of more than one million central select actuations and one million rotation actuations (each direction) with a maximum contact resistance of 300m?, whereas conventional switch designs can only reach 200,000 cycles.

With extremely low height off the PC board and/or extremely small PC board footprints, switch models with the dimensions and specifications explained above are being offered by manufacturers to provide switch solutions that meet specific application needs. The increased versatility in switch designs can have a positive impact on overall profile dimensions, thereby, keeping up with the demands that shrinking electronic systems have put on their components.