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Is a Rubber Membrane Switch Waterproof?

Since membrane switches can be used in many different electronics, they may be exposed to liquid solvents and even to water. Medical, military, harsh industrial, transportation, and material handling environments require waterproof membrane switches. It is crucial to seal electronic components to prevent disasters. Waterproof rubber membrane switches can be designed and applied with adhesives.  

Rubber Membrane Switches: Overview
Compression-molded silicone rubber membrane switches use carbon pills or non-conductive rubber actuators. They are known for their resistance to extreme temperatures. When it comes to a per piece basis, rubber keypads are relatively cheap; however, they do require expensive tooling, so rubber membrane switches are often used on higher volume projects.
Features of silicone rubber keypad switches:

  • Suitable for Silver Flex membrane switches, PCB membrane switches, and Copper Flex membrane switches as conductive shorting devices
  • Uses carbon pills, rubber actuators, or stainless steel tactile domes.
  • Tactile membrane switches with more travel and a completely different feel
  • Customizable actuation forces and switch travel
  • It is possible to use unusual keypad shapes and sizes
  • Multiple colors through flow molding the color during the compression molding process
  • The graphics on the rubber keypad top can be further customized by screen printing
  • A spray coating can enhance the durability of rubber keypad switches
  • It is easy to use rubber membrane switches outdoors due to their excellent weather resistance
  • Maintains a moisture- and contaminant-free keypad assembly
  • The silicone rubber is resistant to chemicals and moisture
  • It is possible to backlight individual rubber keypads by laser etching them
  • Fiber optic backlighting
  • EL (Electroluminescent) backlighting

Rubber Membrane Switches: Waterproof Considerations
Obviously, marine and outdoor environments require waterproof rubber membrane switches. Medical and healthcare settings, including laboratories, hospitals, clinics, and physician offices, also require waterproof rubber membrane switches. Despite harsh chemicals and bleaches, waterproof rubber membrane switches with seals ensure quick, easy disinfecting in those environments. Moreover, they are designed to be waterproof and withstand frequent pressure washing and wipe downs.
Options for Waterproofing Rubber Membrane Switches
As a result of being pressure sensitive, the adhesives used in construction limit the ability to make a completely waterproof membrane switch. Water-resistant adhesives will not be totally waterproof without some sort of external sealing. A gasket is required between the overlay edge and mounting case for keypad assemblies containing graphic overlays in order to construct a completely waterproof membrane switch. Another option is to replace the graphic overlay with a molded silicone rubber boot and seal it on the front surface and edges to create a completely waterproof seal.
Qualities of Waterproof Rubber Membrane Switches
Rubber membrane switches should have certain qualities to be waterproof. Some of those qualities include:

  • Watertight to prevent moisture damage
  • Using materials that resist UV and weather deterioration
  • Easy to install or retrofit
  • Suitable for years of use
  • Custom designs for specific applications
  • Resistant to water drops and submersion
  • Normal operation even after exposure to water
  • Outdoor exposure does not cause operating issues
  • Simple waterproof structure using printed seals
  • Circuits isolated from outside environments

Waterproof Rubber Keypads
It is also important to take into account waterproof rubber keypads when designing waterproof rubber membrane switches. These ensure a complete waterproof product. When choosing a waterproof rubber keypad, keep these qualities in mind:

  • Weather resistant for outdoor use
  • User-friendly interface for simple operation
  • Durable construction for repeatedly reliable use
  • Custom digital printing on graphic overlays
  • Easy installation and retrofitting capabilities for use with existing equipment
  • Custom designs to meet users’ needs

Design Does Not Suffer with Waterproof Rubber Membrane Switches
Just because you need a waterproof rubber membrane switch, you don't have to sacrifice usability or aesthetic appeal. Even when designing waterproof switches, rubber membrane switch designers and engineers can create a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. Finished waterproof rubber membrane switches are dustproof, waterproof, and chemically resistant.
The rubber membrane switches typically also are lightweight and have a low-profile that allows for integration into smaller and thinner packages that include hand-held applications. Switches with rubber membranes are waterproof and have a longer lifecycle. Manufacturers of membrane switches provide practical, cost-effective solutions for your products.