Custom electromechanical solutions
OEMs are approaching electromechanical component manufacturers for more than just switches. By utilizing a switch manufacturer for designs beyond the switch itself, increased flexibility in overall design can be realized. Switch dimensions are becoming more critical, making it imperative to work closely with customers to discern all details. Today, it is less about the switch being mounted to a PC board or adding wire leads or a connector to the switch, and more about defining the issues that need to be solved. Because switch manufacturers are now dealing with the entire module, they are spending an increasing amount of time with customers to determine how the module is being impacted in the application to assess potential challenges that were not previously considered.
By working closely with customers in all phases of the design process, switch manufacturers can identify materials that interface with the operator, and those in the actual contact mechanism can be re-evaluated and altered to conform to performance, reliability, lifespan, and robustness standards. For example, some manufacturers are now offering switch packages with multi-switching capability and high over-travel performance, with various core-switching technologies such as opposing tactile switches or a dome array on a PC board. Such packages often include additional PC board-mounted integrated electronics, custom circuitry, and industry standard connectors for the complete package.
Still other solutions optimized for automobiles, such as interior headliners, feature not only customized switches with insert molded housing and custom circuitry and termination, but also paint and laser etched switch button graphics and decoration capabilities, as well as backlighting for nighttime use. Today, switch manufacturers are doing even these customized graphics and decorations in-house.
Although the electromechanical components are some of the last devices designed or specified into a center console, dashboard, or steering wheel, switches are one of the most important components in a system—and one of the first components a vehicle operator contacts. Each automotive manufacturer has different performance requirements, external presentations, internal spacing, and footprint restrictions. As such, each vehicle requires different packaging and orientation of switches to achieve the functional and performance objectives. Customized haptic options (actuation travel, force, and audible sound), ergonomic options (illumination, decoration, appearance), sealing options, circuitry configurations, housing styles, mounting styles (including threaded or snap-in mounting), and termination options are integral to meeting these application requirements.
Combining innovative electromechanical designs with complete switch assemblies often affords customers greater flexibility and customization options that reduce assembly and manufacturing costs while improving performance and reliability. Working closely with the switch manufacturer to solve design problems and implement customized performance requirements can yield faster time-to-market by streamlining the prototyping and production ramp-up stages, thereby bringing the finished product to market more quickly.
Owen Camden is business development manager at C&K Components.
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