What is a Membrane Switch?

A membrane switch is an electrical device that turns a circuit on and off. Membrane switches, or keypads, are constructed of flexible layers, called membranes, over a printed circuit. Because of their flexibility, membrane switches are found in various industries including medical, industrial controls, consumer electronics, and more.

Membrane switches are considered “momentary action” switches. Simply, this means that the circuits are always open, but by pressing a button on the outer layer of the membrane switch, the printed circuitry is then momentarily closed until the pressure is released.

A membrane switch has a similar function to a mechanical switch. A mechanical switch turns a circuit on or off with a traditional toggle that is normally constructed from metal or plastic parts. Membrane switches are more cost-effective and take up less design space than mechanical switches or buttons because of their low profile. A membrane switch can also fulfill numerous functions of a touch screen, but with fewer circuits and voltage requirements. Membrane switches are the ideal solution because they are convenient, inexpensive, and portable.

membrane switch
membrane switch image

Membrane Switch vs. Membrane Keypad

Membrane switches are keypads, keyboards, rubber keypads, or display controls outside of touch screens or mechanical switches.
There is no difference between a membrane switch and a membrane keypad other than the moniker.


Types of Membrane Switches:

Tactile vs. Non-Tactile Membrane Switch

  • Tactile membrane keypads are designed to provide physical, tactile feedback. The response is typically a “snap” or “click” when the switch is pressed. This is usually a function of a dome switch that is selected for the application. The size, force, and snap required to activate the switch can be customized to your specifications.
  • A non-tactile membrane switch has no tactile response that indicates the button has been pressed. Instead, the response is typically indicated through lights, sound, or reading on the instrument display. With a non-tactile membrane switch, the bottom side of the overlay is connected to a conductive pad, or an upper circuit layer is printed with conductive traces. When the overlay is pressed down the conductive traces connect to the lower circuit layer, which sends a signal to a printed circuit board.
  • Non-tactile membrane switches are more resilient than tactile membrane switches and they are completely sheltered from the outside environment. This allows them to be rated for three times as many activations as a tactile membrane switch.

Learn more about the differences here.

Membrane Switch Components

This is the visual layer. Made of polyester or polycarbonate, this overlay typically will have letters, symbols, and icons printed on it to indicate how and where to press. Embossed domes may be designed under the icons for that classic “button” look.

This layer bonds the graphic overlay to the layer below.

This is one of two potential membrane layers with conductive and dielectric circuitry printed onto it. Not all switches contain a top circuit layer. Tactile switches will typically use a dome retainer in place of this layer.

This spacer keeps the upper and lower circuit layers from making contact until the user presses the keypad. This layer compresses allowing the two circuit layers to touch which closes the circuit. Within this layer is where etched light guides or light guide film (LGF) is placed to direct light to the appropriate icons.

This is a printed membrane circuit. A closed loop is created when it connects with the upper circuit layer or the dome switch due to pressure.

This second acrylic adhesive layer binds the membrane switch assembly to the product enclosure.

This backmost layer offers support for free-standing membrane assemblies. A membrane keypad integrated into a larger product may not need this layer.


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Silicone Rubber Keypads

Silicone rubber keypads can be integrated with membrane switches, flexible circuits, or printed circuit boards, and have exceptional resistance to extreme temperatures and aging. Silicone keypads are manufactured from elastic silicone rubber compounds. Delivering a user interface with robust environmental protection and excellent tactile response, silicone rubber buttons can be considered for several applications.

Silicone Rubber Keypad

Advantages of a Membrane Switch

Membrane switches offer several advantages over mechanical switches including:

Easier to clean

Easier to clean

Because of their sealed outer surface and with no perforations required for the membranes to interact, membrane keypads are easy to clean and resistant to harsh chemicals. They are also devoid of crevices where dirt and bacteria thrive in a traditional mechanical switch, making them easy to wipe down and sterilize.

Slim profile

Slim profile

The components of a membrane switch are tiny compared to their mechanical counterparts. Membrane switches are extremely portable and easy to incorporate into product designs, even if available touchpad space is limited.



Compared to touch screens, membrane keypads are more accessible to users with disabilities or those working in environments that require gloves because the keypad offers tactile feedback.



With a flat surface to work with, the sky is the limit for creativity and artistry in your product design. The top layer of the membrane switch can be customized with your brand colors, images, and messaging.



Compared to mechanical switches and touch screens, membrane switches are the most affordable. They are simple to design and can be manufactured from abundant materials.

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Where to start

With all the different customization options and use cases, it might seem overwhelming.

Contact our expert team today and take the pressure off yourself.