Tactile Switches: Understanding Actuation Force Characteristics
One of the first things to understand about tactile switches is the value and limitations of actuation force specifications.
All tactile switches have actuation force characteristics that can be boiled down into a click ratio that expresses the relationship of the switch’s actuation and contact forces. A higher ratio indicates a crisper or snappier switch feel. The travel distance, or deflection, of a pressed switch can also contribute to its overall feel.
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Choose What ‘Feels Right’
Force and travel specifications, which you can typically find on a datasheet, can be a good starting point in your search for a switch that “feels right” in its intended applications. Keep in mind, though, that the ideal switch feel will change with the application.
For example, portable consumer electronic devices will typically require crisp tactile switches with relatively high click ratios and shorter travel distances. Automotive tactile switches, by contrast, tend to have lower click ratios and longer travel distances to prevent accidental actuation while driving. In general, each electronics application needs to strike a different balance between actuation forces and travel distance.
Light Touch Switch Feel
Look Beyond The Specs: Selecting the Proper Electronic Tactile Switch
Dialing in on the best switch feel for your application should always start with a careful review of force and travel specifications, but specs will only get you so far. In fact, one of the most common engineering mistakes is trying to select a tactile switch based solely on its specifications without considering its subjective feel in a physical device.
A better selection methodology uses the specs to narrow down your tactile switch choices to a few candidates. Then sample those candidates in your device or prototype to find the one that truly has the right switch feel. With tactile switches, always try before you buy.
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