The connector on a membrane switch assembly is one of the most critical aspects of the machine interface as the connector attaches the membrane keypad to the product it will control. Without the connection working correctly the membrane switch is essentially useless. Connectors consist of contacts and a molded plastic housing.
The standard for membrane switch connectors has always been the female type receptacle with a plastic housing, typically on .100” centers. This system is simple but extremely reliable. The housings can also be equipped with a latching/locking mechanism which can serve as a polarization feature, but more importantly, can provide a connection that will not slip or vibrate loose during extreme conditions. The receptacle can come with a tin plating or a gold plating.
As membrane switches continue to get smaller and smaller in design, the 1mm center ZIF (zero insertion force) style connection system is becoming more and more popular. With a ZIF connector membrane switch design, the interface does not have a connector assembled to the flexible tail. Instead, the tail design is designed to slide and lock into a connector on the user’s printed circuit board. A stiffener is laminated under the tail to ensure stability and maintenance of the electrical contact. Tails are also constructed with conductive silver tracks that are then over-printed with carbon. The carbon provides a good protective cover over the silver and also battles the phenomenon of silver migration. ZIF connectors may have anywhere from 2 to 30 positions on a single row, and distances of between 1mm and 2.54 mm are available. Additional information on the the types of connectors CSI typically likes to design into their membrane switch assemblies can be found on our Material Specifications page.