A switch is a switch, right?
Not in tough operating environments, where the lettering and symbols on metal switches are more vulnerable to scratches, fading and wear, says Diane Cupples, vice president of marketing for Schurter Inc.
Schurter has developed a viable alternative in its new MSM ceramic-surface metal push-button switch, which is more resistant to scratches, abrasion, impact and chemicals than metal-only switches, Cupples explains in an interview with New Equipment Digest.
NED: What motivated Schurter to develop this switch?
DC: Ceramic is a material that is commonly used in the construction of machines. It exhibits ideal properties that protect against wear in press molds, cutting inserts and other constantly running parts. These properties led Schurter to consider this material for use with its metal line range of switching products, which are designed to withstand harsh operating environments.
Aluminum and steel are highly effective materials for switches used in harsh environments, but the material is not very compatible with print or screened legends. The legends can scratch, fade and wear depending on the use and life of the switch. On the other hand, lettering and symbols can be inscribed on ceramic with a laser, a much more reliable and exacting process.
By solving this challenge, another challenge was also overcome: Metal is not translucent and therefore has limited metal switches to point or ring illumination. By using the ceramic as the actuator, the strength of the switch is not compromised and it allows for complete translucence.
The fully translucent actuator also provides a much large illuminated area, as well as backlighting the lettering or symbols. Inverse legends are also possible.
NED: How is this product different from similar push-button switches on the market today?
DC: The MSM CS metal and ceramic push-button is the first of its kind.
The patented actuator made of highly durable ceramic surface is new to switching technology. It provides features such as full illumination of the actuating surface and resistance to scratches, abrasion, impact and chemicals. It is also hypoallergenic to the touch.
The illuminated version of the switch is backlit and available in red, green, blue and the new bright white.
The new ceramic-surface metal switch expands the range of application possibilities. The MSM CS can withstand extreme fluctuation in temperatures, ideal for applications such as vending equipment, ticketing machines, food service or processing equipment, public restrooms and other sanitary utilities, as well as medical equipment designed for hypoallergenic environments.
NED: What problems needed to be addressed during the development process?
DC: One challenge was to develop the surface hard enough to stand up to the rigorous testing of ISO 15184. As mentioned previously, ceramic material is used in electronic components and Schurter uses this material in some of its other products.
Metal switches in general are a relatively new phenomenon, and there are not too may companies manufacturing such products. Schurter has continually advanced its product range to keep up with the demands of the applications these switches are used in, thus it was a natural technology evolution.
NED: How long did it take from conception to ultimate production?
DC: The MSM CS was conceptualized, developed, in production, and brought to the market within 2.5 years.
NED: What effect did cost factors have in changing the final design of this product?
DC: No impact.
NED: Who is your target audience and what benefits will they achieve from using this product?
DC: They key application areas where this switch can be used are those where the metal switch with legends cannot stand up against the wear, exposure and abuse. These applications are found in food, chemical, and vandal environments. The full illumination is also a much needed feature in areas where visual indication is needed from a further distance or dark areas, such as POS and POI terminals, parking and ticketing machines, or access controls.
Find out more about Schurter and its products.