Switches (Membrane) and Nameplates (Dial and Panel)
Some control panels are panel assemblies that incorporate electrical switching functions. These switch panels are often called membrane switch panels, or membrane switch keyboards. These thin panels incorporate graphics, instruction, displays and actual switching functions in one package. The plastic graphic overlay usually incorporates display windows for visual feedback methods such as LEDs and LCDs.
Benefits of membrane switch panels are:
- Graphics are printed on substrate and are protected from abrasion and chemicals.
- The package is very thin.
- Total installed cost is often less expensive than control panels with mechanical switch assemblies.
- Membrane switches are perceived as having a more stylish and high-tech appearance.
The term panel can also mean control panel or front panel. In general, a front panel is the user-interface portion of a piece of equipment. The specific endproduct described by the word panel can mean a metal instruction panel, a graphic control/display panel and also control panel assemblies that incorporate electrical switching functions.
Metal front panels are imaged and produced using the same imaging and fabrication methods used for metal nameplates. Control panels can be a combination of plastic printed substrate bonded to a metal support panel. These control panels sometimes have holes punched where mechanical switches protrude for the operator to access the switches.
Nameplates (dials and panels) can be divided into identification products and control/front panels. Identification products require some type of decoration identification or instruction. In many cases this is accomplished through the use of a nameplate. The term nameplate can also encompass dials, scales, decals and labels. Identification products are made with metal substrates, plastic substrates and a combination of the two. The most common metal substrates are aluminum, stainless steel and brass. They must be decorated by applying imagery to the upper surface. This is by printed (screenprinting, lithographed, flexographic and pad printed), etched, embossed, stamped, engraved, anodized and photosensitive.
There has been a marked increase in the use of plastic substrates attributed to the lightweight, flexible, transparent or translucent properties suitability for front panel backlighting, digital readouts and deadfronting, acceptance of abrasion-resistant finishes, and sub-surface printing offering in totally protected imagery. The primary imaging method for plastic substrates is printing. Substrates for plastic nameplates are polyester, polycarbonate, vinyls and acrylics. Labels that incorporate sequential numbering and bar codes are also available in polyester, vinyl and aluminum foil.
Because identification products, front panels and membrane switch panels are engineered products it is advisable to seek an established manufacturer with a wide range of product solutions, materials and processes to meet unique customer requests.
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