PCB Switch – All should know about

 

Introduction

In modern electronics, one cannot deny the importance of Printed Circuit Board (PCB) switches. PCB switch, also known as printed circuit board switch, plays a crucial role in electronic circuits. These tiny components may seem insignificant, but they are essential for properly functioning various electronic devices.

They are like little buttons that you can press or toggle to turn things on or off, adjust settings, or activate certain functions. They act as the user and the circuit interface, allowing us to control various functions or operations. Whether turning something on or off, adjusting settings, or selecting different modes, PCB switches give us the power to interact with electronics.

In this article, we will find out why they are so important, exploring their significance and how they contribute to the seamless operation of your electronic circuits. To begin with, let’s understand what PCB switches are.

PCB switches mounted on board
PCB switches mounted on board

 

What is a PCB Switch?

A PCB switch is a unique electrical switch using a printed circuit board. These switches use a printed circuit board as the special circuitry that makes the switch work.

This PCB switch is an electrical switch, like the ones you use at home to turn on lights. But instead of a simple button, it’s connected to a printed circuit board. The fundamental circuitry of the PCB powers the mechanism of the switch.

When we talk about a PCB switch, we talk about a part controlling an electrical pathway. It does this by either connecting the pathway or disconnecting it. Think of it like a bridge – when the switch is turned on, it connects the pathway and lets the electricity flow. But when it’s turned off, it’s like lifting the bridge and stopping the flow of electricity.

Different companies create PCB switches differently, but many have something in common. They have a special layer like a piece of fabric covered in copper. This layer is called a “copper-clad laminate layer.” This copper layer can carry electricity when the switch is turned on, and the pathway is complete. It’s like the road that electricity travels on.

PCB switches enable simple functions and set activation. These adaptable components improve usability and device functionality with tactile input from push buttons and toggle switches. PCB switches also provide smooth operations and improve user experience in devices across industries due to their durability and dependability.

 

Why is PCB Switch essential?

While other types of electrical switches are available, we encourage you to prioritize PCB switches for a compelling reason. Their unique ability facilitates the smooth flow of electricity with minimal resistance by harnessing the inherent conductivity of copper.

Robust Performance in Diverse Environments

You can use these switches for outdoor applications. Their compatibility with extreme conditions, such as intense heat, humidity, and harsh weather, makes them a prime choice for outdoor use.

Customization and Adaptability

What’s cool about PCB switches is that they can work on any surface. They can go on different plates, like gold ones. You might find fancy switches on a gold plate, making them look classy and work well.

Streamlined Manufacturing Process

Making PCB switches is super easy with different soldering methods. This attribute makes production easier and improves switch efficiency. Manufacturers ensure the switches are reliable and consistent by using these soldering techniques.

 

Advantages of PCB Switches Compared to Other Types:

The functionality of many electronic gadgets hinges on a reliable switch. PCB switches power our digital world from industrial settings to everyday consumer devices.

  • If you need outdoor switches, go for the PCB switch. It’s a great choice. It’s super tough and can handle any weather, even if it’s outside.
  • Another cool thing about PCB switches is that they work with backlighting. This feature lets you get creative and customize stuff. You can use LEDs, electroluminescent materials, fiber optics, and light guides to add cool lights to your devices with PCB switches.
  • When it comes to assembly, PCB switches are super flexible. They support different soldering methods, like hard and epoxy-based, so it’s easy to integrate.

Whether indoors or outdoors, these switches provide the reliable and adaptable functionality that electronic devices require.

 

Types of PCB Switches

PCB switches are manufactured in different types, each with unique characteristics and purposes. Let’s look at the different types of PCB switches in the market.

Micro Switches: These switches are all about precision. They often use a lever or a button that moves when you press it. This movement closes or opens the circuit, letting the device know what you want it to do.

 Micro Switch
Micro Switch

 

MEC Switches: These switches often have a metal dome underneath the button. Pressing the button, the dome flattens out and completes the circuit. This design makes them sturdy and able to handle many presses without wearing out.

MEC Switch
MEC Switch

 

Tactile Switches: Tactile switches give you a little touchy-feely experience. Pressing them lets you feel a satisfying click or bump, confirming that you’ve activated the switch. They’re often used in gadgets where you must ensure you’ve made a selection, like on a remote control.

Tactile Switch
Tactile Switch

 

Rocker Switches: Think of rocker switches as the teeter-totters of the switch world. You can flip them one way or another, and they’ll stay in that position until you give them a nudge again. These switches are great when you want simple back-and-forth control.

Rocker Switch
Rocker Switch

 

Rotary Switches: These switches like to spin things around figuratively. You can twist them to select different options, like turning a dial. They’re a favorite for choosing radio stations or setting a timer.

Rotary Switch
Rotary Switch

 

Push Button Switches: Simple yet effective, these switches work exactly as they sound. You press them, and they complete a circuit. Release, and they break the circuit. They’re everywhere, from doorbells to elevators.

Push Button Switch
Push Button Switch

 

Toggle Switches: Toggle switches are like mini-levers. You can flick them up or down to turn things on or off. They’re famous for their ease of use and simple control.

Toggle Switch
Toggle Switch

 

Each type has its role in the electronic devices that make operating electronic circuits easier.

 

Components used in PCB Switch

Check out what’s inside a PCB switch: substrate, copper laminate, solder mask, and silkscreen. These materials are what make the switch work. They’re super crucial for electronic circuits.

  1. Substrate: Think of the substrate as the firm foundation of the PCB switch. It’s the material everything else is built upon. The properties of the substrate matter a lot because they affect how well the switch works. Different substrates have qualities that influence signal strength and heat handling.
  2. Copper Laminate: Copper is the conductor of the electricity flow in the PCB switch. We carefully add a layer of copper onto the substrate. This copper creates pathways for the electrical signals to travel. The thickness and quality of this copper layer matter because they determine how well the switch conducts electricity.
  3. Solder Mask: The solder mask is like a protective shield for the PCB switch. It’s a layer that covers the copper pathways, guarding them against things like moisture and dust. It also stops any accidental connections that could mess up the signals. So, it’s like armor that keeps everything safe and on track.
  4. Silkscreen: Imagine the silkscreen as the labeling system of the PCB switch. This layer gives essential information about where each component should go, what they are, and other critical details. It’s like a guide that helps people, like technicians and engineers, when they’re putting things together, fixing them, or figuring out what’s gone wrong.
PCB Switches mounted on board
PCB Switches mounted on board

 

How does a PCB Switch work?

As discussed earlier, a PCB switch is like a gatekeeper for electricity. It’s a tiny component that lets the electricity flow through or stops it.

When the switch is turned on, it’s like opening the gate – electricity can pass through. When it’s turned off, the gate closes, and the flow of electricity stops.

Inside a PCB switch, you’ll find a few critical parts that allow the PCB switch to work correctly:

Printed Circuit Board (PCB): This is the heart of the switch, with tiny pathways made of copper. These pathways are like roads that electricity travels on.

Actuator: This is the part you press or flip to turn the switch on or off. When you press it, something happens inside that makes the switch change its state.

Contacts: These are like the gate’s doors. When the switch is turned on, these contacts come together, allowing electricity to flow through the pathways on the PCB. When the switch is turned off, the contacts separate, blocking the pathway.

Springs: Springs are like helpers. They ensure the contacts return to their original positions when you release the actuator. This allows the switch to be turned on and off repeatedly without wearing out.

Example of Push Button circuit

A 9–12volt DC battery powers this circuit. Due to the push button not being pressed and no current passing through the transistor, the circuit will remain off.

Push Button Circuit Diagram
Push Button Circuit Diagram

 

The transistor 2N304 base will receive a current when you press the button, turning it on. This transistor’s current is the base current for 2N3906. Now both transistors and the 12V Relay will activate. The relay’s value lets you connect and run any AC/DC appliance through this circuit.

Even if the push button bounces off, the second transistor, parallel to the first, will keep the circuit on. Pushing the second button turns off the circuit. It grounding the second transistor’s base deactivates it. So, it will stop the first transistor’s base current from going to the ground. This turns off everything.

 

How to design a PCB Switch?

Designing a PCB switch may seem daunting, but you can make it happen with a clear step-by-step plan. To make a PCB switch, you’ll need a computer with design software (like Eagle, Altium, or KiCad), a PCB manufacturing service, and essential electronic components like resistors, capacitors, and the switch. Make sure you know the tech specs of these parts. Here’s how you make your own PCB switch:

Step 1: Define Your Requirements

Begin by outlining the purpose of your PCB switch. Determine your application’s voltage and current requirements to ensure your switch can handle the electrical load.

Step 2: Select Switch Type and Actuation Mechanism

Choose the most suitable switch type for your application. Tactile switches provide feedback with a distinct click, while push-button switches are straightforward. Toggle switches offer on-off or multi-position functionality. Decide on the actuation mechanism, whether a button press, sliding action, or rotary movement.

Step 3: Plan the PCB Layout

Create a layout for your PCB that accommodates the switch and its associated components. Use PCB design software to draw the circuit traces, component placements, and connection points. Ensure sufficient space around the switch for easy operation.

Step 4: Determine Switch Dimensions

Measure the dimensions of the chosen switch, considering its length, width, and height. These measurements are essential for creating the correct PCB cutouts and designing any housing or casing for the switch.

Step 5: Design the PCB Trace Layout

Carefully design the traces on the PCB that connect the switch terminals to the rest of the circuit. Pay attention to trace width and spacing to ensure proper current handling and prevent signal interference. Keep the traces as short and direct as possible.

Step 6: Create Cutouts and Mounting Holes

Incorporate the switch cutouts and mounting holes into your PCB design. These features allow the switch to be securely attached to the PCB. Double-check the dimensions to ensure a snug fit.

Step 7: Add Supporting Components

Integrate any necessary components around the switch, such as resistors, capacitors, or LEDs. Ensure these components complement the switch’s function and adhere to your design specifications.

Step 8: Verify Connectivity and Circuitry

Before moving forward, use the PCB design software to verify the connectivity of your circuit and inspect the layout for any errors. This step helps prevent issues that could arise during manufacturing or testing.

Step 9: Prototype and Testing

Create a prototype of your PCB switch design. Use a PCB fabrication service or manufacture it yourself if you have the means. Once you have the prototype, test its functionality and make necessary adjustments.

Step 10: Finalize Design and Production

Incorporate any changes based on testing and fine-tune your PCB switch design. Once you’re satisfied with your prototype, finalize the design and prepare the files for manufacturing. Choose a reliable PCB manufacturing service and submit your design files for production.

 

Ways to Mount PCB Switch

After designing and manufacturing the PCB switch comes the mounting part. It is a crucial aspect of making sure your electronics work seamlessly. There are two essential ways to mount PCB switches: PCB switch mounting and PCB plate mounting. Understanding the differences between these methods will help you make informed decisions when designing and assembling your electronic devices.

PCB Switch Mounting:

This method is a popular choice due to its simplicity and effectiveness. To do this, you’ll need to place the 5-pin switch on the designated PCB spot and secure it. Depending on the switch you’re using, this could involve soldering or other fastening techniques. The advantage of PCB switch mounting is its direct connection, ensuring a reliable electrical connection and minimizing the need for additional components.

PCB Plate Mounting:

This method involves placing the 3-pin PCB switch onto a separate plate or board, which is then attached to the main printed circuit board. This approach offers more flexibility when positioning the switch, as you cannot place it directly on the main board. It also provides a way to isolate the switch from the main PCB, which can be helpful in some cases to prevent interference or make repairs more straightforward.

PCB switch mounting and PCB plate mounting

Choosing between PCB switch mounting and PCB plate mounting depends on your project requirements.

Applications of PCB Switches

These nifty switches find their home in various places where they’re key players:

Consumer Electronics: Embedded in smartphones, cameras, and audio equipment.

Appliances: Employed in various household appliances for the user interface.

Smart Home: Integrated into smart thermostats, lights, and home automation.

Wearable Devices: Used for controls in smartwatches and fitness trackers.

Gaming Consoles: Enable interaction in gaming controllers and devices.

Automotive electronics: Integrated in-car electronics, from dashboard controls to power windows.

Medical devices: Enable functionality in medical equipment and devices.

Aerospace and aviation: Vital for avionics and flight control systems.

Audio Systems: Used in amplifiers, mixers, and audio equipment controls.

 

Example of PCB DIP Switch

Now that you’ve learned about PCB switches and how they’re attached let’s dive into an example. We’ll explore the DIP switch, the “dual-line package switch.” The DIP switch is a small manual electronic switch used alongside other circuits. It can be a single switch or multiple switches together. These switches are designed to control the flow of electricity on a PCB.

Dip Switches with different Pin Numbers
Dip Switches with different Pin Numbers

 

Putting a DIP switch onto a printed circuit board allows you to customize how an electronic device works. This means you have precise control over what the device does. DIP switches usually look like tiny row switches. They provide a simple and cost-effective way to change between different options for a device or its hardware.

Dip Switch mounted on PCB
Dip Switch mounted on PCB

 

What’s the purpose of a DIP switch?

Configuration: They’re used to set different options on PC peripherals and hardware components like video cards, motherboards, modems, hard drives, expansion modules, and other accessories.

Garage Doors: DIP switches are even used in the mechanisms that open garage doors.

Remote Controls: In universal remote controls for multiple devices, DIP switches prevent electrical interference that might accidentally control the wrong device. They’re crucial for maintaining control.

In some cases, DIP switches are essential for setting up different radio frequencies for pairing receivers and transmitters.

How Does a DIP Switch Work?

A standard surface-mountable DIP switch is a set of simple two-terminal (1/0) switches. They’re packed into sturdy housing that’s resistant to heat changes. These are sometimes called “jumpers,” although they’re a more modern version of traditional jumpers.

The “dual in-line” refers to the contact pins under the DIP switch. These pins fit into a breadboard or PCB. They’re organized in two parallel rows beneath the switch, hence the “dual in-line.” This design means there are twice as many contact pins as regular switches.

DIP switches are handy when choosing a specific device function and flipping multiple switches to get the correct mode. They’re often used on computer motherboards, where switches control various settings.

A typical DIP switch can have one, two, four, seven, eight, ten, sixteen, or even more switches packed into a small block. Though simple, each 1/0 switch can be controlled independently, offering various combinations.

Each toggle in a DIP switch is separate from the others. When you move a toggle, a flexible sliding contact reacts. This sliding contact bends slightly to open or close a contact below, controlling the flow of electricity.

DIP switch working mechanism
DIP switch working mechanism

 

It’s important to note that DIP switches come in various types meant for specific applications with different power ratings, voltages, and currents. Following the manufacturer’s specifications is crucial to avoid issues like electrical arcs or switches welding themselves together during switching, which could lead to device damage or performance problems.

DIP switches are used in arcade machines, measurement devices, production equipment, industrial controls, and automated garage doors.

 

Conclusion

In today’s fast-paced world, certain elements are essential for the smooth functioning of various industries’ devices. One such crucial component is switches. These small yet powerful devices ensure that different sectors can operate efficiently and effectively. From manufacturing plants to telecommunications networks, switches are ubiquitous in numerous industries. Acting as the fundamental backbone of electrical systems, they facilitate the effortless transmission of both power and data, ultimately ensuring the smooth functioning of our intricate technological devices.

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