When it comes to user interfaces and membrane switch assemblies, there can be a massive range in the level of complexity. And as we all know, more complexity means additional design and manufacturing challenges, from rising costs and potential waste to increased risk and failure potential.
While these challenges can’t be avoided, we’ve found that if you take these 3 small steps, you can make a dramatic impact on your final results.
#1. Go Deeper than Product Requirements
Yes, we almost always get requirements input. That’s the basis of every estimate and proposal. But when it comes to complex assemblies, there’s an added level of upfront rigor that can head off a lot of problems downstream.
As we work with customers, we find that understanding the “why” is just as important as defining the “what.” Too often, design teams jump to the solution, defining the answers before they’ve fully clarified the problems. Unfolding and unpackaging what’s really needed for your particular assembly is essential, and when it’s a complex assembly, involving your manufacturing partner becomes even more critical.
This is especially true when your partner has engineering resources in house and on staff. These companies are true experts in the design and manufacture of membrane switch assemblies. When they understand why you’ve defined the requirements a certain way, they’ll be better equipped to offer insights and suggestions that you wouldn’t have otherwise considered.
#2. Prioritize Your Success Metrics
You know the old engineering line. Better. Faster. Cheaper. Choose Two. While clichéd, it speaks to an important principle – we can’t have everything when it comes to our complex user interface assembly.
While budget is always a driver, it isn’t always the most significant consideration. In military and aerospace applications, reliability is paramount, and more costly design choices are made to reduce the risk of failure. In the medical device industry, ease of use and functionality rise to the top as suppliers strive to mitigate operator error. Size and space constraints are becoming ever more prevalent in the consumer electronics space.
Defining your specific priorities goes beyond product attributes, however. Manufacturability. Time to market. Sustainability. Supply chain management. All of these elements need to be considered and factored into your priority list, as they all will have a direct impact on final design and production plan.
#3. Be Open to a Fluid Design Process
Ultimately, there will be trade-offs, especially when you are developing a complex membrane switch assembly. The key will be your openness to an iterative design process – one that leaves room for you and your manufacturing partner to work through these issues together.
One of the blessings (and curses) of membrane switch designs is the vast range of options we have to help you meet your objectives. Substrates. Graphics. Adhesives. Circuitry. Lighting. Shielding. Each element requires its own design choice, and all contribute to the final deliverable.
With a proactive partner who has design and manufacturing expertise, you can punch through these choices and explore the various trade-offs you’ll need to make. And by remaining flexible, you’ll be able match up with your priorities and check all the boxes as you collectively work through the design process.
Coordinating design and engineering teams isn’t always easy. But when it comes to complex user interface assemblies, working together to manage priorities and explore opportunities can make a huge difference. The result will be a better end product that optimizes the user experience while meeting your most important business goals. And that’s a win for everyone involved.
Ken Boss is the Vice President of Sales & Marketing at JN White™, a leading ISO 9001:2015 and ITAR certified manufacturer. He is an expert in the design and production of graphic overlays, membrane switches, user interfaces, control panels and custom labels. To see additional insights from Ken, please visit www.jnwhiteusa.com/blog.
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