Designing a Durable and Fully Backlit User Interface with NVIS LEDs for Military Applications

JN White received a request from a new customer who needed a user interface that was both fully backlit and extremely durable. The customer intended to use the interface in a military context, so it was crucial that it could withstand harsh environments, feature NVIS LED backlighting for compatibility with night vision equipment, and provide tactile feedback suitable for users wearing gloves. JN White promptly began designing a solution that addressed each of the client’s specific requirements.

How JN White® Helped


JN White came up with a solution for the intricate user interface by utilizing black injection molded elastomer, which addressed all three main objectives. The elastomer provided a full seal to protect the interface from environmental issues, served as a light piping medium to effectively guide the NVIS LEDs, and acted as a barrier to prevent light bleeding. Additionally, it provided excellent tactile feedback to ensure users could operate the interface with ease, even while wearing gloves.

  • Gasketing: To create integrated o-ring gaskets, the elastomer keypad was designed with ridges around the perimeter and each button. Once mounted inside the customer’s product, the ridges compressed against the metal plate, fitting into grooves pressed into the metal to provide a complete seal. Elastomers are highly versatile and can be molded into various shapes and sizes, making them an excellent choice for products requiring a customized fit, such as seals and gaskets. They are well-suited for use as seals and gaskets due to their ability to withstand harsh conditions, including high temperatures, chemicals, and physical stress, which helps reduce friction and prevent leaks in harsh environments.
  • Tactile Feedback: To address the feedback of the interface, the design integrated a force actuator onto the backside of the elastomer positioned over the metal dome. The force actuator provides a slight preload to the dome which in turn dramatically enhances the tactile feedback experienced by the user.
  • NVIS LEDs: The user interface features NVIS LEDs, which are specifically designed for night vision imaging systems (NVIS) used by military, law enforcement, and search and rescue personnel. These LEDs are more durable than traditional displays and consume less power due to their reduced luminance requirements. They are equipped with a filter or cap that filters out certain wavelengths of light, making them readable for those using night vision goggles (NVG) without blinding them. The team had to consider the additional height of the NVIS LEDs and compensate for it by designing recesses in the back of the elastomer to accommodate the Z-Axis height of LEDs without compromising tactile feedback. The fully backlit interface provides even illumination, improving visibility in low light conditions, which is essential in military and aviation applications. These specialized LEDs emit light within a specific wavelength range, calibrated to meet strict military and industry standards.

The Result

To meet the strict requirements of the customer, we utilized elastomer rubber to build and design the entire user interface, which includes a printed circuit board and custom-designed NVIS LEDs. The use of elastomer rubber provided a complete seal to protect the interface from harsh environmental conditions, acted as a light piping medium to smoothly direct the NVIS LEDs, and offered excellent tactile feedback to allow easy operation by users wearing gloves. With this design, we successfully achieved the three primary objectives specified by the customer.

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