A switch for all seasons

Sager Electronics’ VP supplier marketing & product management, Craig Sanderson

Sager Electronics’ VP supplier marketing & product management, Craig Sanderson, explores switch applications from industrial to aerospace and more.


Switches are ubiquitous, performing a variety of functions including power on/off, human-to-machine interface (HMI), machine-to-machine interface (MMI), navigation and safety. Various types and features suit them to all vertical market segments of the electronics industry.


Switch products are deployed in industrial, instrumentation, medical, communications, transportation, computing, networking and aerospace/defense segments. Primary electromechanical switches are: pushbutton, toggle, rocker, basic/snap-action, limit, tactile, DIP, rotary DIP, rotary, keylock, slide, pressure, reed and thumbwheel/pushwheel.


Typically, industrial applications require a robust switch, often sealed or ruggedized to withstand harsh environments. Popular are pushbutton e-stop switches, limit switches, basic/snap-action, toggle and rocker switches. All types have sealing and heavy duty or ruggedized options.


For instrumentation applications, switches do not normally require harsh industrial protection features. Prevalent switches in instrumentation or test/measurement applications are pushbutton, toggle, rocker, tactile, DIP, rotary DIP, rotary and thumbwheel/pushwheel.


Medical equipment OEMs have moved much of their user interface to touchscreen and sensor interfaces but still employ pushbutton, toggle, tactile, basic/snap-action and rotary switches. Some medical applications require sealed switches, a key feature regarding cleaning and sterilization of patient contact equipment.


Communications and networking applications range from power on-off toggle, rocker, pushbutton switches with some utilizing a hydraulic-magnetic circuit breaker to handle heavy power requirements. Also, board-level pushbutton, toggle, tactile and DIP switches play an important role in controlling PCB configurations. Hand-held communication devices use a form of tactile switches known as navigation devices, letting users scroll and navigate between screens.


Transportation applications include construction, rail, forklifts and heavy-duty vehicles. Here keylock, rocker, toggle, pushbutton and pressure switches are used to control equipment movement, ensure cabin safety and deploy various vehicle features. Pressure switches monitor and adjust oil pressure for engine performance.


Aerospace and defense applications require the most robust, well-engineered switch products. These switches need to perform in harsh environments and withstand shock/vibration, often at high altitudes. Important switch products include toggle, pushbutton and limit switches. They must meet rigorous requirements, with many assigned a QPL part number. MS, Mil or QPL listing is the standard recognized by military and aerospace OEMs and the military to ensure switches and other products meet their quality requirements.


As the electronic component industry evolves, switches are being replaced in some applications by touch screens and sensor products. Certainly, these new technologies provide significant value in terms of measuring data, offer easier user interface and streamline the application. At the same time, they often include an electromechanical switch. Many design and safety engineers will continue to rely on switch products for their applications given their proven performance, cost effective features and ease of use. Sager Electronics’ broad electromechanical switch product offering can support any customer application.