Long life and high operating force for automotive applications

6th March 2017
Anna Flockett

Production of the new ‘SKPS Series’ TACT Switch, developed by ALPS Electric, began back in January, with Soft Operating Feel, which realises a high operating force together with a long operating life to make the product suitable for in-vehicle controls. Automobiles are equipped with a wide range of control switches that add to the comfort and safety of the vehicle. Typical examples are air conditioning controls in the centre console, audio-visual system controls located on the steering wheel, and switches enabling hands-free calls.

Switches on automotive equipment naturally have to be able to withstand harsh conditions inside a vehicle cabin, such as extreme temperatures and vibrations. Safety-wise, too, they require features for preventing mistakes caused by unintentional operation.

With the ongoing spread of car navigation systems, their screens bigger and bigger, it is important that the switches inside them take up little space. Another growing requirement, since individual switches perform multiple functions, is a long operating life.

In addition, the emergence of electric vehicles that generate no engine sound has led to efforts to create quiet cabins, one consequence being an increasing demand for quiet switches that make little noise when operated.

In 2000, ALPS Electric developed and commenced mass production of the SKPM Series Surface Mount TACT Switch with Soft Operating Feel as a switch for integration into automotive equipment. The addition to the product lineup of a model with compact dimensions (5.9x6.0x5.0mm) and a range of operating forces between 1.57-3.0N prompted an excellent response from the market and an extensive sales record.

Already in mass production, the newly developed SKPS Series Surface Mount TACT Switch with Soft Operating Feel inherits the same dimensions as the SKPM Series while achieving both a high 3.6N operating force and a long life of 300,000 cycles (the life of the SKPM Series is 100,000 cycles). Meanwhile, the travel is shorter than earlier products – reduced from 1.3-1.05mm – contributing to the development of control environments with excellent reliability and robustness.

Furthermore, changes were made to the sliding structure of the main stem and rubber dome. A structure preventing ingress by dust or dirt was newly adopted to curb contact issues while achieving the same quiet operation as earlier products.

The size and land dimensions of the SKPS Series are the same as for the SKPM Series. This reduces the workload for equipment manufacturers already using the SKPM Series as there is no need to design a new board.

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