The Ultimate Guide to Electromechanical Switches

analog amplifier with electromechanical toggle switches

Electromechanical switches are essential components in electronic designs. Whether you're a hobbyist or a professional electrician, it's important to understand the different types of electromechanical switches available, how they work, the features to look for, and how to pick the right one in order to build electronics that perform reliably.

That's why we have put together this ultimate guide so you can easily pick the best switches for your intended application or interface preference and ensure optimized performance, reliability, and durability.

Common Types of Switches

Electromechanical switches come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and types, making the selection process even more critical. Poor selection can result in malfunctioning components, frequent maintenance requirements, or system malfunctions for your electronic designs. Here are the common types you should know about:

DIP Switches

These types of electromechanical switches are highly reliable and common in car audio systems and computer manufacturing. DIP switches are extremely durable, lasting hundreds or thousands of cycles without any breakage. Depending on the application, they may also be waterproof or vibration-resistant. When not in use, they typically keep their stored settings until they are adjusted again, making them perfect for situations where permanent program features need to remain in place.

Rotary DIP Switches

Rotary switches are often used in digital logic designs and other control systems. They’re the perfect solution for projects that require multiple high-speed selections among two or more positions. Users can quickly select positions manually with a durable knob or shaft.

Tactile Switches

Tactical switches are used to control a circuit by detecting and responding to human contact. They have numerous applications, from gaming consoles and fitness machines to keyboards and medical equipment. They come in innovative designs for enhanced performance. These electromechanical switches are available in a wide range of settings, so you can adjust how much pressure is necessary to activate them.

Slide Switches

This type of electromechanical switch is often used to effectively control an electronic circuit, power, and change the action of a circuit. With their low-cost construction, ease of use, and reliability, slide switches can be easily integrated into a variety of systems. They are normally used for low-current, low-voltage applications in consumer electronics, automobiles, control systems, and more.

push button switch

Pushbutton Switches

Pushbutton switches are pretty self-explanatory in how they work: you push a button to activate or deactivate a device. These switches are used in many industries and applications, providing an effective and reliable way to control power distribution and automation in the most demanding circumstances. They've become a common choice for many machines, from the simplest electromechanical contraptions to complex automated processes. When you need a solution that works for years without disruption, these switches are ideal.

Rocker Switches

These are electromechanical switches with a clear indication of when your device is powered or not. With their durability and simplicity, rocker switches have found their place in both consumer electronics and industrial and medical applications. Despite their simple design, they offer an effective way to control devices reliably over a long period of time.

Magnetically-Operated Switches

Magnetically-operated switches don't rely on physical contact to turn on and off. Instead, they use magnetic fields to perform the same functions. This means they have no wear points, which gives them increased reliability, longevity, and durability. These electromechanical switches can handle higher loads of current with less resistance, significantly increasing their efficiency. Applications include electronic machines, circuit breaker controls, and automotive subsystems.

Toggle Switches

Like rocker switches, toggle switches make it easy for you to tell when a device is on or off depending on the position the switch is in. Their widespread use is reflected in the diverse range of applications from industry and home automation to controlling machinery in the military, automotive, and aeronautical fields.

Features to Consider When Selecting Switches

electrical lighting switch

When selecting these types of electromechanical switches, there are key features to consider:

  • Size of the Switch: It's important to ensure the size of the switch is appropriate and allows for efficient operation while also fitting comfortably within whatever it needs to be mounted on or into.
  • Default State: Will the switch be open or closed when no actuation occurs? Choosing a switch with the wrong default state can lead to unexpected and potentially dangerous outcomes. Careful consideration of a switch's default state is essential for successful integration.
  • Switch Positions: The positions available should be taken into account. Depending on what the application calls for, a single position, such as on/off could be ideal or multiple positions, like high/medium/low, may be necessary.
  • Mounting Options: The options for mounting them can seem overwhelming. Should you go for a surface mount or a through-hole option? Consider all the available mounting options and select the one that best suits your application.
  • Actuation Options: Actuation options available for controlling electromechanical switches can greatly influence both the user experience and the overall safety of an application. Review their characteristics to select the right option for the job. Consider features such as travel distance, operating temperature range, resistance level, and operating force.
  • Voltage and Current Rating: Select switches with an appropriate voltage and current rating for your specific application to ensure safe and efficient operation.
  • Ingress Protection or IP Ratings: If the switch will be exposed to harsh environments or potential contaminants like dust or water, consider a switch with an appropriate Ingress Protection (IP) rating to ensure it remains functional under those conditions.

Get the Right Switches for Your Project Needs

By understanding the different types of electromechanical switches and their features, you can easily compare the options available and pick the right ones for your project requirements. At Jameco Electronics, we make it easy for you to find the best switches for your DIY hobby, educational projects, or professional designs. Request a quote today.