Membrane Switch Backlighting

Enhancing the User Experience

What are the Backlighting Options for Membrane Switches?

One of the ways to enhance the user experience and differentiate your equipment from the competition is to incorporate backlighting into the membrane switch design. Backlighting involves strategically placing lights into the membrane switch construction to make keypads, legends, and displays easier to read. There are specific cosmetic and cost advantages and disadvantages to be considered, based on the backlighting method employed. Pannam can guide you in the most cost-effective backlighting technique for your user-interface assembly.

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)


LEDs are used primarily as indicator lights, and are a popular, low-cost, point-source lighting method. Embedded LED’s emit very little heat, and come in a variety of colors including red, yellow, green, blue, white, and bi-color lamp packages. Various intensities are available, some of which are especially designed for viewing in outdoor environments.

Surface mount LEDs can be bonded into our polyester switch constructions, which provide a reliable, cost effective light source. An even greater variety of lamp packages can be used in PCB Membrane Switches and Copper Flex Membrane Switches, and can be through-hole soldered, which enhances durability.

Other features of LED backlighting include:

  • Reliability and long life – typically more than 100,000 hours
  • Low cost
  • Efficient power consumption, operating on low voltages
  • Available in a wide variety of colors, intensities, and lamp packages

Electroluminescent (EL) Lighting


EL lamps contain phosphors, which convert electrical energy directly into light energy. The high efficiency of this conversion minimizes power consumption and losses due to heat or IR emissions. EL backlighting devices consequently consume relatively little power under normal operation. They are best suited for low and no light applications where the backlight is not always on, because the phosphors tend to decay with extended use at high voltages and frequencies. The useful life of an EL lamp will vary depending on the quality of the phosphors and how hard the lamp is being driven.

Some additional features and design considerations for EL lamps are:

  • EL lamps consume very little power
  • Provides uniform, balanced backlighting of the entire membrane switch area
  • Requires a DC to AC inverter to operate
  • Thin profile and durability make it suitable for most membrane switch constructions
  • Limited color options are available

Fiber Optic Lighting

Fiber Optic Backlighting

A typical fiber optic lamp consists of two or more layers of woven fiber-optic cloth used to form a rectangular light-emitting area. The fibers coming off one end are then bundled into a circular ferrule and coupled to one or more LED light sources. Fiber optic lamps are a cost-effective method to achieve more uniform backlighting across a broader area of the membrane switch keypad. With fiber optic backlighting, light from a light source, normally an LED, is evenly distributed under the graphics by use of very thin plastic fibers.

Some additional features and design considerations for fiber optic lamps are:

  • Longer life vs. EL lamps, typically 100,000 hours based on a typical LED
  • Very low power requirements – 20-50 mA with an LED
  • Uniform brightness for backlighting large membrane switch background areas
  • Fiber optic lamps do not emit heat or generate electromagnetic interference
  • Withstands extremes temperatures and humidity

Set your equipment apart from the competition.

Pannam will work with you to determine the most cost-effective backlighting solution for your user-interface assembly.

Contact Pannam now regarding your membrane switch assembly.

Visit our Product Gallery to learn more about the various constructions and product features we can offer, and learn how Pannam can customize your membrane switch assembly to meet and exceed your unique application requirements.