It can happen quite quickly; your team has an intuitive idea for a new product; you pitch it to your customers; they jump on board and push for a quick launch date; you assign one of your industrial designers to illustrate the concept; you approach your contract manufacturer with the design and quickly discover there are roadblocks. Perhaps the actual time to manufacture your product will greatly delay your launch date.  Maybe the manufacturing costs are well beyond your expectations.  Or, you are informed that your design specifications are outside the parameters of their manufacturing capabilities.

How can these types of roadblocks be averted?  According to an article from Design World, written by, Claudio Hanna called, “Early collaboration: Why it’s key to medical device success” the answer is simple: “proactive and effective collaboration.” Partnering with a supplier early in the process may shorten development cycles, minimize tooling costs, improve design flexibility, and promote innovation.  Steve Roellich, DuraTech’s Printed Electronics Development Engineer, is a strong proponent of early collaboration.  Roellich says, “Engaging early on in the development phase brings projects to a reality.” Printed Electronics technology may be new to some, or even daunting, so Roellich encourages OEM’s to take advantage of our knowledge and experiences, but the earlier the better. He emphasized, “Allowing enough time for development is the key to success.”

Adam Pochopin, author of “When Collaboration Starts Early, Good Things Happen”  agrees.  He says, “instead of simply handing off designs for a manufacturer to build, customers should borrow their vendor’s experience and thought leadership by asking them for design input.” “The best critical-use manufacturers can identify potential problems, waste, or unnecessary processes, and then suggest alternatives during planning.   A Forbes Insight Survey indicates a growing number of companies across many industries are turning to greater collaboration with their suppliers by involving them earlier in the design phase, and are reaping the benefits.

But, there are still many OEM’s that struggle with such open communication, and their company’s culture could be to blame.  The 3 Ways to Turn Suppliers into Partners  article, also by Forbes, reports that a company’s culture can inhibit a willingness to collaborate.  Such challenges include the “not invented here” syndrome, reputation risk, or concerns about sharing intellectual property. Roellich understands the pride involved with developing a new product, and has seen how this type of partnership has been difficult for some to accept.  However, Roellich wants to ensure DuraTech’s customers that we are not here to dictate how to design your product, but rather, offer design guidelines.

For example: DuraTech’s Printed Electronics Team developed the following tips for designing a membrane switch.  When these guidelines are utilized, we can obtain the necessary information to:

  • Develop preliminary conceptual prints (a value added service) that can identify any potential challenges and address them early on.
  • Laser cut mock-ups with correct materials that can check for fit, tail routing, adhesion and perimeter seal.
  • Create prototypes for testing.

Tips for Successful Membrane Switch Design and Development

Define core requirements for functionality of membrane:

  • What does it have to do without failing?

Define form or desired look:

  • User interface with customer and brand identifier
  • Specialty printing and materials.

Overlay material selection and graphics: 

  • Gloss vs. Texture?
  • Hardcoated for scratch resistance?
  • Weatherable or UV resistant?
  • Embossed buttons?
  • Windows or cutouts?
  • Gradients?

Type of switch:

  • Tactile vs. non-tactile – if tactile what is the actuation force?

Is there adequate room to provide a seal robust enough to meet IP rating?Ingress Protection (IP rating):


  • Is there enough room to fit all circuitry/components/seal? This should be considered during design and development of housing while changes can still be easily made.
  • Is a FPC circuit required?

What surface will switch be adhering to?

  • Low surface energy vs high surface energy

Tail exit location and interconnect method: 

  • Flexibility in tail exit location will help switch design be as efficient as possible and keep cost down.

What is the type of connection method?

  • ZIF? If so what is the pitch?
  • Pins and housing? Latched or polarizing?
  • Will the contacts be on the right side after assembly?

Circuit schematic or pinout defined:                                                                      

  • Early involvement with DuraTech will help keep cost down by working with us to optimize the trace layout for minimum number of print passes.

What else to consider?

  • Is ESD shielding required?
  • What are the electrical test requirements?
  • Industry standards or special conditions/requirements

 Early collaboration is recommended no matter what product we are customizing for you. Partner with our DuraTech experts so we can help you:

  • Increase the speed of your new product development process
  • Reduce Costs
  • Increase your competitive advantage.

Set up a design and development meeting today by calling 608-781-2570, or               E-mail us at