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Miniature snap-action switch-Construction and operation
- Dec 10, 2016 -

In one type of microswitch, internally there are two conductive springs. A long flat spring is hinged at one end of the switch (the left, in the photograph) and has electrical contacts on the other. A small curved spring, preloaded (i.e., compressed during assembly) so it attempts to extend itself (at the top, just right of center in the photo), is connected between the flat spring near the contacts and a fulcrum near the midpoint of the flat spring. An actuator nub presses on the flat spring near its hinge point.

Because the flat spring is anchored and strong in tension the curved spring cannot move it to the right. The curved spring presses, or pulls, the flat spring upward, that is away, from the anchor point. Owing to the geometry, the upward force is proportional to the displacement which decreases as the flat spring moves downward. (Actually, the force is proportional to the sine of the angle, which is approximately proportional to the angle for small angles.)

As the actuator depresses it flexes the flat spring while the curved spring keeps the electrical contacts touching. When the flat spring is flexed enough it will provide sufficient force to compress the curved spring and the contacts will begin to move.

As the flat spring moves downward the upward force of the curved spring reduces causing the motion to accelerate even in the absence of further motion of the actuator until the flat spring impacts the normally-open contact. Even though the flat spring unflexes as it moves downward, the switch is designed so the net effect is acceleration. This "over-center" action produces a very distinctive clicking sound and a very crisp feel.

In the actuated position the curved spring provides some upward force. If the actuator is released this will move the flat spring upward. As the flat spring moves, the force from the curved spring increases. This results in acceleration until the normally-closed contacts are hit. Just as in the downward direction, the switch is designed so that the curved spring is strong enough to move the contacts, even if the flat spring must flex, because the actuator does not move during the changeover.