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Cool Components IV: LCD Pushbuttons

LCD Switches from NKK, ScreenKeys, and [E3]

LCD Switches from NKK, ScreenKeys, and E3

LCD pushbuttons are yet another copasetic technology I’d like to use, but haven’t found a compelling reason to do so.  I’m glad somebody is using them; apparently the main market is Audio/Visual equipment, and other markets include  military, security, and medical equipment.

These pushbuttons aren’t well suited for the typical system integrator.  They’re all designed to mount on a PCB, use a SPI interface (readily available on microcontrollers, but not on PCs or PLCs), and require complex programming.

Most models use a monochrome LCD with a backlights of varying complexity.  Here’s some product highlights from the three companies I know about:

NKK SmartSwitches

NKK has the best distribution by far; their distributors include Mouser and Digikey.  NKK has the widest product range, with prices ranging from about $45 to $80.  NKK also the most support; for example, I’ve seen SmartSwitch articles in Circuit Cellar Ink.

  • Basic buttons include 36×24 and 64×32 monochrome LCDs with single, bicolor, and RGB backlights.
  • The OLED models provide 65536 colors with a 64×48 pixel resolution, with prices around $80.
  • The OLED rocker switch is unique; it includes a white monochrome 96×64 pixel OLED display, and is also around $80.

ScreenKeys

ScreenKeys is an Irish company with some normal and one unique product.

  • Basic buttons include 32×16 and 36×24 monochrome LCDs with bicolor or RGB backlighting.
  • The unique product is the TFT128 button, which has a 128×128 pixel, 65536 color TFT LCD display.  One minus is that the TFT128 uses a flat, LCD-style cable for communications.  SparkFun used to carry it at a reasonable price (~$50 IIRC), but does not anymore.

[E³] Engstler Elektronik Entwicklung GmbH

[E3] is a German company that makes pushbuttons with 32×16, 36×24, and 64×32 pixel monochrome LCDs with RGB backlights.  The RGB backlights provide either 64 or >10,000 calibrated colors.

The SB6432 is available on-line from FunGizmos for $36.

RJS Electronics

RJS currently offers pushbuttons with 64×32 pixel resolution, a profile similar to that of [E3] pushbuttons, and RGB backlights.  (Added 5/18/2013)

Summary

I’d still like to have an excuse to use one of these buttons in a project; maybe someday…

2 comments

1 Rob Brown { 05.16.13 at 12:45 am }

Hi, Please can you add our product to your list of lcd buttons here,
http://www.rjselectronics.com/?LCD_Switches

The Q5 series is a 64×32 lcd switch with full rgb backlight,
We also offer a 32×24 version by request,

Our LCD switches currently have the largest viewing area on the market and can be bought individually for prices much cheaper than what you have stated here for our competitors,

We are a UK based company and our switches are manufactured in europe but we ship worldwide

Many thanks

Rob Brown

2 Rob Brown { 05.16.13 at 12:46 am }

I forgot to mention, here is a video of our product in use, http://www.rjselectronics.com/?LCD_Switches:Q5

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