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Review: ActiveMetal Metal Switch

The box

The box

Front View

Front View

Side View

Side View

Back View

Back View

I recently bought an ITW ActiveMetal button because the price was somewhat reasonable, because it uses a unique technology, and because they are no longer readily available after ITW sold the technology to Texzec.

The only distributor with any stock left is Newark; when I ordered mine, they had a total of 5 units available in 3 models.  I bought a T01-042203-006-NO-M2 which breaks down as follows:

  • ActiveMetal button using ultrasonic energy trapped in resonant cavities.
  • Zinc alloy housing.
  • 22mm size
  • 10-24 VDC input, Open collector output.  Since I’m using it with a PLC, I like 24VDC, and the open collector outputs let me use the button with sourcing or sinking inputs.
  • Bright chrome color (I also considered the mirror black color)
  • Normally open switch status
  • Momentary switch action
  • Medium sensitivity level.

The price ($37) is OK for a metal button.  The chrome looks very sharp, but might scratch easily (mine already has a scratch); I would probably pay extra for stainless steel if I were going to use them on a machine.

I won’t make any promises,  but it appears to be ESD-safe; all the exposed metal is grounded together with the black ground wire, although there is noticeable resistance when measuring between various places on the metal surface and the ground wire.

I have the button connected to a Panasonic FP Sigma PLC with PLC inputs configured as sinking (the load provides 24VDC), since I am currently using the PLC with a few PNP-output Pepperl Fuchs inductive sensors.   I have the connected the  button’s red wire to +24VDC, the black wire to ground, and the green wire and a 4.7K Ohm pull-up resistor to the PLC input.

The button does take a little pressure to actuate, so anything that presses hard enough on the button should actuate it (I tried various objects with no problems).  However, because there’s no mechanical feedback, you can’t tell if you’ve successfully pressed it.  I would always use the button with some kind of feedback; currently, I’m using the PLC’s input status LED.

If you need to press a button frequently, the ActiveMetal’s light touch could be an advantage compared to a typical 22mm mechanical pushbutton.  Recently, I was testing out an Allegro UCN5804 stepper driver using my ActiveMetal button to generate the step pulses, and I appreciated its ease of actuation.

In most cases I think I’d rather use a nice illuminated mechanical pushbutton (such as the IDEC LW7L), but if I need the unique advantages of a non-mechanical button (such as better ESD safety, longer life, or greater robustness), I’ll definitely consider ActiveMetal buttons.

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