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      • Published 17 Jan 2023
      • Last Modified 29 Aug 2023
    • 5 min

    A Complete Guide to Key Switches

    Our key switches guide is designed to help you understand how they work, their applications, and the different types.

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    What is a Key Switch?

    A key switch is a mechanism that allows you to turn something on or off by using a key. Key switches are usually used as part of a larger system, such as a security system or an electric lock. However, today, key switches are available in a variety of styles and sizes to suit almost any application.

    Although keyless technology is gaining in popularity, key switches are beneficial as the equipment, machinery, or circuitry controlled by them can only be accessed by designated key holders. Other switch types like rocker or toggle switches can be activated by anyone, whereas key switches introduce another layer of security and enable access to be restricted.

    Key switches are compact, versatile, and ruggedly built. They are used in many industries including manufacturing, food processing and packaging, transportation, healthcare, and security.

    How Do Key Switches Work?

    Key Switch

    Key switches are a type of switch used for locking and unlocking purposes. They are also used for controlling the flow of electricity, which means that key switches can be found in many different places.

    Key switches are either on or off. They have a single, fixed state that can be changed only by turning them on and off again with a physical key.

    To operate a key switch:

    1. Turn the key to the “ON” position
    2. Press down on the button until you hear an audible clicking sound

    Key Switch Applications

    Key switches can be used in many different applications. The most common uses for key switches are to lock the door of a building, or the standard car ignition control.

    Key switches have multiple uses in industry as well. They can be used for security purposes or just to keep people out of certain areas within an office building or factory. These switches can also be used in industrial settings to control large machinery or access to equipment.

    Common uses of key switches include:

    • Locking doors, automatic door control, or securing areas within an office building or factory
    • In industrial applications such as conveyor belts, machine tools or assembly lines that require frequent changes in direction
    • In medical equipment to control airflow or stop/start functions
    • Security systems, and controlling access to restricted areas
    • Activating or deactivating machinery used for critical operations, removing the possibility of accidental activation
    • Alarms such as fire alarms
    • Roller shutters
    • High-security applications
    • Power distribution as a lock-out scenario
    • Cash registers
    • Communication systems
    • Computers and computer servers
    • Marine equipment

    Key Switch Types

    Various types of key switches are used for different applications and environments. The most common types include panel key switches, external key switches, latching key switches and capacitive key switches.

    How Do Key Switches Differ from Other Switches?

    Key Switch

    Key switches are designed to be accident and tamper-proof. Other mechanically actuated switch types such as push buttons or rocker switches can be unintentionally activated, however, this is not possible with key switches.

    Key switches require the operative to insert the right key into the mechanism and rotate it, ensuring any activation or deactivation must be intentional. Therefore, key switches are typically installed on equipment or machinery that requires restricted access. Keys can then be assigned to only dedicated personnel for heightened security.

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