The world of electronic devices is growing smaller, yet demands for full-sized controls for slimline designs. Recent developments in the field of microprocessors, battery technology and antenna products mean that it is possible to create powerful computing devices that are little larger than a credit card.

Arrows to showcase the slimline design of HMI when little space is required.
Industrial vehicle showcasing full-sized HMI controls in a slimline design environment with limited space.

The size of the operator has not shrunk. Regardless of how compact an electronics package can become, it is still necessary to provide controls. The need for human-machine interfaces (HMI) that are large enough for operators to use will limit how small a piece of equipment can be made.

However, designers can take advantage of the latest compact HMI products. Using these products, designers can minimize the space needed for control devices in two important ways. The first is to choose switches and keypads that take up the minimum panel space.

By selecting components with a small footprint, designers can ensure that the overall size of the device can be reduced. Just as important is the depth of the switches behind the panel. Any component mounted to a surface panel takes up room behind that panel.

APEM has developed a range of slimline products to provide full-sized control solutions for the smallest devices. For applications that require complex control panels, elastomeric keyboards and membrane keypads are surface mounted, designed to take up minimal space behind the panel. These offer the same functionality as a full-sized keyboard, while allowing the slimmest possible overall design.

Medical device showcasing full-sized HMI controls in a slimline design environment with limited space.

applications require slim designs

Some applications require full-sized controls for slimline designs. One of the most important control devices is the emergency stop, (E-stop) switch. These safety-critical devices are intentionally designed to be highly visible, robust and easy to use. Joysticks also need to be large enough for the ergonomic needs of the operator.

These controls rely on mechanical switching to provide the reliability required. To provide solutions for real-world application, APEM has developed EC compact E-Stop switches and XP series joysticks which both offer extremely low behind-the-panel depth. Their slim form-factor allows designers to take full advantage of the latest miniaturised electronics while still delivering the functionality of full-sized controls.


APEM EC Compact emergency stop switch
APEM panel solution KP6 series rubber keypad
APEM XP series mid-sized joystick