Membrane and tactile dome switches
To say the least, Snaptron makes a lot of tactile domes, the small metal switches used in everything from keyboards to video game controllers to key fobs. It ships more than 100 million tactile domes annually.
The late Earl Tatman saw an opportunity in tactile domes after most manufacturers moved offshore. The company took off in the 1990s when Earl's son and current chairman and CEO, Brett Tatman, joined the business and built its first website.
Pretty soon, Snaptron was doing high-volume jobs for the Palm Pilot and Microsoft Xbox. The company made 10 million domes for the latter product, and regularly fulfills orders in the hundreds of thousands of units.
The company has released a number of new products in recent years, including the RCG-Series with a unique ring pressed into the top and dual-action tactile domes that can detect two levels of force and close two circuits instead of one. "We're seeing industries that are requiring more and more components on a PCB board," says Kangos of the latter. "We have to be efficient with space, so one switch can have multiple functions."
Adds Goodrich: "We make a whole line, from small to large sizes, but it does give those engineers that flexibility to incorporate that into their design."
Key markets include consumer electronics, aviation, automotive, and medical devices. The last of those drove volumes up during the COVID-19 pandemic, as Snaptron has been manufacturing about 150 million switches annually in recent years.
"In the last three years, we have seen a significant increase in medical," says Kangos. "With all the money flowing into COVID, those products are seeing a lot of different innovations happening, and the timeline is more rapid for medical projects. . . . We saw huge volumes from that."
Snaptron manufactures at a 44,000-square-foot facility in Windsor with about 50 employees on two shifts. "We do the high-speed punching of the actual metal domes," says Goodrich. "Of course, we do tape products. That's what we call our peel-and-place where you have it in an array orientation."
He adds,"We're always working on improving our automation and the efficiency of our operators. We continue to develop new equipment for inspection. We've got some newer high-speed lines we've been working on for the last few years."
Buoyed by high-volume orders from customers in the medical industry, Snaptron saw sales grow by about 25 percent in 2021. "We had our best year, a record year last year," says Goodrich.
Snaptron founder Earl Tatman, passed away in February 2022. "He was still here every day," says Goodrich. "He would just not give up on this company. That instilled a lot in me and other people who have worked here for years. We had a lot of respect for him and miss him dearly."
Challenges: The rising cost of materials and shipping. "We're evaluating that weekly," says Goodrich. "Where we can make some [price] adjustments, we do. If not, we're trying to maintain cost, because everybody's in the same boat."
Opportunities: New products, as well as an opportunity to benefit from a possible boom in automotive as supply chain bottlenecks ease.
"We're developing a solderable dome switch solution," says Kangos. "Right now, our customers are adhering the dome to a circuit board using tape. Soldering it would make it part of the assembly process for a lot of these high-volume projects."
Adds Goodrich: "That could double our volumes. It could be 150 million units alone with this one product line." He also cites demand for medical testing devices to continue to catalyze growth "for not just COVID, but everything."
Kangos also points to opportunities in wearables and other emerging technology interfaces. "We're always trying to study that and be on the forefront," says Kangos.
Needs: Space. "From our standpoint, our facility is at its limit," says Goodrich, forecasting an expansion in 2024. "Our owners do have more acreage here on this campus. They're looking to build some more units."