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What does momentary mean on a switch?

What does momentary mean on a switch?


A common question asked by new student of electronics is what is a momentary switch?

The short answer is that a momentary switch is a unit capable of turning any electronic device to either an on or off state when an end-user presses the switch. 

This type of switch can actually represent one of two types with the alternative being the traditional on or off switch. 

They can be found in all manner of electronic devices and usually take the form of a button to help initiate the state change in a device. 

The two types of momentary switch commonly used throughout industry are push-to-break and push-to-make types.

What is a Switch?

The most basic switch has two contacts or conductive pieces that are connected to an external circuit. 

These contacts are commonly made up of metal and they are normally required to touch to complete the circuit and to separate to open the circuit. 

Engineers will normally choose the contact material for the circuit for its ability to resist corrosion. 

This is due to the fact of most metals forming an insulating oxide that prevents a switch from operating properly. 

Other qualities considered for contact materials in switches include cost, low toxicity, hardness, mechanical strength, and electrical conductivity. 

In some switch designs, engineers may use a minimum wetting current in order to help prevent insulating oxides from forming.

How Does a Momentary Switch Work?

Momentary switches are designed to act in the manner of a regular switch in order to help connect two metal contacts with the goal of completing an electrical circuit. 

The primary way that they differ from a traditional switch; however, is that the momentary switch normally requires a button to be pressed to change the state of the switch vice the flicking action required of a traditional light or equivalent switch.

 When the “push-to-make” type of momentary switch is pressed, it will connect the metal contacts of the switch when pressed.

 When the button is released, the contacts will be released. A push-to-break momentary switch has to be pressed; however, to disconnect the connected electrical circuit and released to then reconnect it.

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