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Specifying tuning knobs

Choosing the most suitable potentiometer knobs for your electronics will always involve a degree of subjectivity. Aesthetics are crucial – and rightly so!

But there are other considerations too (not least ergonomics)…

Potentiometer Shaft Type

It’s obvious that your potentiometer shaft will dictate the knob fitting. What’s it to be – fluted shaft? D-shaft? Not the most taxing of choices, hardly a major dilemma. So in most cases it’s a simply a case of finding a tuning knob that fits the potentiometer you’ve already specified.

But there’s an argument for selecting the knob first. What if you’re looking for a knob that’s different? Something really classy that will set your product apart from the competition? And what if that knob will fit only one particular type of shaft?

It may seem counterintuitive but prioritising knob over potentiometer in the specification process makes more sense (much like specifying your enclosure before your PCB). Don’t let hidden potentiometers – that users won’t see – dictate the look and feel of the knobs they will see and touch.

Something More Exotic – Illuminated, Recessed Knobs

One example of ‘knob first’ specification would be illuminated or recessed knobs – such as STAR-KNOBS. These are designed for menu-driven interfaces, click rotation and applications that involve a click push-in for ‘OK’.

The big advantage of STAR-KNOBS (aside from their smart appearance) is that all this aforementioned functionality reduces the number of knobs and controls needed. That means fewer components, potentially a smaller enclosure, faster assembly, lower costs and quicker time to market – all of which will make your product more competitive.

Fixing Method – Which Is Best For Your Application?

Push-on knobs are by far the simplest method. They’re easy to fit and remove. That makes them ideal for applications where servicing and maintenance is required and you need rapid and regular access to the electronics.

But this simplicity and ease of installation does not mean the knobs have to be unsophisticated. Our TOP-KNOBS won an iF Product Design Award for their leading edge aesthetics and choice of clip-in marking elements. They’re also available with lateral fixings.

Lateral screw fixing – these are harder and more time-consuming to remove so they prevent tampering. This makes them suitable for medical, social care and wellness electronics.

Collet fixing – knobs are fixed to the potentiometer shafts by using the proven collet tightening method. Like lateral fixing knobs, they take longer to fit but are very secure.

Will You Need Dials Or Other Accessories?

How will your knobs indicate what they are controlling? Will a simple line or marking element suffice? Or will there need to be a numbered scale?

Some knobs include the numbers moulded in and the indicator is a printed or engraved line on the housing. In other instances you may need a round dial with an incremental scale that sits under the knob.

These plastic dials can be marked with a line, a numbered scale or an abstract swirl that indicates how high the potentiometer is turned up. They also offer a little added protection from the daily wear and tear that repeated use inevitably brings.

Not every knob range includes accessories such as dials (not every range needs them). They’re not difficult to obtain. But it makes sense to source knobs and dials from the same supplier for ease of ordering.

Using More Than One Range Of Knobs

Your product may require more than one type of knob. Or your device may be part of a wider range and have to match larger or smaller models. Either way, one range of knobs may not be enough.

So you’ll need to check if the knobs you want match others in the supplier’s overall range. Our popular COM-KNOBS are designed to match our award-winning TOP-KNOBS so you’re guaranteed a uniform appearance when using the two ranges together.

View Tuning Knobs range >>

Get Expert Advice On Enclosures

Contact OKW – the electronic enclosures specialist – for expert technical advice on the best housings for your PCBs and electronic components.

Contact our team and discover how easy it is to specify the perfect enclosures for your electronics.