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How To Specify The Right Tuning Knobs For Medical Electronics

Specifying tuning knobs for medical electronics


If you’ve read our latest blog post about enclosures for medical electronics , you’ll know that hospitals and surgeries can be a demanding environment. Devices must be robust, resilient and cytotoxically safe – and still remain aesthetically smart, despite all the intensive use they’re likely to receive.

This applies equally to the tuning knobs you’ll be specifying for the potentiometers inside these products. It would be more than inconvenient if a knob were to become detached from a medical device – it would be unthinkable.

So secure fixings are a vital consideration: remember, this is a sector that regards tamperproof Torx screws for enclosures as essential. Knobs must also be ergonomic and comfortable to use. And they must have clear, easy-to-read marking elements – medical emergencies are no time to be squinting at dials.

Illumination is another major consideration. Anyone who’s ever spent time in hospital will know that wards are not always well lit at night. The dazzling LED glare of A&E is one thing – the darkness of other wards is quite another.

Medical devices will be handled by multiple clinicians in contact with large numbers of patients so another key consideration on your list should be anti-bacterial protection. This can help to prevent the spread of healthcare-associated infections. HCAIs such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) remain a major concern for hospitals: they pose a serious ongoing risk to patients, staff and visitors.




It’s a measure of the importance we attach to menu-driven electronics that there are now two ranges of OKW knobs dedicated specifically to it: new award-winning CONTROL-KNOBS and the tried-and-trusted STAR-KNOBS.

Menu-driven electronics technology reduces the number of controls needed. Its ‘rotate to select, click to okay’ functionality makes devices easier and more intuitive to operate – a key consideration.

CONTROL-KNOBS won an iF DESIGN AWARD 2022; judges hailed them as “perfect all round”. The knobs’ innovative design combines a hard inner core (molded from tough Polycarbonate) with a soft-touch TPE outer shell that is grooved for improved grip.

There is optional illumination – either a translucent optic ring on the top, or the aforementioned ring plus an additional pointer line on the side. Illumination is via SMD LED technology (5 V). RGB LEDs allow individual lighting and colors. Recently, we increased the number of LEDs on the larger knobs from eight to 12. (The smaller knobs have eight LEDs).

STAR-KNOBS also feature optional SMD LED illumination but this time it is around the base of the knob, rather than the top. The other key difference is that STAR-KNOBS can be either surface mounted or flush fitting. Finger knurls are optional. STAR-KNOBS that flush-fit can be specified with an ergonomic dimple in the top for easy operation. Both ranges employ the proven collet fixture system.




Like CONTROL-KNOBS before them, our highly distinctive TOP-KNOBS also won an if DESIGN AWARD. But then we’re betting you’ve never seen potentiometer knobs quite like these. In a world where standard knobs must be discreet in their design, TOP-KNOBS push the envelope with their individuality. And they carry it off with aplomb – as the award and lots of happy customers will confirm.

TOP-KNOBS’ choice of different-shaped and brightly colored marking elements is about much more than making a design statement (though they do). They aid identification of functionality. And their tactile qualities can be beneficial for visually impaired users.

There is a huge choice of permutations thanks to the clever construction of these knobs. Simply specify a standard color and diameter – then select one of 15 different marking elements. TOP-KNOBS are available with either lateral screw or push-on fixing.




If COM-KNOBS look reassuringly familiar, it’s because you’ll have spotted design cues shared with some of our other ranges. Like TOP-KNOBS, they use interchangeable marking elements (option) – albeit ones that are little less idiosyncratic. And like STAR-KNOBS, some of the covers have an ergonomic finger recess.

All that is deliberate – the shared design language ensures a uniform design appearance when specifying COM-KNOBS together with TOP-KNOBS. The wide choice of covers (52) spans six diameters and seven colors (including matt chromed) – and beneath them lies a dependable collet fixing system.

This is the range to go for if you want:

  • transparent dials – with (or without) a selection of markings
  • aluminum stators
  • black or gray nut covers – with (or without) marking lines or molded indicators.

View COM-KNOBS range here >>


Customized tuning knobs


All OKW tuning knobs can be supplied fully customized, ready to be fitted to your products. Services include CNC machining, printing of legends and logos, laser marking and installation/assembly. View our full service here...

STAR-KNOBS and COM-KNOBS can also be lacquered  to create different colours according to RAL and in a wide range of Pantone shades. Finishes range from matt to glossy and also include metallic and soft-touch (like artificial leather).

A special protective layer of anti-bacterial lacquer helps to prevent the spread of healthcare-associated infections. And black ESD conductive lacquer helps to stop electrostatic discharges.

View full OKW Tuning Knobs range >>



Get expert technical advice on specifying the best potentiometer tuning knobs for your medical devices. Request a sample.