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Flexible Mechanical Extensions for Clustered Miniature Switches

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000014160D
Original Publication Date: 2000-Apr-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2003-Jun-19
Document File: 3 page(s) / 74K

Publishing Venue

IBM

Abstract

Background of the Invention

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Flexible Mechanical Extensions for Clustered Miniature Switches

Background of the Invention

    This invention relates to the field of manually-operated electromechanical controls and more particularly to the field of devices to manually operate a cluster of minaturized switches.

    Mechanical switches are commonly used to make and break electrical circuits. Other types of switches mechanically operate a rheostat or a variable capacitor in order to vary resistance or capacitance, respectively. Many other types of controls and switches are known in the art and their use is widespread. Such switches are most commonly used for the purpose of controlling electrical circuitry attached thereto. Typically an electromechanical switch has an electrical component with electrical conductors attached thereto, and a mechanical component designed to be operated by human fingers; the mechanical portion is operably connected to the electrical portion.

    It is feasible and desirable to miniaturize the electrical portion of an electromechanical switch. The electrical portion may be manufactured as part of an assembly of multiple electronic components by existing circuit-board or chip-handling equipment. Smaller size is advantageous in numerous ways. Smaller amounts of expensive materials such as gold, which is often used for the highest-quality electrical contacts, would be needed. Smaller size also generally translates to less resistive heat dissipation and lower power consumption. Smaller size also allows the finished unit containing the electromechanical switch assembly to be smaller, lighter, and more portable, which could enable the design of "wearable" computing devices. It also reduces the manufacturer's, wholesaler's, and retailer's transportation and inventory costs. Smaller size also means more of the circuit board's area can be devoted to high-value electronic components rather than large amounts of wasted space to leave sufficient room for mechanical components, thus maximizing the return-on-investment of the expensive circuit-board manufacturing line equipment.

    In some applications it is desirable to provide a cluster of switches. A keyboard or keypad for a computer or telephone are commonplace examples of switch clusters. The keypad on a wristwatch containing an electronic calendar or datebook is another. The editing controls on a video camera are another. Numerous other examples of devices that would benefit from an improved miniaturized switch cluster can readily be identified.

    Certainly, tiny switches with indentations such as those on a wristwatch can be operated by a pointing stick or ball-point-pen tip but these prior-art methods have drawbacks. It is inconvenient to carry around a pointing stick. A ball-point-pen gets ink on the keypad. Older individuals may have difficulty seeing tiny switches.

    Heretofore, the practical limit on the size and spacing of miniature switches in a manually-operated switch cluster is constrained by the size...