Apple Inc. (Cupertino, CA)

Key assemblies having a foldable stabilizer are disclosed. To aid in guiding the keycap, the stabilizer could be placed beneath the keycap. This will limit the key’s rotation and movement. The stabilizer may have a pointed-star shape with multiple folding axes, and may be connected to multiple points or linkage to the keycap or other components around it. The stabilizer can fold or unfold based on the state of the keycap. raised.

A lot of electronic devices come with interface devices and mechanisms that take input and interact with users. Computers are the most common type of electronic devices. This includes personal computers, tablets computers smartphones and various other “smart”devices like media players, video and audio equipment vehicles consoles, as well as home automation controllers. These devices could comprise keyboards and touchpads as well as keypads and buttons. In certain instances, devices for input and interaction can also provide output and feedback to users as well, such as through touch/haptics, visual or audio signals.

Many keyboards and other interface devices feature buttons or keys that can be press by the user to create signals to processors or controllers. They typically provide tactile feedback by offering a specific amount of resistance at the user’s fingertips. To provide the best user experience, each button and key is carefully managed in terms of and sound, as well as cost and feel. Although some keyboards are “virtual,” such assoftware keyboards displayed on a touchscreen device, it can be beneficial to provide key travel, or movement of the keys, to help the user more easily feel, see, and hear when and where a key is pressed and to provide an overall more satisfyinginteraction with the device.

The provision of this kind of button or key can be costly. Most interface devices contain an abundance of small moving parts per button or key, meaning the mechanism can be incredibly complex, expensive and could result in many failure points. Therefore, there are a lot of challenges and areas for improvements in interface devices. device makers are constantly seeking ways to enhance the user experience.

One aspect of the disclosed invention is related to key mechanisms. The key mechanism can comprise the keycap and a base layer that is placed below the keycap and a stabilizer that is connected to the keycap and to the base layer. Stabilizers could be rigid panels that are set in a pointed-star design with hinges connecting the rigid panels together. The rigid panels may be rotatable or movable between each other around the hinge portions in response to movement of the keycap relative to the baselayer.

In certain instances, the rigid panels can be triangular. The hinge components are able to be expanded elastically. This allows for an adjustable distance between the edges of rigid panels. A pointed-starpattern can comprise at least two sections. You can also make the stabilizer bistable.

In some configurations the key mechanism could further comprise a collapsible dome positioned between the stabilizer and the base layer. The vertical keycap’s movement relative to the base layer, and vertical dome movement in relation to the base layer could differ from 1 to 1. A bendable link could be used to connect the stabilizer to the keycap. The link can be bent and elongated in the direction perpendicular with the direction of motion for the keycap in relation to the base layer. A soft mount can be utilized to secure the stabilizer to the keycap. The soft mount extends a distance from the underside of the cap to the top of the stabilizer. The distance could vary depending on movement of keycap with respect to the baselayer. A sliding mount that is end-constrained can be used to attach the stabilizer to the keycap.

In some instances the key mechanism may further comprise a first structure that is positioned on the stabilizer, and an additional structure placed on the keycap, the first structure being attracted magnetically to the second structure , and pushing the stabilizer towards the keycap. The mounting of the outer part of the pointed star pattern to the keycap is feasible. The inner portion could be affixed to the base layer. The inner portion should be oriented inwards radially relative to the outside portion. Another option is to mount the outer portion of the pointed-star pattern on the base layer. The inner portion could be mounted directly to the keycap. The inside portion will be oriented to the right in relation to the outer.

A keyboard that includes a set keycaps and an under-plate feature, as well as an array of foldable structures under them, is another aspect of the disclosure. The set of foldablestructures could include at least two intersecting folding angles. A foldable structure can be moved from a collapsed and raised position by the keycap. The foldable structure to bend along at least two parallel folding edges while shifting between collapsed and elevated positions.

In a different scenario the foldable structure in the foldable structure set can be set to fold along at least two intersecting folding axes, while moving from the elevated position to the collapsed. The at least twointersecting folding axes can consist of a first axis and an additional axis that folds, with the structure that folds in the set of foldable structures making an upward-pointing ridge along the first axis and then forming an inclination downwards on the second axis. A layer of materials can permit the foldable structures to be connected.

A sheet of material could be folded into the structure. It must be of a thickness less than one of the two intersecting fold lines. In addition, the foldable structure is able to be resisted towards the elevated position by materials that are positioned on at least two folding axes that intersect. The at least two folding axes could connect the outer edges of the foldable structure, and the outer points are configured to translate into a central point of the structure upon movement of the foldable structure between the elevated position and the collapsed.

Yet another aspect of the disclosure pertains to a method of making key stabilizers. The method may include arranging a sheet of resilient material in a planar orientation, increasing the stiffness of portions of the sheet of resilient material, in which at least two axes have been positioned between the stiffened areas of the sheet of material. Then, the material is bent by bending the resilient material along the at least two axes that are between the stiffened areas of the sheet of material to create a three-dimensional shape and putting at least the stiffened portions between a keycap and a base layer, wherein any movement of the keycap in relation to the base layer causes folding or unfolding of the three-dimensional star shape.

This could further involve applying tension to the sheet of resilient material prior to making it more rigid in different areas of the sheet. In this case, the 3-dimensional shape of the star is bent into a folded configuration by the sheet ofresilient material along the at-least two axes, after release of tension.

The stiffening of specific sections of the sheet can be accomplished by adding a rigid material to the areas that are stiffened. The stiffening of particular sections of the sheet can be accomplished by increasing the thickness of the material in the stiffened areas in relation to the thickness of the sheet on at least two axes. In certain instances the shapes of multiple three-dimensional stars are formed on the sheet of material.

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