Title:
Type of splash-resistant modular keyboard for computers
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A new kind of splash-resistant modular keyboard for computers that separates keyboard components into two groups. One group of components becomes a detachable and user-serviceable keycap module, while the other group stays as the base module. The detachable module contains essentially the keycap portion that contributes to more malfunctioning of present day keyboard. The base module has a bay that receives the detachable keycap module, and contains the electrical circuitry membrane and PCB that has longer durability than the keycap portion. Drain holes at lower end of the bay will allow liquid spillage, or when using water/solution to clean the bay, to flow out of the bay. Depending on applications, the detachable keycap module can be further broken into more sub-modules. Keyboards manufactured following present invention are modular in nature, and are conducive to reducing the costs for keyboard services and exchanges, costs for curing future environmental hazards and costs for fitting suitable user keycaps for swapping among different languages and computer applications.



Inventors:
Wu, Lee Hong (Lake Forest, CA, US)
Application Number:
10/439938
Publication Date:
11/18/2004
Filing Date:
05/16/2003
Assignee:
WU LEE HONG
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
52/577
International Classes:
E04B5/04; E04C2/04; G06F1/16; G06F3/02; H01H13/70; (IPC1-7): E04B5/04; E04C2/04
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
EVANISKO, LESLIE J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LAW OFFICES OF J.F. LEE (CITY OF INDUSTRY, CA, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A new type of splash-resistant and modular-keycap keyboard for desktop and notebook/laptop computers, comprising: a. A keycap-module removably sitting in a bay sized to fit the shape of said keycap module on the top surface of a desktop keyboard or notebook/laptop computer; b. Material forming the bay with means to lower one end of the bay and containing a plurality of holes so that liquids will gravitate towards the holes and out of the bay; c. Water sealing mechanism around the inside lower rim of the material forming the bay, so that any liquid spillage or splash will not get inside the body of the keyboard or notebook/laptop computer; d. Means for mounting so that said keycap-module can be easily mounted to and removed from the material forming the bay.

2. The keyboard of claim 1, wherein said keycap-module is made up of individual keycaps, keycap holding mechanism, frame and optional key actuating mechanism.

3. The keyboard of claim 2 wherein said keycap-module can be subdivided into two, three or more sub-keycap-modules.

4. The keyboard of claim 2 or 3 wherein the said means for mounting said key-cap module to the material forming the bay is by one or a plurality of screws in the top-down orientation, so that a user can remove said keycap-module by removing the screws and unseat the keycap-module away from the material forming the bay.

5. The keyboard of claim 2 or 3 wherein the said means for mounting said keycap-module to the material forming the bay is by one or a plurality of snap-in tabs, so that a user can remove said keycap-module by depressing said snap-in tabs from its engaged cavity and unseat the keycap-module away from the material forming the bay.

6. The keyboard of claim 2 or 3 wherein the said means for mounting said keycap-module to the material forming the bay is by one or a plurality of latch-hinge mechanisms, so that a user can remove said keycap-module by unlatching and unhinging said keycap-module and unseat said keycap-module away from the material forming the bay.

7. The keyboard of claim 2 or 3 wherein the said means for mounting said keycap-module to the material forming the bay is by one or a plurality of slidable locking pins on the material forming the bay with corresponding holes on said keycap-module, so that a user can remove the keycap-module by sliding the pins to disengage the slide-lock and unseat the keycap-module away from the material forming the bay.

8. The keyboard of claim 2 or 3 wherein the said means for mounting said top keycap-module to said bottom base-module is by one or a plurality of tab-like hooks on said keycap-module, so that a user can remove the top keycap-module by slightly prying away the hooks and unseat the top keycap-module away from the bottom base-module.

9. The keyboard of claim 1, wherein said water sealing mechanism is a strip of rubber tightly laid around the inside lower rim of the material forming the bay, but not blocking the plurality of holes.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] The present application is related to a prior application filed by the same inventor. Said prior application's filing date was Jun. 26, 2002, having application Ser. No. 10/180423. The present application is further related to a second application filed by the same inventor. Said second application's filing date was Oct. 15, 2002, having application Ser. No. 10/272,584.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention relates generally to keyboards for computers where a top portion containing the keycaps is replaceable, removable and user-serviceable. More particularly, the present invention helps to solve the industry problems enumerated, but not limited by, below:

[0003] A. Voluminous amount of keyboards still under warranty are being returned for repair/exchange due to malfunctions that are user-serviceable in nature. The amount of money that will be saved by avoiding such repair/exchange is estimated at least in the millions every year across the industry.

[0004] B. Substantially lesser amount of metal and rare metal contained in the bottom portion of a keyboard will not become scrap metal causing environmental hazards some years down the road because the bottom portion has long durability than the top portion. People are waking up to the potential hazards created by cast away computers, cell phones and other consumer electronics. Tremendous amount of money will be saved because of the reduced costs to cure the potential environmental hazards.

[0005] C. Chances of breakdown on the non-removable part of the keyboard is greatly reduced due to the fact the liquid spillage will not accumulate in the holding (aka bay) area.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0006] Modern day keyboards for computers come in an integrated package, along with the computer system units when sold. Users can plug in the keyboard cord to a port at the back of the system unit and can then start to type on the keyboard when the desktop computer is working.

[0007] Latest generations of computers are more compact than ever before. The whole system (CPU, memory, I/O ports, DVD/HD/Floppy drives and other optional equipment or connection ports) can arguably be in a single package the size of a keyboard, so that a user merely sees and uses the “keyboard” to work on the computer. In this type of new generation computer, keyboard becomes integrated and on top of the system, similar to the notebook/laptop computers today.

[0008] Most keyboards carry limited product warranty, on the condition that users do not take apart, disassemble or remove parts of keyboard in any way. Any such action voids the product warranty. If the keyboard develops any malfunction, the only recourse under the warranty is to have it returned for repair or exchange. Some manufacturers have sticker(s) covering one or more screws used to fasten the keyboard parts together. Any breaking or removal of such sticker(s) will also void the warranty.

[0009] In today's technology, most keyboards have fairly high quality and durability. However, in the real-life working environment, keyboards are destined to encounter some foreign objects that tend to cause problems, including, just to name a few, grease from fingers, liquid spillage, dusts and particles in the atmosphere. Without any means to clear the accumulated foreign matter away, inevitably the mechanical functionality of the keyboard is adversely affected.

[0010] Typical symptoms include, keycaps stuck in the holding chimneys by the accumulation of dried coffee, grease or dusts. Due to the “void the warranty” restriction, the only solution is to return the keyboard for repair service or in exchange for a new one. Since the keyboard industry in general does not factor in the cost of recycling keyboard components, the cost of sending out a new keyboard to users is lower than the labor cost of diagnosing, fixing and re-assembling a returned keyboard. Hundreds of thousands of returned keyboards gravitated towards storage bins, warehouses and even garbage dumps each year, while no one bothers to figure out how to make the best use of the re-useable resources and come up with a more environmentally sound solution to the problem.

[0011] In the case of notebook/laptop computers, or in the case of the new generation compact computers, when a problem occurs that relates to the keyboard, the only recourse a user has is to send back the whole system unit for repair/exchange.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PRIOR ART

[0012] The present invention examines the structure of a typical keyboard for modern day computers, and proposes a new modular keyboard design that helps to solve the industry problems.

[0013] Modern day keyboards for desktop computers are usually produced by using an upper and a lower enclosures (the outer shells for the finished keyboard product) to sandwich all internal components, which typically include keycap component, key-actuating mechanism, top holding plate, circuitry membrane and PCB, bottom holding plates/frame, and other optional components. Reference FIG. 1 and FIG. 2.

[0014] Since each manufacturer may have different assembly method, or may combine one part into another (bigger) part, understandably the components in FIGS. 1 and 2 are just typical and not exhaustively representative.

[0015] From top to bottom (in the usual orientation of daily usage), these typical internal components (excluding the top/bottom enclosures) are listed and explained below:

[0016] 1. keycap component: includes the following typical sub-components

[0017] a. individual keycap with alpha-numeric characters and other control keys for any specific language. The surface of each keycap, printed or labeled with character(s) for visual identification, is for human fingers to type on.

[0018] b. keycap holding mechanism to provide for the vertical up-down travel of each keycap when pressed down and then popped back. The mechanism can be in the form of a chimney, as in FIG. 2, or in the form of a scissor switch, as in FIG. 1.

[0019] c. frame for the holding mechanism to sit on. In today's manufacturing process, the frame and the holding mechanism is usually an integrated structural piece.

[0020] 2. top holding plate: optional, serves to hold down the key actuating mechanism and protect the components beneath.

[0021] 3. key actuating mechanism: provides resistance and position restoration for the up-down travel of each keycap. There are some variations as to the type of mechanism used for keyboard, to name a few:

[0022] a. Rubber dome (sheet): most common today, which uses dome-shaped material corresponding to each keycap.

[0023] b. Coil spring: vertical placement of coil springs along the up-down travel of each keycap, common for earlier generation keyboards; classical way of providing resistance and position restoration for each keycap.

[0024] c. Flexible metal plate.

[0025] d. Buttons formed by sealed air bubbles on rubber or plastic material.

[0026] 4. circuitry membrane and PCB: the combined circuitry membrane and PCB (printed circuitry board) electronically determine which of the keycap is being pressed down and send that information to the computer for further processing.

[0027] 5. bottom holding plate: used to hold the aforesaid components in place.

[0028] It is well known in the industry that these components are just typical, because a lot of variations exist due to different designs and manufacturing processes. For example, in earlier keyboard models, the coil springs (key actuating mechanism) are integrated with and became part of the keycap component.

[0029] FIGS. 1 and 2 sum up the structural allocation of a typical keyboard for computers. As most people can experience, these typical keyboards cannot be separated into two or more modules that can be physically removed, detached, replaced, swapped or serviced.

OBJECTS AND SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0030] One object of present invention seeks to greatly reduce the costs of diagnosing, fixing and reassembling a returned keyboard, or exchange for a new one, when warranty still applies.

[0031] A further object of present invention is to create a keyboard manufacturing technology that is environmentally friendly and is conducive to elimination of future environmental hazards.

[0032] A still further object of present invention is to reduce the liquid spillage that stay in the keyboard holding area, thus creating moisture which tend to adversely affect other system components of the computer.

[0033] A still further object of present invention is to allow easy maintenance and cleaning of the keyboard by spraying clean water or other solution at the keyboard since the keyboard holding area (aka bay) has drainage to channel out the water or solution containing dust or other particles.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0034] The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and constitute a part of this specification, illustrate the preferred embodiment of the invention and together with the description, serve to explain the principles of the invention.

[0035] For reason of definition, and for further explanation of present invention, the term “keycap module” will be used to denote the module that contains, minimally, the keycaps, keycap holding mechanism and frame for keycap holding mechanism.

[0036] The term “base module” will denote the module that contains, minimally, the circuitry membrane and PCB. As a matter of practice, in a keyboard produced following the teachings of present invention, anything on the keyboard other than the “keycap-module” is the “base module”. Therefore, base module can be the system unit of a notebook/laptop computer, or, in the case of new generation computer, the system unit of a desktop computer, excluding the display monitor.

[0037] Depending on specific manufacturing technique, present invention allows the component of key actuating mechanism to be allocated into the keycap module or the base module.

[0038] The cavity left in the base module when keycap module is removed is referred to as keycap bay.

[0039] Drain holes on the keycap bay are also referred to as water channeling mechanism.

[0040] A brief description of the drawings is as follows:

[0041] FIG. 1 shows the typical components and embodiment of a keyboard for notebook/laptop computers.

[0042] FIG. 2 shows the typical components and embodiment of a keyboard for desktop computers.

[0043] FIG. 3 shows the exploded view where the keycap module is removed from the base module, with water channeling mechanisms (holes) and water sealing mechanism indicated. A method for mounting keycap module to the keycap bay of base module is also shown.

[0044] FIG. 4 shows the keycap module is removed form the base module, in this case, the system unit of a notebook/laptop computer. Water sealing mechanism around the inside edge of keycap bay is also shown.

[0045] FIG. 5 shows the keycap module can be broken into sub-modules; or can be in the form of a foldable type.

[0046] FIG. 6 shows an implementation of the water channeling mechanism by using drain holes and tilting the system unit of a notebook/laptop computer so that liquids will gravitate towards the drain holes and flow out of the keycap bay.

[0047] FIG. 7 shows an implementation of the water channeling mechanism using drain holes, with keycap module sitting in the keycap bay.

[0048] FIG. 8 shows the application of present invention to desktop computer keyboards using keycap sub-modules.

[0049] FIG. 9 shows a cross-section view of the components for a desktop computer keyboard applying water sealing mechanism and water channeling mechanism.

[0050] FIG. 10 shows an exploded view of the components for a notebook/laptop computer keycap applying water sealing mechanism.

[0051] FIG. 11 shows that keycap module can be mounted and secured to the base module by screws in the top-down orientation.

[0052] FIG. 12 shows the keycap module can be mounted and secured to the base module by snap-in tabs on the sides of the keycap module to the grooves located on the sides of the base module.

[0053] FIG. 13 shows the keycap module can be mounted and secured to the base module by yet another form of snap-in mechanism. In this drawing, upper enclosure of the traditional desktop computer keyboard is part of the keycap module.

[0054] FIG. 14 shows the keycap module can be mounted and secured to the base module by employing a latch-hinge mechanism.

[0055] FIG. 15 shows the keycap module can be mounted and secured to the base module by employing tabs with holes extending from the sides of keycap module, and corresponding cavities on the sides of the base module with sliding locking pins.

[0056] FIG. 16 shows the keycap module can be mounted and secured to the base module by horizontally sliding the keycap module into the base module.

[0057] FIGS. 17 and 18 shows two examples of implementation by present invention with assembled keycap module sitting in the keycap bay, along with portions of base module forming water sealing environment.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0058] In FIGS. 1 and 2, the typical components of a keyboard are shown. Terms “keycap module” and “base module” as used herein are defined in prior section.

[0059] Base module corresponds to the remaining components of a keyboard unit not belonging to the removable keycap module. As a matter of practice, the base module will at least have the electrical circuitry/PCB component. From top to bottom, the components will include top holding plate, key-actuating mechanism, electrical circuitry membrane/PCB, and bottom holding plate.

[0060] The upper enclosure (the hard plastic casing of a keyboard for a traditional desktop computer) can be grouped into the keycap module, as shown in FIG. 13.

[0061] Depending on specific manufacturing or assembly needs, key-actuating mechanism (such as rubber dome sheet, or coil spring) may be group into the keycap module or the base module.

[0062] FIG. 3 shows drain holes serving as the water channeling mechanism at one end of the keyboard; the whole keyboard unit is elevated on one side, causing the side with drain holes to be lower. Watering sealing mechanism around the inside rim of the keycap bay is shown. Rubber strips or sheets are preferred material for achieving the water sealing, without blocking the drain holes on the lower end of the keycap bay.

[0063] FIG. 3 also shows an implementation of a mounting method: tabs on the side of keycap module can be snapped in to grooves on the inside rim of the keycap bay.

[0064] FIG. 4 shows water sealing mechanism around the inside edge of the keycap bay for a notebook/laptop computer.

[0065] FIG. 5 shows the present invention encompasses the type of keycap module where it can be broken into sub-modules, or it is of a foldable type.

[0066] FIG. 6 shows how the drain holes function as the water channeling mechanism. With the system unit tilted up a little at one side opposite to the side containing the drain holes, liquid spillage will gravitate towards the drain holes; causing the liquid to flow out of the keycap bay.

[0067] A drain hole on the side of the bay is shown.

[0068] To tilt one end up, traditional pull-out tabs at the bottom of a keyboard can be used. Alternatively, the base module may contain system unit of the computer, and may be manufactured to be thinner on the side of the drain holes and thicker on the other side, to create the required tilt for liquid to flow downwards.

[0069] FIG. 7 shows a keycap module sitting in its bay with some drain holes.

[0070] FIG. 8 shows the bay can be broken into sub-bays, corresponding to keycap sub-module implementations.

[0071] FIG. 9 top drawing shows the keycap module away from the bay. This is the desktop computer keyboard construct.

[0072] FIG. 9 bottom drawing shows the keycap bay having beneath it two layers of water sealing mechanism used in a traditional type keyboard construct: one above the holding plate, one (extra layer) below the holding plate.

[0073] FIG. 10 shows the exploded view of present invention with keycap module away from the bay. The system unit of the notebook/laptop computer is broken apart to show the relative vertical position of water sealing mechanism.

[0074] FIG. 11 to 16 show the various methods of mounting keycap module to the bay and to the base module.

[0075] FIG. 11 shows the mounting method by using screws in the top-down orientation. Alternatively, keycap module can be mounted by bottom-up screws.

[0076] FIG. 12 shows the keycap module can be mounted and secured to the base module by snap-in tabs on the sides of the keycap module to the grooves located on the sides of the base module. This figure is the same as FIG. 3.

[0077] FIG. 13 shows the keycap module can be mounted and secured to the base module by yet another form of snap-in mechanism. In this drawing, upper enclosure of the traditional desktop computer keyboard is part of the keycap module.

[0078] FIG. 14 shows the keycap module can be mounted and secured to the base module by employing a latch-hinge mechanism.

[0079] FIG. 15 shows the keycap module can be mounted and secured to the base module by employing tabs with holes extending from the sides of keycap module, and corresponding cavities on the sides of the base module with sliding locking pins to engage or disengage the tabs. The allocation of tabs/cavities can be reversed, that is, the tabs can be on the sides of the base module, while the sliding locking pins are on the sides of the keycap module.

[0080] FIG. 16 shows the keycap module can be mounted and secured to the base module by horizontally sliding the keycap module into the base module. A number of tabs and hooks are used to engage and disengaged the keycap module.

[0081] FIG. 17 shows an example of implementation by present invention where portions of the base module are assembled to the under surface of the keycap bay by bottom-up screws. Note that waterchanneling mechanism (drain holes) is at the bottom level of keycap bay to allow liquids to flow out.

[0082] FIG. 18 shows another example of implementation by present invention where an all-around rubber seal (T-shape) is used as the watering sealing mechanism. This rubber seal will be laid around the inside rim of the keycap bay. Note that openings on the rubber seal will be made corresponding to the positions of the drain holes (water channeling mechanism) around lower portion of the keycap bay on the base module.