Title:
COMPUTERIZED FLEX WORKSTATION, TRAY, CABINET AND CART
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A workstation includes a keyboard integrated therein and a substantially planar work surface. The keyboard may be disposed between an upper and lower portion of the workstation such that a substantially planar upper surface is provided. Additionally, the keyboard may be formed within a portion of the workstation so that an exposed surface of the keyboard is flush with or underlying the substantially planar upper surface. Advantageously, the workstation may provide an interface between a user and the keyboard that may be efficiently cleaned, sterilized and disinfected.



Inventors:
Hemmer, Nathan A. (Rock Hill, SC, US)
Application Number:
12/198834
Publication Date:
03/04/2010
Filing Date:
08/26/2008
Assignee:
DENTAL EQUIPMENT, LLC DBA PELTON & CRANE (Charlotte, NC, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
108/50.01, 108/50.11, 211/133.1
International Classes:
A47B81/00; A47B21/04; A47B37/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
WILSON, ADRIAN S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
TRASKBRITT, P.C. (SALT LAKE CITY, UT, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A workstation to provide an aseptic interface between a user and a keyboard, comprising: a substantially planar work surface; and a keyboard integrated into the workstation and accessible through the work surface.

2. The workstation of claim 1, wherein the workstation includes an upper portion overlying the keyboard and a lower surface positioned generally parallel to and opposing the upper portion.

3. The workstation of claim 1, wherein the upper portion comprises a panel formed from a transparent material or a translucent material, the panel being sized and configured to render the underlying keyboard visible to the user.

4. The workstation of claim 1, wherein the upper portion and the lower portion are selectively attached to one another using a fastener.

5. The workstation of claim 1, wherein the upper portion and the lower portion are integrally formed into a single, unitary structure.

6. The workstation of claim 1, wherein the keyboard fitted into a receptacle in the work surface that is sized and configured to receive the keyboard.

7. The workstation of claim 6, wherein an upper surface of the keyboard is exposed through and is substantially planar with the work surface.

8. The workstation of claim 7, wherein a gap between the keyboard and the work surface is filled or fused to form a substantially planar work surface.

9. The workstation of claim 1, further comprising a support pivotally attached to the workstation.

10. The workstation of claim 1, wherein the workstation comprises an upper portion formed around the keyboard and a lower portion attached to and providing support for the upper portion.

11. The workstation of claim 1, wherein the work surface and the keyboard are integrated as a single, unitary structure.

12. The workstation of claim 1, wherein the keyboard is fitted within a receptacle in the surface, the receptacle being sized and configured to receive the keyboard.

13. The workstation of claim 1, further comprising a lower portion underlying the work surface and providing generally uniform strength and structural integrity to the work surface.

14. The workstation of claim 1, wherein the keyboard is disposed between an upper portion and a lower portion of the planar work surface.

15. The workstation of claim 1, wherein the surface is a thermoplastic material disposed over the keyboard.

16. The workstation of claim 1, further comprising: an upper portion having a substantially planar upper surface and at least one panel sized and configured to render a portion of the keyboard visible to a user; a keyboard disposed substantially between the lower portion and the upper portions a lower portion disposed generally parallel to and spaced apart from the upper portion; a fastener for securing the upper portion to the lower portion with the keyboard

17. The workstation of claim 16, wherein the portion of the keyboard visible to the user is accessible by the user.

18. The workstation of claim 16, wherein the upper and lower portions enclose a hollow interior portion containing the keyboard.

19. A cart integrated with a keyboard, comprising: a workstation comprising a keyboard integrated into a surface thereof and having a substantially planar work surface; a support configured to support the workstation; and a base connected to the support and providing movement and stability to the cart.

20. A dental tray with an integrated keyboard, comprising: a workstation configured to have a substantially planar upper surface and having a keyboard therein; and a support pivotally connected to the lower portion of the workstation.

21. The dental tray of claim 20, wherein the support is moveably secured to a mounting surface.

22. A cabinet with an integrated keyboard, comprising: a work surface having a substantially planar upper surface; a keyboard integrated into and accessible to a user via the work; and a base sized and configured to support the work surface, the base including at least one storage space therein.

23. The cabinet of claim 22, wherein the keyboard is disposed within a receptacle in the work surface, the receptacle sized and configured to receive the keyboard so that an upper surface of the keyboard is flush with the work surface.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates to a workstation with an integrated keyboard and a substantially planar surface, and more particularly, to a cart, a cabinet and a tray having a keyboard integrated into a surface thereof such that the surface may easily be cleaned, sterilized and disinfected to maintain an aseptic environment.

BACKGROUND

Sterilization and disinfection of work surfaces in dental and medical settings requires a large amount of time and effort. A keyboard is universally used in the medical and dental fields to input data and comments on patients. During the examination or treatment, the hands of the dental or medical professional can become unsanitary and the keyboard will be likely be contaminated, particularly if a patient is suffering from an infectious disease. Moreover, the keyboard may collect dust and debris that conventionally accumulate on its surfaces over time. Therefore, keyboards must be regularly cleaned and disinfected to maintain an aseptic environment.

Keyboards are problematic in maintaining a contamination-free or aseptic environment, such as in medical and dental settings, because they cannot be autoclaved and therefore, must be cleaned by hand. Keyboards are conventionally made from materials that are porous and, thus, allow pathogens, such as bacteria and virus, to be trapped and remain viable. Moreover, keyboards include hard-to-reach spaces that are difficult to clean and sterilize using conventional methods. Adequately cleaning, disinfecting and sterilizing may be time-consuming and ineffective.

One solution to this problem is a cover, conventionally formed from plastic or rubber that may be fitted over the keyboard. These covers include depressions between keys on the keyboard that are often difficult to clean, are easily contaminated, and interfere with the user's ability to type on the keyboard. Furthermore, materials that impart the necessary flexibility for the keyboard cover are often formed from porous materials that easily trap pathogenic materials.

A keyboard that may be easily used and as well as efficiently and effectively cleaned, disinfected and sterilized by conventional methods is desired.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

One aspect of the invention includes a workstation that provides an aseptic interface between a user and a keyboard. The workstation may advantageously include a substantially planar work surface and a keyboard integrated into the workstation and accessible through the work surface. For example, the workstation may include an upper portion overlying the keyboard and a lower portion positioned generally parallel to and opposing the upper portion, which may be fastened to one another with the keyboard disposed therebetween. The upper portion may include a panel configured to expose the keyboard and formed from a translucent or transparent material. Additionally, the upper portion and the lower portion may be integrally formed to render a single, unitary structure.

Another aspect of the invention is a workstation that includes a keyboard integrated into the workstation to render a surface having a substantially planar configuration. The keyboard may be exposed through the surface so that the keyboard and the surface form a single, continuous structure. As an example, the keyboard may be fitted within a receptacle in the surface that is sized and configured to receive the keyboard. The substantially planar surface advantageously enables the workstation including the keyboard to be efficiently and effectively cleaned, sterilized and disinfected.

In a further aspect, a workstation may include an upper portion having a substantially planar upper surface and at least one panel sized and configured to expose a portion of a keyboard. The keyboard may be disposed substantially between the lower portion and the upper portions. The lower portion is disposed generally parallel to and spaced apart from the upper portion. A fastener secures the upper portion to the lower portion with the keyboard therebetween. The workstation may, optionally, include a support rotatably attached thereto. The upper and lower portions may enclose a hollow interior portion containing the keyboard. The panel may include at least one of a transparent material or a translucent material overlying and visually exposing the keyboard.

In yet another aspect, a cart integrated with a keyboard includes a workstation, a support configured to support the workstation and a base connected to the support and providing movement and stability to the cart. The workstation may include a keyboard integrated into a surface thereof and providing a substantially planar work surface.

In yet another aspect, a dental tray with an integrated keyboard is provided. The dental tray includes a workstation configured to have a substantially planar upper surface and having a keyboard therein, a support pivotally connected to the lower portion of the workstation and a base connected to the support and being sized and configured to support the support structure. The keyboard is disposed between an upper portion and a lower portion of the workstation.

In yet another aspect, a cabinet with an integrated keyboard includes a work surface, a keyboard integrated into the work surface to advantageously render an upper surface of the work surface substantially planar and a base sized and configured to support the work surface, the base including at least one storage space therein. The keyboard may be disposed within a receptacle in the work surface, the receptacle sized and configured to receive the keyboard so that an upper surface of the keyboard is flush with the work surface.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

While the specification concludes with claims particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming that which is regarded as the present invention, this invention can be more readily understood and appreciated by one of ordinary skill in the art from the following description of the invention when read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which:

FIGS. 1-5 illustrate embodiments of workstations having a keyboard integrated therein;

FIG. 6 illustrates an embodiment of a cart including an integrated keyboard; and

FIG. 7 illustrates an embodiment of a cabinet including an integrated keyboard.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Although the foregoing description contains many specifics, these should not be construed as limiting the scope of the present invention, but merely as providing illustrations of some representative embodiments. Similarly, other embodiments of the invention may be devised that do not depart from the spirit or scope of the present invention. Features from different embodiments may be employed in combination.

Reference will now be made to the drawings. Like elements are identified by like numerals. The drawings are not necessarily to scale.

Referring to FIG. 1, a workstation 100 having a substantially planar work surface 104 and an integrated keyboard 102 is shown. The workstation 100 may be, for example, a dental tray or medical tray. As shown in FIG. 1, a particular embodiment of the workstation 100 may have a substantially hexalateral shape. Additionally, the work surface 100 may be formed in any other suitable shape, for example, substantially in the shape of a rectangle, triangle, quadrilateral, square, trapezoid, pentalateral, ellipse, oval, circle, rhombus, or other suitable geometrical shape sufficient to provide adequate support for the keyboard 102. The workstation 100 may include an integral outer periphery 103, at least a portion of which can be beveled to provide comfort to a user. The keyboard 102 may be imbedded within or disposed beneath the work surface 104 so that the work surface 104 is substantially planar.

Conventional workstations and keyboards have a rough or uneven surface including crevasses, gaps or channels that inevitably collect and trap microorganisms, pathogens, such as bacteria and virus, and other undesirable particles. By providing a planar surface, the workstation 100 may be substantially free of gaps or depressions that may trap pathogenic agents or debris and, thus, may be easily cleaned, sterilized and disinfected using conventional methods. The work surface 104 of the workstation 100 may be advantageously provided as a substantially planar or smooth surface by a variety of means, non-limiting examples of which are provided herein. Additionally, by incorporating the keyboard under the surface of the workstation, the surface of the workstation can be used without the keyboard getting in the way and can also maximize the workstation surface area when the keyboard is operational and when it is not. The workstation 100 may be attached to a support 111, which may optionally be used to moveably secure the workstation 100 to a mounting surface (not shown) such, for example, as a floor, a ceiling, or a countertop.

The keyboard 102 may be a touch sensitive keyboard including a mouse touch pad, such CLEANKEYS which is commercially available from Touch Free Computing (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada). The touch sensitive keyboard may include a smooth glass surface that may be easily incorporated into the workstation 100. The touch sensitive keyboard allows a user to easily input and access data without having to remove their gloves to operate the keyboard mouse.

As shown in FIG. 2, the workstation 100 may include a keyboard 102 disposed between an upper portion 106 and a lower portion 108. The upper portion 104 may be formed from any material that enables visibility of the underlying keyboard 102. For example, the upper portion 108 may be formed from a transparent or translucent material, such as a glass, a plastic, an acrylic, a vinyl or a polycarbonate. Alternatively, the upper portion 108 may include a panel 110 that is sized and configured to enable a portion of the keyboard 102 underlying the panel to be visible to the user. The panel 110 may be formed from a transparent or translucent material, such as those as described above, while the regions of the upper portion 106 surrounding the panel 110 may be opaque. By way of non-limiting example, the panel 110 may be formed from a clear acrylic material while the remaining portions of the upper portions may be formed from a glass, a plastic, an acrylic polymer, an acrylic polymer including alumina trihydrate, or a mixture, combination, or composite thereof, in any desired color or pattern.

The upper portion 106 may be configured to be substantially planar on opposing surfaces or may include a lip 112, as shown in broken lines in FIG. 2. The lip 112 may downwardly extend from the outer periphery 114 of the upper portion 106. The lip 112 may be integrally formed and may have a substantially planar configuration.

As a non-limiting example, the keyboard 102 may be formed within the upper portion 104. The keyboard 102 may be disposed within the upper portion 106 of the workstation 100 such that the upper portion 106 and the keyboard 102 form a single, unitary structure. For example, a molding process may be used to encapsulate the keyboard 102 within the upper portion 106. A flowable material (not shown), such as a thermosetting plastic or of thermoplastic polymer, may be heated and dispensed into a mold (not shown) including the keyboard 102. Advantageously, the flowable material may be used to form a substantially planar or substantially flat surface 104 overlying the keyboard 102 to facilitate cleaning, disinfecting and sterilization of the workstation 100. Additionally, the surface of the flowable material overlying the keyboard 102 may be planarized to form the substantially planar surface 104.

Alternatively, the flowable material may be formed around a bottom surface 114 and sides 116 of the keyboard 102 and substantially planar to the upper surface 118 of the keyboard so that the upper surface 118 of the keyboard 102 is exposed through the flowable material (not shown). Since the upper surface 118 is exposed, the keyboard touch panel may be easily accessed while the substantially planar surface 104 may be easily cleaned and sanitized. Other suitable methods for forming a unitary structure including the keyboard 102 and the upper portion 106 are apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art and are also within the scope of this invention.

The upper portion 106 may be attached to the lower portion 108 by means of fasteners (not shown) disposed about the outer periphery of the workstation 100. The fasteners may generally detachably engage and secure the upper portion 106 of the workstation 100 to the lower portion 108 of the workstation 100. The fasteners may also penetrate both the surface 104 and an adjacent point of contact of the lower portion 108. As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, a variety of other suitable means or methods for attaching the upper portion 106 and the lower portion 108 may be employed, including, but not limited to, clamps, rivets, screws, bolts, glues, epoxies, or other bonding materials. For example, the lip 112 downwardly extending from the periphery of the upper portion 106 may be sized and configured to receive the lower portion 108. Alternatively, the lower portion 108 may be sized and configured to receive the upper portion 106 which may be disposed within the lower portion 108.

The lower portion 108 be formed from a hard material used to impart the workstation 100 with sufficient rigidity and sturdiness and providing strength to the structural integrity of worksurface 104. Examples of suitable materials include, but are not limited to a glass, a plastic, an acrylic polymer, an acrylic polymer including alumina trihydrate, or a mixture, combination, or composite thereof. In this configuration, lighter weight or more brittle materials may be used to form the upper portion 106 with this novel construction without sacrificing rigidity or structural integrity of the workstation. As a non-limiting example, the upper portion 106 may include glass while the lower portion 108 may include a polymeric material, such as an acrylic polymer or a polycarbonate. The lower portion 108 may have a substantially planar surfaces or may include an upwardly extending lip 122, shown in broken lines in FIG. 2.

Optionally, the lower portion 108 may include a receptable 124 sized and configured for receiving the keyboard 102, shown in broken lines. The receptacle 124 may be formed as a depression within the lower portion 106 or may be a protruding structure that extends upwardly from a surface of the lower portion 108. The keyboard 102 may be fitted within the receptacle 124 such that the surface 104 is flat or smooth and to advantageously facilitate cleaning to maintain an aseptic environment.

FIGS. 1 and 2 depict the workstation 100 as being formed from multiple pieces. However, the keyboard 102 may also be integrally formed in the workstation 100, as depicted in FIG. 3. As a non-limiting example, the workstation 100 may include a surface 104 with a receptacle 124 for receiving the keyboard (not shown) and a body 126 for providing structural integrity. The body 126 may be formed in any desired size, shape, configuration, design or color depending, for example, upon the intended use and may include a material such as a glass, a polymer, or a resin. The body 126 may be formed from a solid or integral piece or, as shown in broken lines, may include an upper portion 104 and a lower portion 108 that are attached to one another using, for example, adhesive bonding or conventional fasteners.

The body 126 may include at least one receptacle 124 sized and configured to receive the periphery of the keyboard (not shown). The receptacle 124 may receive and retain the keyboard by way of an adhesive or a conventional fastener. The receptacle 124 may have sidewalls 130 and a lower surface 132, each defined by a portion of the body 126. The sidewalls 130 of the receptacle 124 may have a height substantially equal to a thickness of the keyboard so that the exposed surface of the keyboard and the body form a substantially planar surface 104.

Referring to FIG. 4, the keyboard 102 may be inset into the body 126 of the workstation 100. A gap 134 may remain between the keyboard 102 and the sidewalls 130 of the receptacle 124 after fitting the keyboard 102 within the receptacle 128. To render the surface 104 substantially planar or aseptic, the gap 134 may be filled using a material such as a thermosetting plastic or a thermoplastic polymer. Alternatively, the keyboard 102 may be fused to the sidewalls 130 to bridge the gap 134 to make the surface 104 substantially planar or aseptic. For example, the portion of the body 126 exposed by the sidewalls 130 of the receptacle 128 may be formed from a thermoplastic material which may be heated to conform to the periphery of the keyboard 102. Additionally, the body 126 of the workstation may be formed as a single integral piece encompassing the keyboard 102 using, for example, a molding process.

As shown in FIG. 5, a sealant 136 may optionally be applied over and in contact with the body 126 and, optionally, the keyboard 102. The sealant 136 may include, for example, a glass or a thermoplastic polymer, such as poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA), a polyacrylate, an acrylic, or a thermosetting polymer such as a polyimide, melamine or an epoxy resin. Additionally, the sealant 136 may be a preformed film, such as a thermoplastic film, which may be sealed to a surface of the body 126 using heat. After application of the sealant 136, the surface 104 of the workstation 100 may optionally be planarized using conventional techniques to form a substantially planar surface that may be easily cleaned, disinfected and sterilized.

The workstation 100 may be selectively attached to a mounting surface (not shown) by way of a support 111. The support 111 may be pivotally attached to the mounting surface, permitting the workstation 100 to be moved between a variety of positions.

Referring to FIG. 6, a cart 600 that may be used in a dental or medical setting is shown with a keyboard 102 integrated into a workstation 100 such that the surface 104 is substantially planar or flat. Advantageously, the workstation 100 may be formed having the substantially planar surface by any of the means described above or, as will be appreciated by those skill in the art, any of a variety of means which are consistent with the spirit and scope of the present invention. Because the surface 104 is substantially free of depressions, cavities, channels or other porous imperfections, the workstation 100 of the cart may be easily cleaned, disinfected or sterilized using conventional techniques. The workstation 100 of the cart 600 may be secured to a base 602 by the support 111.

As shown in FIG. 7, a cabinet 700 that includes a workstation 100 having a substantially planar surface 104 and a keyboard 102 integrated therein. The cabinet 700 may additionally include a base 702 and any number of storage areas 704a and 704b. The workstation 100 may be formed as a substantially planar surface by any of the means described above or, as will be appreciated by those skill in the art, any of a variety of means which are consistent with the spirit and scope of the present invention. The inclusion of the keyboard 102 in the workstation 100 having a substantially planar surface using this novel design enables the surface to easily be made aseptic using conventional means.

Although the foregoing description contains many specifics, these are not to be construed as limiting the scope of the present invention, but merely as providing certain representative embodiments. Similarly, other embodiments of the invention can be devised which do not depart from the spirit or scope of the present invention. The scope of the invention is, therefore, indicated and limited only by the appended claims and their legal equivalents, rather than by the foregoing description. All additions, deletions, and modifications to the invention, as disclosed herein, which fall within the meaning and scope of the claims, are encompassed by the present invention.