The present invention relates to keypads, and more particularly
to a keypad structure for inputting signals into electronic devices including but
not limited to those having vibration motors.
Figure 1 shows a folding-type mobile communication terminal
of the related art. This terminal includes an upper part 1 and a lower part 2. A
lower end of the upper part is hinge-coupled with an upper end of the lower part
so as to turn within a predetermined range of angles. The terminal also includes
a speakerphone 4 and a liquid crystal display screen 5 which displays characters
and numbers. These elements are installed on a front part of a case of the upper
part. Also included is a keypad 7 and side buttons 8. The keypad has a plurality
of key buttons 10 formed thereon and is installed on a front part of a case 6 of
the lower folding portion. The side buttons control the volume of the speakerphone
and are installed at one lateral side of the case.
As shown in the enlarged view of Fig. 2, the keypad is
mounted inside the case so that tops of key buttons 10 protrude out of the case
through corresponding key button holes 9 formed on the front part of the case. Also,
the side buttons are inserted through corresponding side button holes 11, so that
top and bottom portions of the corresponding side buttons protrude from the side
of the case.
The side buttons operate by activating a tact switch 12.
As shown, a nose 13 of the tact switch contacts the bottom portion of the side button
protruding inward into the case so as to support the side button 8. At another end,
the tact switch is attached to a printed-circuit board 14 installed inside the case,
so as to adhere closely to a rear face of the keypad. In operation, pressure is
applied to nose 13 of the tact switch when a user presses a side button. A tact
switch signal is then transferred to the printed-circuit board 14 in order to adjust
the volume of the speaker phone.
This related-art terminal has a number of drawbacks. For
example, a stroke of the nose of the tact switch is usually only 0.2 mm. If an assembly
tolerance is + 0.2mm at a place where the side button is coupled with the case,
then when the terminal is assembled the side button may push against a predetermined
portion of the tact switch. As a result, the on/off operation of the tact switch
12 may be lost or at least adversely affected.
In order to overcome such a disadvantage, it has been proposed
to couple the assembly of the side button with the case in such a manner that one
face of the keypad is just in contact with the nose of the tact switch. While this
approach may have some limited success, it is complicated to perform and thus significantly
increases the assembly time of the terminal
Fig. 3 shows an enlarged cross-sectional view of the mobile
terminal of Fig. 2. In this view, side button 8 and tact switch 12 are coupled with
case 6 and printed-circuit board 14 (not shown in this figure) so as to maintain
an interval of 0.1 mm between the nose of the tact switch and the adjacent bottom
of the side button.
This modification of the related art also has drawbacks.
In this arrangement, the side button is not fixed to the side button hole 11, but
rather is merely inserted into the side button hole for assembly. As a result, the
side button may float and thus may be affected by a vibration motor which is activated
in the terminal when a call is received. More specifically, the side button may
collide with the nose of the tact switch when the variation motor is activated,
thereby producing an undesirable noise. Moreover, if the interval between the bottom
15 of the side button and the nose 13 of the tact switch becomes greater than -0.2
mm by the assembly tolerance, the tact switch may fail to smoothly operate when
the side button is pushed.
DE 37 21 513 A1
discloses an elastic damping pad for keyboards. According to this document,
the pad will be generally placed between a button and a microswitch of the keyboard
and serves to prevent dust, water and other impurities from entering into the operational
section of the keyboard. The pad also provides a resilient force to reset the button
into its initial position.
discloses a keyboard construction including a foldable sheet of flexible
and resilient non-conductive material on which a plurality of conductive contacts
are supported for forming switches.
discloses a mobile telephone having a side switch assembly with actuator
buttons and associated switches. No spacers are provided between the actuator buttons
and the switches. The actuator buttons include plungers integrally formed therewith
for excerting pressure on dome-shaped portions of the switches.
The present invention, according to claim 1, provides a
terminal comprising a keypad, a switch separate from the keypad, and a button confronting
the switch so as to operate the switch by a force excerted on the button. According
to the invention, a spacer is connected to the keypad, which spacer extends between
the button and the switch.
The present invention further provides, according to claim
16, a method for making a terminal, the method comprising the step of providing
a case having at least one button. According to the invention, the method further
comprises the steps of providing a keypad having connected thereto a spacer, placing
the spacer between the button and a switch separate from the keypad, and bending
the spacer to an angle sufficient to allow the keypad to fit within the case while
the spacer is between the button and the switch.
Preferred embodiments are given in the dependent claims.
FIG. 1 is a diagram showing one type of mobile communication
terminal according to the related art;
FIG. 2 is a diagram showing a cross-sectional view of the
terminal of Fig. 1 cut along a section line A-A';
FIG. 3 is a diagram showing an enlarged cross-sectional
view of a portion B in FIG. 2;
FIG. 4 is a diagram showing a partial cross-sectional view
of another mobile communication terminal;
FIG. 5 is a diagram showing a view of a keypad of a mobile
terminal according to an embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 6 is a diagram showing a cross-sectional view of the
mobile communication terminal of Fig. 5; and
FIG. 7 is a diagram showing steps included in one embodiment
of a method of assembling a mobile communication terminal in accordance with the
FIG. 8 is a diagram showing a cross-sectional view of how
an elastic member used in accordance with one or more embodiments of the present
invention may be partially distorted or compressed after assembly.
According to an embodiment of the present invention, a
function key switch may include a button (or function key) having a top which may
protrude through a key hole formed in a case of an electronic device. In order to
reduce or eliminate a clearance gap between the button and a corresponding switch,
a spacer is positioned between the button and switch. The spacer may be made from
an elastic or rigid material depending upon the application, and the switch may
be a tact switch which carries out a switch operation in response to a force applied
by the button when pushed by a user's finger. Other types of switches may be used
if desired. A keypad may incorporate the function key switch, and an electronic
device may incorporate either the function key switch alone or the keypad. The electronic
device may be a mobile communications terminal or any other type of device which
includes or otherwise operates using at least one function key. For illustrative
purposes, the following embodiments are discussed in the context of a mobile terminal.
FIG. 4, shows a portion of a mobile terminal which includes
a spacer in the form of an elastic members 130 inserted between a button 110 and
one end 125 of a tact switch 121. In this embodiment, the button is installed on
one side of a case 100 of the terminal and thus is referred to as a side button
hereinafter. Another end 126 of the tact switch is attached to a printed-circuit
board 120 mounted inside the case. During installation, the side button is inserted
in a side button hole 102, so that a top 112 and a bottom 111 of the side button
protrude outwardly and inwardly from the case respectively. End 126 of the tact
switch is attached to the printed-circuit board 120 so that a nose 122 of the switch
confronts bottom 111 of the side button with a predetermined interval.
The elastic member 130 is inserted between the bottom of
the side button and the nose of the tact switch. Nose 122 of the tact switch may
therefore be used to support the bottom of the side button with the elastic member
130 positioned therebetween. The elastic member 130 may be formed from a variety
of materials including soft rubber or silicon in order to provide cushion.
FIG. 5 shows an embodiment of the present invention. In
this embodiment, spacers 230 are formed to protrude from one side of a keypad 240
installed inside a case 200. Tops of key buttons 241 protrude through key button
holes 201 formed at a front part of the case. The spacers, which are preferably
elastic members, may be made of the same material as the keypad, and if so the spacers
and keypad may have a unitary construction. Alternatively, the elastic members may
be connected or affixed to the side of the keypad using any conventional means of
attachment, and/or the elastic members may be made from a material different from
the keypad. Also, while two spacers are shown, the present invention may include
only one spacer or three or more spacers in alternative embodiments. In order to
extend between the side button 210 and nose 222 of the tact switch, the spacers
fold down in this embodiment. Depending upon the orientation of the function keys
241 on the keypad relative to the button 210 (Fig. 6), the spacers may remain even
with the keypad. The keypad 240 and spacers 230 may be formed, for example, by injection
molding using a soft silicon material in the unitary construction case.
FIG. 6 shows a cross-sectional view of a mobile terminal
according to the above embodiment of the present invention, and FIG. 7. shows steps
included in a method for assembling the terminal of this embodiment. Here, the spacer(s)
are formed as one body with the key pad 240. In assembling this terminal, first,
side button 210 is inserted into side button hole 202 formed in one side of the
case 200. (Block 200). In this position, the top of the side button protrudes from
one side of the case, and the bottom of the button protrudes inside the case. Next,
keypad 240 is installed inside the case so that tops of the key buttons 241 protrude
through the key button holes 201 formed in the front part of the case (Block 210).
A spacer (e.g., an elastic member) 230 of the keypad is then bent to fit a corner
of the case, so that one face of the elastic member comes into contact with the
bottom 211 of the side button 210 (Block 220). In a next step, printed-circuit board
220 is installed inside the case, so as to be positioned and/or adhered closely
to a rear face of the keypad 240 in such a manner that nose 222 of tact switch 221
contacts the other face of spacer 230 (Block 225).
In the above-assembled present invention, nose 222 of the
tact switch preferably supports the bottom of the side button and the spacer preferably
has a thickness which leaves no gap between the switch and button. The side button
210 therefore does not move freely even if the terminal 250 vibrates by an external
force or a vibration motor (not shown in the drawing) installed in the terminal
250. If desired, the spacer may have a thickness which is less than the clearance
gap between the switch and button. Furthermore, as in all embodiments described
herein, the spacer may be made from an elastic or rigid material.
Also, in any of the foregoing embodiments the spacer of
the present invention, illustratively shown by elastic member 230 in FIG. 8, may
be transformed by compression to fit within the gap between the bottom of the side
button and the nose of the tact switch. This may be performed even if the interval
is somewhat narrower than the thickness of the elastic member, or even when no clearance
gap exists between the button and switch and it is desired to displace the button
and switch to create a gap for purposes of accommodating a spacer therebetween.
In this case, the pressure applied by the compressive transformation is absorbed
by the spacer when made from an elastic material. In this arrangement, the nose
of the tact switch may not be pushed even if the elastic spacer is transformed by
compression to some extent.
Accordingly, the present invention fills the gap between
a button and a tact switch with a spacer which may be an elastic member. This spacer
provides an excellent cushion for button pushing and also prevents the button from
moving freely and making noise when vibration is applied, such as when a vibration
motor of a mobile terminal is activated. Moreover, feeling of use is improved when
the button is pressed as a result of the reduction or elimination of the clearance
gap and/or the cushion provided by the spacer.
The foregoing embodiments are merely exemplary and are
not to be construed as limiting the present invention. The present teachings can
be readily applied to other types of apparatuses. Also, the description of the present
invention is intended to be merely illustrative, and not to limit the scope of the
claims. Many alternatives, modifications, and variations will be apparent to those
skilled in the art.
For example, while the embodiments of the invention have
been described as providing a cushion for and reducing a clearance between a side
button and a terminal casing, those skilled in the art can appreciate that the elastic
members of the present invention may be used to cushion top surface buttons or any
other button of a communications terminal, including not only hand sets but also
PDAs, computers, or other types of electronic devices. Also, whole members 130 and
230 have been described as having elastic properties, these members may alternatively
be made rigid materials if desired.