comscore Apple patent hints at new keyboard mechanism for MacBook
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Apple patent hints at new keyboard mechanism that will make MacBooks even thinner

Apple has filed a patent that suggests plan to fix the membrane directly to the PCB, making the mechanism thinner.

  • Published: September 26, 2019 4:24 PM IST
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Apple has made a number of revisions to its butterfly keyboard mechanism found on MacBook Pro models. The iPhone maker has redesigned the keyboard to fix some of the issues reported by its users. It has fixed issues where consumers complained about debris entering the key mechanism. It also launched a repair program to fix the keyboard but the problem seems far from over. There were even reports suggesting that Apple will drop butterfly keyboard and revert to older keyboard layout for future MacBooks.

In its quest to make MacBooks thinner and lighter, Apple designed butterfly keyboard which takes less space than mechanical keyboard. However, a new patent published by the USPTO suggests Apple might make keyboards even thinner. In a patent titled “Keyboard assemblies having reduced thickness and method of forming keyboard assemblies,” Apple explains use of a single membrane sheet directly attached to the printed circuit board. A switch housing can be optionally affixed directly to the membrane layer or to the PCB.

It can either be sandwiched between the two while a dome switch can be coupled directly on top of the membrane layer. Generally, the membrane is not directly attached to the PCB but acts as a mechanism to close the connection triggering the key press. By attaching the membrane directly to the PCB, Apple stands to eliminate wasted space. According to AppleInsider, this also makes it easier to install the switch and reduce assembly time. The electrical connection will be completed by placing a series of membrane pads constructed from a “substantially flexible, electrically conductive material.”

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Apple also states that the membrane could be attached using a conductive adhesive and achieve a similar job once dried. There is also a possibility that the system will use a sandwiched dome switch. In order to install the key cap, Apple is suggesting a “hinge mechanism positioned adjacent the switch housing” but it does not seem limited to the butterfly switch. There is also mention of “any suitable hinge mechanism” that lifts off a V-shaped hinge, scissor hinge, telescoping hinge, and sliding hinge.

The butterfly keyboard has become a contentious object in Apple’s personal laptop space. The company has fixed a number of issues and even added third-generation design to newest models. However, the issues still persist including one where the keys get stuck to the switch and become unusable. The patent suggests Apple is exploring a solution but it does not mean we will see this design next. However, the big question is whether going thin the right way to make an extraordinary keyboard.

  • Published Date: September 26, 2019 4:24 PM IST