Silicone Dynamics, Inc. http://www.siliconedynamics.net Custom Silicone Rubber Keypad Manufacturer Wed, 29 Jul 2015 22:03:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.3 Silicon Chips Mimicking Human Organs Won Designer of the Year Award http://www.siliconedynamics.net/silicon-chips-mimicking-human-organs-won-designer-of-the-year-award/ http://www.siliconedynamics.net/silicon-chips-mimicking-human-organs-won-designer-of-the-year-award/#comments Sat, 27 Jun 2015 08:38:54 +0000 http://www.siliconedynamics.net/?p=1257 A breakthrough in the medical field has snatched the 2015 Design of the Year contest, the very first award received by this sector from the global competition. The exhibition is by the Design’s Museum located in London which features the most innovative and advanced designs of all kinds. And this ye...

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Organs-on-ChipsA breakthrough in the medical field has snatched the 2015 Design of the Year contest, the very first award received by this sector from the global competition. The exhibition is by the Design’s Museum located in London which features the most innovative and advanced designs of all kinds. And this year’s winner certainly deserves the top prize.

Organs-on-Chips

The entry, labeled as “Organs-on-Chips”, is a device that mimics human organs. The design was created by scientists at the Wyss Institute from the University of Harvard. The culmination of the project, named “Human-Body-on-Chips”, was the first ever silicon chip that can imitate the same physiological function as the human lung.

During the contest, tests were carried out to see the functionality of the device and it indeed performed just as what the scientists described. The “Lung-on-a-Chip” for instance, contracts and relaxes just like our lungs do when air passed through the cells. The chip, about the size of a computer memory stick and lined with microfluidic channels with living human cells, is put in lieu of a particular organ which then mirror that organ’s function. In one of the videos highlighting the device, it showed how white blood cells migrate from the blood channel to the air channel when scientists introduced bacteria. This demonstration can be observed in real time in a microscopic level. It generated quite the buzz from inside and outside the scientific community because of the doors it has opened.

Device’s Potential

One of the biggest changes this new breakthrough can offer is that it has a huge potential to end animal testing. Indeed, the device is already turning heads of small and large animal rights advocates that caught wind of the project. There are a lot of studies out there that shows animal testing doesn’t always translate to humans. Researches about a certain drug, for instance, can take years before completion, and this process have required a lot of animal testing before any conclusion can be reach. With the device it’s highly possible that animals will no longer be needed to test biological responses on varying compounds.

Another benefit is the silicon chip could help the cosmetic industry by testing the toxicity level of compounds that composed cosmetic products. Even now scientists are looking at a grander scale where different chips representing different organs might be fuse together to form the entirety of a human being. Drugs can then be tested on this replica to see the effects each compound has – all in real time.

Life and Beauty

The device has been highly praised by Deyan Sudjic, organizer of the Design of the Year 2015, stating that the project in incredibly useful for humanity. Paolo Antonelli, who nominated the device for the Design Museum award, stated that the Organ-on Chip is “the epitome of design innovation, elegantly beautiful, arresting concept, and pioneering application.” And it’s indeed beautiful as it celebrates science, life, and the advancement of both.

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3D Printing Technology Gets Leverage from Various Manufacturing Industries http://www.siliconedynamics.net/3d-printing-technology-gets-leverage-from-various-manufacturing-industries/ http://www.siliconedynamics.net/3d-printing-technology-gets-leverage-from-various-manufacturing-industries/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 16:15:56 +0000 http://www.siliconedynamics.net/?p=1179 A developing technology called three-dimensional printing or additive manufacturing is picking up speed in industries as it transforms computer-aided designs into realistic 3D objects. This technology has been used by various industries including the medical, aerospace and automotive ones. One of th...

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3d printing

A developing technology called three-dimensional printing or additive manufacturing is picking up speed in industries as it transforms computer-aided designs into realistic 3D objects. This technology has been used by various industries including the medical, aerospace and automotive ones. One of the key factors behind 3D printing is its ability to bring production closer to the end user/ consumer, thus decreasing the current supply chain constraints.

The value of this additive manufacturing and the competency to produce small production batches is considered an effective method to engage consumers and negate stock piling. For this reason, 3D printing has progressed at a fast pace, allowing the market of additive manufacturing to grow further. However, it is recognized that the wider adoption of 3D printing will eventually cause re-invention of a number of already invented products, and even bigger number of completely new products. Besides, manufacturing applications of 3D printing have been subject to patent, industrial design, copyright, and trademark law for decades now. Still, there is no clear indication as to how 3D printing could survive amidst these issues.

Regardless of such issues, consumers and product designers alike are seeing how rapidly the various 3D print technologies have evolved so far, making it important to assume that many other industries will lay hold of it in the future.

Medical and Dental

Medical and dental applications for 3D printing are expanding rapidly and are expected to further revolutionize the health care industry. A report from 3D Printing Industry announced late last year that they will be able to 3D print a functional thyroid was realized. Although in the report, it is stated that it has only been deemed suitable for implantation on mice and not on humans, quite yet.

Thus, one of the greatest advantages of 3D printers to the medical field is its capacity to provide custom-made medical products and equipment.

The use of 3D printing in the medical and dental field can be summarized in the following:
• Customized prosthetics and implants
• Custom-made fixtures and surgical tools
• Bio-printing tissues and organs
• Anatomical models for surgical operations
• Custom printed dosage forms

Aerospace and Defense

The continuing demands of the aerospace and defense industry has been challenging manufacturers around the globe to create excellent and cost-efficient aerospace devices. 3D printing is making inroads into the manufacturing value chain, specifically within the A&D industry. DMLS (direct metal laser sintering) is the frequently used 3D printing technique for production of aerospace parts.

Aerospace tools produced via 3D printing include:
• Discs, hubs, spacers, and seals
• Exhaust parts
• High and low temperature fasteners

Automotive

As a critical component of economic growth, national and regional employment of every industrialized country, the automotive market is obliged to find a better response to the challenges of the 21st century. By building more durable concept models, automotive engineers and designers can work more efficiently into the production stage. Thus, the automotive industry relies on 3D printing in the following areas:
• Increased time-efficiency.
• The use of cost-effective and lightweight tools.
• The ability to print replacement parts efficiently.

3D printing has been around for decades, and it’s not surprising that more and more consumers are adapting this technology. However, the most likely and ideal outcome is that additive manufacturing be maximized alongside traditional production technologies, to create more efficient components and tools for various industries.

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Dimensional Tolerances Guide for More Functional Silicone Molded Parts http://www.siliconedynamics.net/dimensional-tolerances-guide-for-more-functional-silicone-molded-parts/ http://www.siliconedynamics.net/dimensional-tolerances-guide-for-more-functional-silicone-molded-parts/#comments Tue, 07 Apr 2015 16:23:05 +0000 http://www.siliconedynamics.net/?p=1170 Tolerance tables provided by the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association (RMA) come with ranges to illicit communication between the user and provider over a wide array of industries. It can be noted that precision tolerance can be achieved by utilizing the manufacturing process. In contrast, some mis-spe...

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dimensional tolerances

Tolerance tables provided by the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association (RMA) come with ranges to illicit communication between the user and provider over a wide array of industries. It can be noted that precision tolerance can be achieved by utilizing the manufacturing process. In contrast, some mis-specified tolerances more often than not lead to irrelevant expenses.

As engineers and product designers, it is vital to understand the strict implementations that involve dimensional tolerances in silicone molded parts. Considerations affecting dimensions and tolerances in the design stage include the process in part volume, reduced shrinkage from bonded inserts, shrinkage after cure, and fixed vs. closure dimensions.

Some guidelines to acquire the right dimensional tolerances for silicone molded parts include the following:

1. Be guided with the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association manual when pinning down tolerances.

The RMA manual provides necessary guidelines for extracting the right tolerances for silicone molded parts. It is observed from the manual that medical line tolerances can be classified under the RMA’s A1 (high precision tolerance) section. The reason for this is the variety of tolerance ranges depending on a product’s design and need.

Using the RMA manual as a reference for product designers and engineers alike would help keep tolerance requirements feasible and more cost-efficient. Tolerances outside this limit may be hard to meet, and may lead to unwanted delays and extra cost.

2. Proper tooling maintenance.

Determining proper tooling results in consistent tolerance requirement. To widen the use of the tool, one must determine the right type of tooling alongside the manufacturing needs. The following might serve as a guide for choosing the appropriate tooling for silicone molded parts:

• Soft-Tooling- The ductile nature of a soft tool lets the engineer test different casting objects without changing drafts. Hence, the resultant prototype parts are accurate within a few thousandths of an inch. It is -24RC; typically used for prototype products, with 1,000 cycle guarantee.
• Pre-Hard Tooling- This tooling involves a 33RC-50RC (depending on the steel grade); and is often used for production tooling. In addition, it has a 10,000- 100,000 cycle guarantee.
• High-Precision Tooling- This tooling is pre-hard base of 33RC-50RC, with 250,000+ cycle guarantee. It has a single cavity bridge tooling for pre-production launch.

3. Review the design and manufacturing process.

In depth knowledge about the design and manufacturing process of silicone parts will prevent unnecessary expenses and dissatisfaction to both parties. Processes such as the molding technique, material shrink rate, geometry and impact of the component are factors to closely look at.

Using proper dimensional tolerances permits engineers and product designers to direct their attention to the key design features. These features may actually be the vital ones that would interact within the final assembly. Thus, the engineering challenge is to come up with a more functional silicone rubber parts.

With this, companies ought to be aware of the available processes, and have a clear understanding of each strengths and weaknesses together with the relative merits of the different materials they employ.

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Experts Step Up Silicone’s Role in New Medical Devices http://www.siliconedynamics.net/experts-step-up-silicones-role-in-new-medical-devices/ http://www.siliconedynamics.net/experts-step-up-silicones-role-in-new-medical-devices/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 19:11:07 +0000 http://www.siliconedynamics.net/?p=1161 Recently, Fast Company reported that an implant that can one day fix spinal cords and let people walk again. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, have developed the e-Dura, which is said to be a “tiny, skin like device that attaches directly to damaged spinal cords”....

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medical devices and silicone

Recently, Fast Company reported that an implant that can one day fix spinal cords and let people walk again. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, have developed the e-Dura, which is said to be a “tiny, skin like device that attaches directly to damaged spinal cords”.

Stephanie Lacour, a professor from the Institute, mentioned that the purpose of the neuro-prosthesis is to excite the neurons that are on the spinal cord and activate them, as if they were receiving information coming from the brain.The e-Dura was first tested in rats, and is currently being developed for humans as well. In the report, it is said that the project raised several intrigues as to “how something so inanimate be attached to something as sensitive as a spinal cord”. With that in mind, Lacour informed the public that the material is a “simple, silicone polymer- a sympathetic, malleable and very thin” element. She also mentioned that the material can be made a single micron thick.

The report above can be considered a proof as to how silicones are currently getting attention in the medical industry. Managers, engineers and product designers alike, are updated to the rapid growth of silicones and its increasing applications in adhesives, coatings, industrial insulations, automotive, as well as in the medical field.

Silicones are some of the most broadly bio-tested materials, used in the creation of medical devices such as drains and respiratory devices, surgical incision tubes, urological catheters, and even valves and o-rings. Research has it that silicones’ biocompatibility, biodurability, and resiliency makes it an exceptional choice for applications that come into direct contact with the body. With these, silicone rubber is widely used in both reusable and disposable materials in the medical field.

Silicones’ biocompatibility can be owed to its molecular structure of dimethylsiloxane. Its odd structure – a mixture of silicon and oxygen atoms, gives it superior resistance to various, extreme temperature. Over the years, silicone rubbers have revealed its compatibility with the human body. Known for its odorless and tasteless characteristics, silicones are never prone to bacteria growth and it contains no additives. Thus, silicones have undergone its compliance to the FDA, ISO and Tripartite’s biocompatibility standards.

Silicones’ biodurability can be proven by its inert stable compounds. Compared to others, it is more well-founded that it can endure a wide temperature range and has a lower compression set than polyurethane. As a result, silicones’ electrical insulation abilities and valuable lot-to-lot consistency makes it suitable for use in most medical devices.

Because of its significant tear of up to 250ppi, tensile strength of up to 1500psi, and a flexibility of up to 1250%, silicones’ resiliency is not a question at all. With these details in mind, medical experts and professionals can confidently get an access to proven resilient and flexible silicone rubber materials.

Common silicone medical components include, (but are not limited to):

  • Balloon catheters
  • Airways
  • Drainage
  • Tubing for feeding
  • Peristaltic pumps
  • Electrosurgical handpieces
  • Infusion sleeves
  • Trocar seats
  • Lubricants
  • Test chambers
  • Surgical instruments
  • Sheaths
  • Wire/fluid-path coextrusions
  • Ear plugs/ Hearing aids
  • Stoppers
  • Compression bars
  • Adhesives for dressings
  • Respiratory masks
  • Diaphragm pumps
  • Scar management products
  • Clips

Even if suitable and proven for most medical components, silicone rubber manufacturers still have to go through thorough examination, design assistance, prototyping and part testing to better provide the medical industry the safest, most flexible and most cost- efficient silicone rubbers; alongside its continuing successes in most industries.

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The Role of LED, Fiber Optic, and Electroluminescent Lamps in Membrane Switches http://www.siliconedynamics.net/the-role-of-led-fiber-optic-and-electroluminescent-lamps-in-membrane-switches/ http://www.siliconedynamics.net/the-role-of-led-fiber-optic-and-electroluminescent-lamps-in-membrane-switches/#comments Thu, 12 Mar 2015 00:33:28 +0000 http://www.siliconedynamics.net/?p=1074 Presently, significant growth and changes are taking place in the user-interface market. One of the noticeable developments would be the rise of various backlighting available for switch membranes. Membrane switches are widely known for its backlights that range from different levels of brightness, ...

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led lights and membrane switch

Presently, significant growth and changes are taking place in the user-interface market. One of the noticeable developments would be the rise of various backlighting available for switch membranes. Membrane switches are widely known for its backlights that range from different levels of brightness, transparency and colors. Thus, it is essential for engineers, product designers and consumers to better comprehend the role of these backlights.

Several membrane switches’ backlighting includes the use of LED’s, optical fiber, and electroluminescent lamps.

LED (Light Emitting Diode) backlights are fascinating to the market as LED’s aid in making a thinner, richer, and more efficient display. Research has it that LED is used to provide “even illumination” over a wide area for a number of imaging or optics applications. Inverters are usually not needed in using this kind of backlight. This backlight is made up of wide and flat illumination particles that lights the object from behind. There are actually two major kinds of LED backlighting; the Edge-lit and local dimming. The former means that the LED’s that brightens up the pixel are located only on the edges of the set. Thus, a light guide points the brightness toward the center of the screen. The local dimming, on the other hand, is dimmed together independently, causing it to better enhance the contrast ratio and power consumption. To sum it up, LED backlights enables thinner backlight designs; has longer lifetime (50,000 hours); and has an adjustable dim light. Just last March 7, 2015, Ozone Gaming launched a new Strike Battle compact mechanical gaming keyboard that comes with a red LED backlight keys; hence, LED backlights keeping up with modern innovations.

Optical fiber (or Fiber Optic) backlighting are panels woven from plastic optical fibers. Its thin, flat panel is void of heat and electromagnetic resistance. Some of the advantages of using this kind of backlighting include: low power requirements; consistent brightness; longer life; and thin profile. In addition, the optical fiber backlights are extraordinarily resistant and virtually maintenance-free. These backlights have undergone series of examinations in over 5 million casualties proving no loss of light and no degeneracy in brightness. It is said that optic fiber panels are as refined as 0.55mm to 0.33mm. A single fiber optic panel can radiate the light from a single LED across a surface measuring 1 by 1in. or 10 by 10in. With this, fiber optic panels are believed to be very efficient in terms of backlighting.

Known by using semiconductor crystals (phosphors), electroluminescent lamps are thin, flexible, and firm. This kind of backlighting produces balanced area lighting and unvarying brightness. By its phosphors, these lamps are able to convert electrical energy to light energy. Electroluminescent lamps are also cheaper than optical fiber; it provides backlighting in a very thin layer between the graphic overlay and the circuit.

From pushbutton keys to mechanical gaming keyboards, backlighting serves as one of the most visually enticing and remarkable aspect of membrane switches.

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The Design and Development Process for Electronic Devices http://www.siliconedynamics.net/the-design-and-development-process-for-electronic-devices/ http://www.siliconedynamics.net/the-design-and-development-process-for-electronic-devices/#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 20:02:49 +0000 http://www.siliconedynamics.net/?p=929 Here at Silicone Dynamics, we are frequently approached by engineers and product designers in all stages of their product design. Whether actively sourcing parts for your manufactured device, or just looking at options, we have the expertise to help. Silicone Dynamics is staffed by personnel that un...

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Here at Silicone Dynamics, we are frequently approached by engineers and product designers in all stages of their product design. Whether actively sourcing parts for your manufactured device, or just looking at options, we have the expertise to help. Silicone Dynamics is staffed by personnel that understand the entire life-cycle of modern consumer electronics. We point you in the right direction while you find the keypad for your device that adds functionality while cutting costs. We also assist in reducing the amount of time necessary for its development.

Concept Stage

Every product begins its life in the concept stage as a dream a thought up by an engineer or a development firm. Products in the concept stage are comprised of little more than vague idea. Usually, the idea consists of how an existing product can be improved or how a problem can be solved. If you are currently in the concept stage of your product design, we can help you help your idea take a more rich and completed form, and can point you towards sources that help refine your idea into the design phase. Our design guide is one resource that could be essential to help you in your design phase.

Research Stage

If you have made it to the Silicone Dynamics website, the odds are that you are currently in the research stage of your product design. The research stage can eat up the majority of time in the typical product design life cycle. This is especially true if there is not a great deal of direction behind the production of the product. Silicone Dynamics help all product designers speed their research by giving them direct access to the best silicone keypad production centers in the world. We can customize our silicone keypads to the exact specifications required by individual projects. Our engineers work with you to refine your keypad design. We also assisting in making sure the manufacturing cost is at the level it needs to be. This ensures that your products are ultimately commercially successful.

Circuit Design

Circuit Design ExampleOnce you have decided on the basic form that your electronic device will take, you will need to create a schematic diagram that lays out the general design of your circuit and the parts that are necessary. Many electronic devices can be dramatically lowered in price through the use of printed circuit boards; However, there are some positive attributes of more traditional circuit board construction as well. Silicone keypads work with most circuit designs Still, it is important to make sure you work with the design engineers at Silicone Dynamics. These experts are there to help you create a circuit design that will make the best interfaces possible.

Printed Circuit Layout and Packaging
One of the most important steps in the design of your electronic device is the creation of the printed circuit and the housing that will separate the circuit for the elements/user. You need to keep user experience in mind. You can utilize materials like silicone to produce keypads with varying degrees of elasticity, transparency, and colors. You can also label keys either on the keys themselves (with stamping, printing, etc.) or on the plastic or metal housing that surrounds the keys. Silicone keypads tend to make your life easier for product designer, as the material is extremely flexible and can be utilized in nearly any environment. It also holds the benefit of being naturally resistant to damage and to wear and tear.

Prototyping and Small Run Production

Silicone Dynamics offers free production of sample keypads so you can examine the different materials and actuation levels in preparation for your product prototyping. Once you have settled onto a design for your circuits and housing, Silicone Dynamics can produce a small run of the keypads. You are then able to test the product on your prototypes and your first initial products. We recommend a small production run for distribution to different retail outlets and end-users, but also so you can gauge the costs of manufacture.

Design Review

We recommend that you send your initial designs to at least three different manufacturing facilities before committing to construction with one firm. While we recommend using our firm for custom silicone keypads, we have several facilities that are utilized for electronics design and circuitry. One reason to send your design to multiple firms (other than price and quality comparison) is to get extra sets of eyes to see ways that you might be able to improve your own designs. When sending your design to us, our quote request page is where you can upload your 3D drawings and PDF file.

Setting up the Manufacturing Equipment

Huge manufacturing facility

Even though you will be doing your component manufacturing (and maybe your assembly as well) overseas, we still recommend you have in-person visits to the manufacturing facilities that you choose. Manufacturing overseas gives you access to savings. That said, you also need to keep an eye on your manufacturing processes in order to make sure that standards are being upheld. Our silicone keypads are the proper mix of cheap manufacturing and the highest quality possible. We ensure that all manufacturing equipment is cutting-edge. We also assure that the manufacturing employees utilized represent the “cream of the crop” in their respective fields of expertise.

Creating Documentation

Creating documentation is one of the most dreaded aspects of production for the more technically minded product designers. Reason being that it implies long hours of taking complex information, and then making said information accessible to the end-user. However, documentation can be easy if you have a simple product with easy-to-use interfaces. For example, some of the new universal remote controls are so intuitive that their manuals are only a few pages long. The user can often get the rest of the necessary information from on-screen prompts and from the device itself.

Legal and Regulatory Hurdles

Depending on what type of product you are creating, there might be additional legal and regulatory hurdles that you have to overcome before you go to market. For example, you may have to test your product to ensure that it does not interfere with different frequency bands, especially if you are producing something like a remote control that uses radio waves or infra-red to connect to another device.

Design Improvement and Support

At Silicone Dynamics, our commitment to your product design process does not end when the product has been created. We follow up with all of our clients, making sure that their design experience was smooth. We also solicit feedback from end-users, and we are constantly improving our manufacturing process and our facilities.

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What are Membrane Switches? http://www.siliconedynamics.net/what-are-membrane-switches/ http://www.siliconedynamics.net/what-are-membrane-switches/#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 19:19:09 +0000 http://www.siliconedynamics.net/?p=917 Membrane switches are best explained by contrasting them against the other popular switch type. The two types are commonly used in electronic devices and throughout one’s home. Mechanical Switches are usually made from hard-plastic and copper, and they function by manually opening or closing a...

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Membrane switches are best explained by contrasting them against the other popular switch type. The two types are commonly used in electronic devices and throughout one’s home. Mechanical Switches are usually made from hard-plastic and copper, and they function by manually opening or closing a circuit connection. Membrane switches are far cheaper, and they are more commonly used in silicone keypads, as well as in other electronic devices that require a relatively durable solution to switching. Membrane switches, like their mechanical counterparts, can turn circuits on and off – but they are usually printed on PET or ITO with copper/silver ink that is conductive but also easy to mass-produce on a flat circuit board.

Image Courtesy AGE IncorporatedConstruction of Membrane Switches

Image courtesy of AGE Incorporated

The construction techniques that are used for membrane switches are actually relatively simple. Membrane switches are usually made in four different layers – with the top layer of the membrane switch made out of silicone for the best combination of flexibility and ease-of-cleaning. Silicone Dynamics makes tons of membrane switches every year. We work with product designers and manufacturers to help integrate silicone switches and custom membrane switches into any products.

Membrane Switch Backlighting

One of the best things about membrane switches is the ability for manufacturers to produce the switches in a multitude of different transparency levels and colors. For example, if you are producing a calculator or another electronic device that is designed to be used in low light levels, you can easily backlight those switches.
LED Backlights – LEDs are basically tiny lamps. This makes them ideal for backlighting indicator lights or individual keys, but less suitable for backlighting large panels. The reason for this is that they create bright spots. On the other hand, LED lights are easy to produce, they consume very little energy, and they are “cool” lights that do not create excessive heat.
Optical Fiber – Optical fiber is actually a woven cloth that is used to create a light diffusing array hooked up to an LED. This setup provides a more even lighting surface. Optical fiber is ideal for backlighting, and is extremely durable (and will even work underwater!)
Electroluminescent Lamps – EL lamps are cheaper than optical fiber. They have been used successfully in many older electronic devices and cheaper consumer devices. The biggest downside of EL lamps is their relatively short life, as they can burn out after around 3000 hours of use. EL lamps are better for devices that are considered “disposable” like calculators and some cheaper consumer electronic devices.
Custom Silicone Rubber Keypad Samples

Uses for Membrane Switches

Membrane switches are used in virtually every industry. They are ideal for electronic devices with thin flat panels. Microwaves are usually made with membrane switches because they can be easily cleaned, as are devices in hospitals and in laboratories where sterility is of primary concern. Many television remotes also use membrane switches. They have formed silicone buttons to change the tactile response of the remote control. The devices accomplish this by shaping the buttons and embedding metal snap domes or creating a different graphic layer.
Membrane switches are easy to clean, they are self-sealing and have a low profile when compared to mechanical switches. Silicone Dynamics can help you integrate silicone membrane switches into your own projects by creating custom silicone keypads to your exact specifications.

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Should I Outsource the Manufacture of my Silicone Keypad? http://www.siliconedynamics.net/should-i-outsource-the-manufacture-of-my-silicone-keypad/ http://www.siliconedynamics.net/should-i-outsource-the-manufacture-of-my-silicone-keypad/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 18:24:52 +0000 http://www.siliconedynamics.net/?p=910 For many product designers and companies that are concerned with quality, the decision to outsource components of consumer electronics requires careful consideration of the costs and benefits. There is a current perception that overseas manufacture of components are implicitly a lower quality than s...

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For many product designers and companies that are concerned with quality, the decision to outsource components of consumer electronics requires careful consideration of the costs and benefits. There is a current perception that overseas manufacture of components are implicitly a lower quality than state-side production. However, this is not true within the silicone keypad industry. Silicone keypads that are manufactured in production facilities across Asia can be many times cheaper than identical products manufactured in the United States. In these products there is no perceptible difference in the quality or the efficiency of production.

Outsourcing PCB Assembly

In the last five years, nearly all PCB (printed circuit boards) have been outsourced to China, thanks to increasing focus on quality control by facilities all over the Chinese mainland. As little as a decade ago, building electronic components in China was something of a crap-shoot. This was, in large part, thanks to inconsistent production standards and management in China. Such lack of consistency did not always follow the design standards of their clients. As more companies outsourced their products to China, competition within China has become fierce. Smaller manufacturing facilities have forced innovation in the entire outsourced industry. As a result now you can expect high quality from your provider no matter where in China (or elsewhere) your products are developed.

Cheaper than Domestic Manufacturing

The technology for manufacturing silicone keypads has been around long enough that there is no significant advantage in technique or scale by manufacturers within the United States. The relatively low complexity of the silicone keypads means that even manufacturers with limited experience can produce silicone keypads within a fine tolerance range after the molds are created and approved.

For obvious reasons (primarily labor costs) the production of silicone products in China and Asia is far cheaper than the production of those items in the United States. Even when you consider the shipment costs of the silicone keypads to the United States, they are still far cheaper per unit. This cost-savings will allow you to increase your overall margins and will allow you to produce other features that might have been on the back-burner because of cost.

Faster than Domestic Manufacturing

It is actually faster to produce your custom silicone keypads and buttons in China than it would be to make those same items domestically. This may sound counter intuitive by those who are not accustom to the process. However, instead of having to jump through regulatory hurdles with American factories, you can typically progress from design to production in only a week or so when utilizing off-shore production. The biggest time-sink of dealing with a Chinese facility can be waiting for different proof copies of your product. But that mandatory waiting game takes up significantly less time than US Regulation compliance. Furthermore, assuring quality proofs allows you can ensure that your product meets all of your standards.

How to Outsource

While it might technically be possible for a product designer to deal directly with Chinese and international firms and importers, it is not recommended. As an individual company, you will have very little “pull” with the international suppliers, and will have no good way of following up with the company in question.

Silicone Dynamics is your bridge to outsourcing. The company provides the benefits of outsourcing, along with the protections of dealing with a US company. We have the best suppliers working under contract. We possess the best “boots on the ground” in the Far East in order to ensure our contracts are completed promptly and with a high level of quality. Our clients utilize our services on a regular basis, and the security and consistency is well worth it.

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Designing a Remote Control for Consumer Electronic Devices http://www.siliconedynamics.net/designing-a-remote-control-for-consumer-electronic-devices/ http://www.siliconedynamics.net/designing-a-remote-control-for-consumer-electronic-devices/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 15:48:43 +0000 http://www.siliconedynamics.net/?p=907 A remote control is an input device that can be used to control a piece of electronic equipment located away from the user. Remote controls are used in a huge range of consumer electronic devices. Common remote control applications include television sets, box fans, audio equipment, and some types o...

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A remote control is an input device that can be used to control a piece of electronic equipment located away from the user. Remote controls are used in a huge range of consumer electronic devices. Common remote control applications include television sets, box fans, audio equipment, and some types of specialty lighting.

For engineers and product developers that are looking to bring an electronic device to market, remote control design can be vital to the eventual success of the product. Remote controls become the primary interface devices for electronic equipment. Thus, proper design and attention to keypads and labeling will cut down on user dissatisfaction.

Why Develop Remote Controls?

Remote controls add to the cost of your product, but are a feature in high demand by purchasing consumers. For devices with display screens (such as televisions and monitors), the remote control functionality is virtually mandatory, allowing consumers to mount the screens where they would otherwise be inaccessible during use. Many other devices, from ceiling fans to space heaters, use remote controls in order to extend functionality and provide convenience for users.

Remote controls add value to consumer devices that is much greater than their cost to produce. Consumers view remote controls as time-saving devices. Remote controls can provide an avenue for additional revenue for device manufacturers who want to sell the remote controls separately as a value-added accessory.

Remote Control Protocols

Remote control protocols are the different communication methods that are used to pass signals between the remote control and a receiver on the primary electronic device. Remote control protocols vary depending on the range of the device, as well as the potential for interference in the signal by other electronic devices and background noise.
The most common type of remote control utilizes consumer infrared protocols to create a line-of-sight transmission to a device. This type of remote control, used in devices like televisions, uses inexpensive micro-controllers or encoder chips to control A/V devices from a distance. Consumer IR is used in scenarios where the user of the remote control will be in the same room as the device, and they are less sensitive to background interference than devices that rely on radio signals.

For many industrial applications, especially industrial remotes that might require two-way conversation between device and remote, radio control systems are a good choice. Radio control systems operate in a frequency band that is dictated different regulatory bodies (such as the FCC). They use complex encoders and receivers to transmit information. Radio receivers allow the remote controls to receive some type of feedback from their device. They are ideal in commercial applications where the users might not be able to visually confirm that the inputs were received by the controlled device. Radio remotes are more expensive to produce than infrared remotes, but provide a greater range of functionality.

Finally, some consumer devices utilize wireless signals either as their primary protocol or in addition to other protocols. Wireless remotes piggyback on existing wireless networks, or they create adhoc wireless connections between two devices. Wireless remotes can provide the same “enhanced” functionality that radio remotes can provide. This capability is due to the two-way data transmission, but they are heavily influenced by background interference and are commonly used only in video-game consoles, some televisions, and other audio/visual equipment for residential application.

Remote Control Keypads

Silicone Dynamics is one of the main producers of silicone keypads in the country. Many silicone keypads are used in commercial devices and in consumer electronics. In the average home-theater, a typical consumer may have anywhere between four and six different remote controls. The majority of these remotes use some type of silicone keypad. Silicone Dynamics believes that the consumer-electronics world is suffering from a degree of complexity that is too high for most consumers. Remote controls should be produced with a minimal degree of complexity. Every button on your keypad should be well labeled and should be self-explanatory, with a minimal amount of input type (number, letter, on/off, etc.) on each controller.

Silicone keypads are ideal for consumer electronics and industrial applications. This is because they are suitable for a wide range of environmental conditions and they can be very cost-effective to produce. You have a great deal of flexibility in your designs.

Designing Silicone Keypads for Remote Controls

Silicone Dynamics has a great guide for producing silicone keypads for remote controls and other consumer electronic device. Designers should be concerned both with the design of the keypad as well as the labeling of the keys and the design of the bezel that will go around them. Go to this page to request a free quote for your next device.

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Designing a Less Complicated Keypad http://www.siliconedynamics.net/designing-a-less-complicated-keypad/ http://www.siliconedynamics.net/designing-a-less-complicated-keypad/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 15:39:52 +0000 http://www.siliconedynamics.net/?p=905 Designing a “Less Complicated” Keypad One of the main complaints that consumers have with modern electronic devices is the complexity of their remote controls and keypads. While modern electronics might have more features than ever before, manufacturers have done a poor job in reducing complexity in...

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Designing a “Less Complicated” Keypad

One of the main complaints that consumers have with modern electronic devices is the complexity of their remote controls and keypads. While modern electronics might have more features than ever before, manufacturers have done a poor job in reducing complexity in remote control device. According to C-Net, the average home theater owner has more than six remote controls for the various parts of his or her A/V systems. This level of complexity is so high that consumers are reluctant to make additional purchases. The fear is that any new device will add additional remote controls, and thus add even more complicated input devices to their lives.

Reducing the complexity of keypads is important for manufacturers of remote controls and keypads. That said, it can be difficult to create a less-complicated keypad without sacrificing features. The following tips will help engineers and product developers as they try to design silicone keypads that find a good compromise between being feature-filled and simple to use.

Standardized Layout for Numeric Keypads

The type of numeric keypad that consumers have the most experience using is the one that is on phones and keyboard number-pads. For this reason, any other numeric keypad design requires a more active focus on the part of the user. Using standardized layouts for numeric keypads ensures that your consumers can use the keypads without looking at them, which in turn reduces the overall stress levels of users.

Does your device need a numeric keypad at all? Television remotes, for example, all include their own numeric keypads – but they are very rarely used because consumers do not generally memorize the numbers of their favorite channels. If there is an alternative way of inputting numbers on your devices (such as an on-screen numeric keypad that can be navigated with arrow buttons) this might be a better way of simplifying your keypad.

Reduce the Total Number of Buttons

The NN Group, in a study on user experience with input devices, found that there were more than 239 buttons on a typical suite of remote controls used for home/audio systems. The vast majority of these buttons are not used for anything on a regular basis, and these extra buttons actually make it harder to use the input devices because they confuse the user and they clutter the interface and force the designer to make the remaining buttons smaller to accommodate them.

Reducing the total number of buttons is the main way that an interface designer can make their silicone keypad more user-friendly. There are plenty of alternatives to having a keypad that has dozens of extra buttons. Consider making some buttons work “double-duty” by using a modifier switch. Or the remote can have more of the functions controlled through contextual keys or through the use of on-screen prompts. Completely eliminate some of the least-used buttons and put them elsewhere on the device. The buttons can be moved either in user menus or give them button-combinations that can be found in your user manual and used in the rare circumstance that they are actually needed.

Better Labeling

Another common user complaint about interface devices is the poor job that some manufacturers do with labeling. After you produce your silicone keypad with Silicone Dynamics, it will still be necessary for your device manufacturer to include labeling on the bezels (or on the keys) that illustrates the purpose of each key. Some keys can be made self-explanatory by their shape, such as using arrows for the cursor keys. But most keys must be labeled directly.

The biggest problem in labeling is the divide between engineers and the actual users that will be utilizing the devices. Your engineers might know what acronyms mean. But some of these same acronyms (DSP, FQ+, etc…) go over the head of the typical consumer. Using acronyms can make your remote control impossible to utilize without having to consult a manual. For many consumers, this means turning your keypad into a guessing game rather than a useful piece of equipment.

Other Design Suggestions

• If you have input buttons that are ‘paired’, such as a volume-up and a volume-down switch, consider turning this into a single rocker switch. Rocker switches are easy to make with silicone keypads. They are easier for users to understand and to find without looking directly at devices.
• Reduce the overall complexity of your input device by increasing the size of individual buttons. This maximizes space between unrelated buttons. It also means getting rid of all the buttons that are not absolutely necessary.
• Consider using color-coding for different functions to group buttons into different “families” and creating an association for your users. You can color buttons by using different silicone colors, or you can make your silicone buttons translucent, and you can put different lighting underneath each button.
• Cooperate with manufacturers that make complimentary devices! If your device is usually used alongside other similar devices, consider a little cooperation to ensure that standardization makes all of your products more useable. For example, television manufacturers can ensure that the different device remotes work together for different DVD players, etc.

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