Digital Switching Systems (USA) provides customized keypads. They support various higher-layer protocols such as CANopen, IEC 61162-3 (NMEA 2000), and SAE J1939 series. The products are suitable for outdoor applications.
“ULTIMATELY, NO TWO APPLICATIONS are exactly alike. That’s why we have always focused on producing keypads that are not only rugged, but flexible,” said Eric Vaughn, President of DNA Group, parent to Digital Switching Systems. The launched PowerKey Pro family of keypads has been designed for laser etching buttons and logos in customized colors on the keypads. The IP67-rated keypads are sealed units.
The products come with CAN interface. The proprietary application-programming interface (API) allows access to the supported higher-layer protocols including CANopen and J1939-based solutions. The customers also can use the manufacturer’s keypad firmware.
The customized keypads can be produced as either digital or analog units, and can be designed in any shape, size or color with as many buttons and configurations as needed. For example, a customer from the crop production industry has developed a sprayer model and needed two keypads. The manufacturer already had sizes, shapes and designs for the J1939-connectable keypads in mind. When DSS showed the manufacturer its PK1000 keypad, the manufacturer was impressed with the look of the keypad and asked to implement its designs for the two desired keypads. In working with the customer, the keypad provider pointed out that in their original designs, the size of the 6-button radio keypad needed to be adjusted to fit the components required for J1939 circuitry. DSS also suggested to alter the button design for both keypads so they had the right tactile feel for response and feedback. The device supplier also noticed that the original indicator LEDs would not be easily visible in bright daylight and was able to modify the red/green LEDs on the 16-button spray control keypad to be more visible in direct sunlight.
Another customer needed help solving some ergonomic and reliability issues with a keypad used in a commercial forklift. The existing keypad in the forklift was failing prematurely and was causing operator hand and arm discomfort. The feel and actuation forces for the keypad were critical, as these commercial forklifts are used daily and the keypad is a constant part of the operator’s duties. Environmental circumstances also needed to be considered as going from extreme heat and humidity to extreme cold occurred regularly. The keyboard maker was able to deliver a design that uses silicon rubber to provide a cushion for the fingertips and implemented snap-dome technology to give a consistent low actuation force with good tactile feedback, solving the manufacturer’s ergonomic and reliability issues.
The keypads are made of silicone rubber with polyurethane hard coat. Optionally they come with backlit for night viewing. The devices can work at temperatures from -40 °C to +85 °C and they feature UV protection. The switch life is about three million operations. The keypad family includes four-button and eight-button variants with a single indicator light for each button. Multi-indicator keypad provides up to 14-button configurations, where most button positions can have up to three indicator lights. The supply voltage is ranges from 12 V to 24 V and the standby current is specified between 10 mA to 30 mA per keypad.
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