Iphone Keyboard Case

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Kickstarter Website: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/

We developed an iPhone case with a retractable, tactile keyboard for a start-up, SleeKeys.  It was designed for people who wanted to type on a physical keyboard instead of the keyboard on screen, and it had to disappear when not in use while maintaining a slim profile.

More information:

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SleeKeys is a new start up focused on developing new and unique smart phone accessories.  They came to us with a vision of an iPhone keyboard product that would satisfy users who sometimes miss using their old tactile keyboards for email and texting.  The requirements were to develop a product that provided the user with a tactile keyboardwhen and where they wanted it, and then to have it disappear when it’s not wanted.  Oh, and the product had to be incredibly thin,  intuitive, attractive and fun to use, require no power source, and it had to actually work.  The challenge was simple to state but it required significant creativity to meet.

To meet this challenge we started with a clean sheet of paper and relentlessly developed new concepts.  We focused on making the product visually thin as well as functionally thin.  When we felt like we had something we weren’t satisfied with leaving the design on paper, so we began prototyping.  Our philosophy is to prototype early and prototype often.

More information:

SleeKeys is a start up focused on developing new and unique smart phone accessories.  They came to us with a vision of an iPhone keyboard product that would satisfy users who sometimes miss using their old tactile keyboards for email and texting.  The requirements were to develop a product that provided the user with a tactile keyboard when and where they wanted it, and then to have it disappear when it’s not wanted.  Oh, and the product had to be incredibly thin,  intuitive, attractive and fun to use, require no power source, and it had to actually work.  The challenge was simple to state but it required significant creativity to meet.

To meet this challenge we started with a clean sheet of paper and relentlessly developed new concepts.  We focused on making the product visually thin as well as functionally thin.  When we felt like we had something we weren’t satisfied with leaving the design on paper, so we began prototyping.  Our philosophy is to prototype early and prototype often.

By building crude prototypes we could weed out ideas that were dead ends and focus on the paths that were most likely to succeed.  We built a series of prototypes that focused on 2 separate areas:  The electrical and tactile performance of the keyboard, and the mechanism for storing and accessing the keyboard from the case.

When we had both of these designs worked out we then brought the project into the CAD software (SolidWorks in this case) and started integrating, designing all the parts, simluating the mechanisms, and building the product around a model of the iPhone 5.  The next prototype was built from these CAD files using some of the latest 3D printing technology.  The layer thickness on these parts was less than .002″, and this gave us parts with the extremely high accuracy we needed to verify our design.

During every phase of the project we were looking ahead to production and anticipating the various limitations that would be inherit in the materials and production processes we were planning to use.  Starting with the very first CAD models we developed a molding strategy and always made sure that the parts we were designing would ultimately be manufacturable.  The 3D printed parts were very close to the finaltooling-ready designs and this gave us the confidence to document our design and release it to manufacturing.

The end result of this process was an incredibly thin case where the keyboard seems to disappearbehind the phone.  The keypad membrane is a conductive silicone material which electrically connects the user’s touch input to the smartphone screen (there are no batteries and no electronics).  The keypad buttons are designed to provide a satisfying tactile “click” feel.  The whole keyboard packages into an assembly that is less than .125″ thin.  The case that houses the keyboard creates a floating look for the product because from most perspectives you can’t see the area housing the keyboard.  The product is also fun to use.  The keyboard effortlessly flips in and out with a flick of the wrist.

The product has been referred to one of our manufacturing management partners in Asia and is currently in the middle of manufacturing start up (as of Q2 2013).  Creative Engineering continues to support our clients through manufacturing by offering vendor liaison services, first part inspection, and other assistance in transition a project from development into mass production.  We offer turn key product development through in-house design, engineering, and project management combined with outsourced electrical, legal, testing, and manufacturing team members.