Apple patent reveals new keyboard mechanisms to make thinner MacBooks

“Future MacBooks could be made even thinner by using a slimmer keyboard, by switching out the butterfly mechanism for one where the keys are positioned much closer to the circuit board, reducing the amount of travel and materials required to register a key press and to actuate,” Malcolm Owen reports for AppleInsider:

The keyboard is also a space-occupying component of a notebook’s design, with the switch mechanism providing an actuation, namely the physical movement of the key to register a press and to reset. In order to allow this to happen, a mechanism has to sit between the key and the circuit board, taking up valuable space that could be used to make the notebook design even thinner, or to provide more battery capacity.

In a patent published by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday titled “Keyboard assemblies having reduced thickness and method of forming keyboard assemblies,” Apple seeks to do just that… Apple proposes the use of “any suitable hinge mechanism,” listing off a V-shaped hinge, scissor hinge, telescoping hinge, and sliding hinge mechanism as examples alongside butterfly.

Apple's patent application illustration of the PCB at the bottom of the stack, with layers for the membrane, switching mechanism, and keycap.
Apple’s patent application illustration of the printed circuit board at the bottom of the stack, with layers for the membrane, switching mechanism, and keycap.

MacDailyNews Take: As long as it’s very reliable and feels like a solid, quality typing experience!

11 Comments

  1. Will they ever stop mucking around with the damn keyboards? Might as well just go straight to glass with no travel and be done with it. The puck won’t be there for another 10-20 years but might as well time-travel forward and be the prime mover.

    You’d think they’d have learned a lesson over the last four years, but nope. Once upon a time they had great keyboards but those days are long gone.

    1. Wrong – I WANT Thinner! I travel more than 200 days a year. I want the lightest MacBook I can get with the biggest screen I can get. Bigger Screens, longer battery, and LIGHT as can be running MacOS (No I can’t do my work on an iPad).

      1. Thin does not always equal lighter. Replace the keyboard with a glass keyboard making it even thinner than this keyboard system, and I guarantee that laptop’s weight will go up.

  2. I just pulled out my 1987 Macintosh Plus (1 Megabyte!). I had forgotten how wonderful those old deep keyboards felt. My 4 your old son thinks it is the coolest thing he has ever felt… Sigh

    I agree with those above. We do not need thinner. Better battery life and heat dissipation are the name of the game.

  3. I personally would prefer more key travel and not necessarily slimmer keyboards. I don’t know where Apple gets the idea that most users want slimmer keyboards. I’m able to type well on almost anything as I’ve been keyboarding for about 45 years on all types of keyboards (starting with manual typewriters) and I’ve always learned to adjust, but even I don’t prefer short-travel key switches. I would also prefer a keyboard that’s robust and dependable rather than low-profile. Apple is basically doing form over function and keyboards should always stay high in functionality with good feedback. Forget the looks when it comes to a keyboard and it’s your main input device. I find it rather disappointing with Apple experimenting with keyboard switches when there are so many time-proven designs available.

    I realize that some people might want lighter laptops but I just don’t think the keyboard should be the area to cut corners in functionality.

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