Come visit our booth in Hall C 8033 at NAB 2019 in Las Vegas.
After expanding its social media presence and in time for NAB 2019, [E³] is launching its revamped website. With streamlined product information and access to context linked product information we hope to offer a better user experience and provide more and more useful information to our visitors and customers. In particular, we are linking product information to our social media presence and vice versa. We will also continuously update the information aligned with all our marketing channel efforts.
As a result of the expanded legal requirements for compliance with EU and US laws, we have created a single source for all our compliance certifications.
Our next step will be the extension of our support department knowledge base to a FAQ section that will be added to our website. We expect this effort to offer our customers quick and efficient access to relevant support information.
[E³] continues to deliver highly specialized command, control and communications panels for military applications. After delivering desktop panels for integration in naval command centers for the Chilean Navy last year, [E³]'s military sales continued in 2019 with a renewed contract for SM6432 switches by the US Air Force and the delivery of custom control panels for a NATO partner.
Roland P. Weimer, managing director of [E³] and president of our US distribution partner, I/O Universal Technologies Inc., explained: "For more than 25 years, we have designed and manufactured control panels for military applications such as naval mission controls, airborne warning systems, UAV guidance & control, flight simulators, surveillance systems and mission critical consoles. This includes COTS systems as well as custom designs. Our control panels support today's war fighters with innovative solutions on an ever more complex battlefield."
The new NAB 2018 setup went so smoothly that we had time to post these two short videos.
Our new trade show display includes the desktop panels CP0304 and CP0604 as well as five rack-mount panels CP1201, CP1203, CP1204 , CP1701 and a custom control panels CP0604-4E. Six of the CP panels are controlled from a single PC. The units demonstrate dynamic menu structures using bitmaps, text and dynamic text, RGB color paletes and distributed control of panels from another panel via CPControl software.
When the Oslo Opera House decided to upgrade their stage control system they turned to [E³] for a custom control panel. The unit interface with the existing hardware via RS232/USB from a single controller.
The stage management desk layout, however, made it necessary to have two separate keypads. Instead of using two separate panels, [E³] designed a custom pnale with 2 keypads, one of which is connected to the main units via a ribbon cable extension. This approach not only simplified the software integration, but reduced the hardware development cost as well.
[E³]'s capability to design, manufacture and deliver small batch production runs sealed the deal.
Partnering with our US distribution partner, I/O Universal Technologies, Inc., we have expanded our social media presence to include Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube to provide more channels for product information and tutorials on the LCD key technology.
Instructional videos and hands-on tutorials will allow us to demonstrate the various product features, provide product support and assist customers in the integration of our intelligent LCD switches in their products.
In cooperation with our US-based distribution partner, I/O Universal Technologies, Inc., we have started our own YouTube channel to bring you more information and tutorials about our LCD key technology. We will be posting examples of what you can do with our switches and control panels and how it is done.
Please SUBSCRIBE to our channel to receive automatic notifications when new content is posted.
Combining a graphical LCD display with RGB-backlighting in a push-button switch has made the SA keys from [E³] the industry leader in intelligent switch design. Their capability to display changing functions in text, graphics or animation on a 64 by 32 pixel matrix with backlighting in over 10,000 calibrated colors had set the new standard for smart switches. But how would they hold up to constant use?
Devlin Electronics, the UK keyboard specialist and our distribution partner, put this question to the test.
The SA switches are used in many commercial and industrial applications, including many 24/7 installations in broadcast centers worldwide. That makes reliable operation over many years as important a requirement as the ease of integration and use.
The new [E³] SA LCD switch was designed to exceed 3 million operations in its working life, three times the life of earlier generation switch technology. To ensure reliability the mechanical design of the switch is completely new, with a tactile dome assembly and four support springs in a structure that provides effective over-travel protection. The purpose of this development was to produce a more flexible and versatile device combining a longer working life with better electronic performance and a more user-responsive switching action. Hard evidence that the switch is capable of meeting its design specification was inevitably going to be of great interest, so Devlin decided to use in-house test facilities to confirm that the published life expectancy is a reliable figure. A life test would also detect mechanical deterioration such as aging of the dome assembly, which frequently leads to early loss of the tactile feel of an otherwise functional switch.
The switching function, the backlight function and the LCD display screen were all to be monitored during the test. An accelerated life test was devised, using Devlin's in-house automated life testing equipment to operate a switch sample installed in a commercially available product.
A test program was devised to run the life test apparatus, monitor the switch contact and change the display of the switch. APC was used to control the test machine through an RS232 port and also to monitor the switching function and control the status of the [E³] keyswitch LCD display. The program monitored the keyswitch contact every time the switch was depressed. It would expect a response from the circuit within 300ms, if this was not received then an error would be logged and the test would continue. The program was therefore able to detect any missed operations.
A sample SA6432 switch was tested in a KSA-026-A2A keyboard developed at Devlin, using design guidelines recommended by [E³]. This setup should therefore be representative of the conditions under which the switch would be used by Devlin customers. The assembled keyboard was mounted on the base-plate of a proprietary keyswitch life test machine which employs air powered actuators to depress the switch. The switching force used was set to be approximately twice the manufacturer's specified switch operation force. Testing, at a rate of 3.4 cycles / second, continued until the total number of operations was approaching 5 million. At this point the operation was terminated and the switch was carefully disassembled to reveal the internal components for examination and photography. The parts that were of most interest were the switch contacts, the carbon impregnated pill, and the silicon dome.
At the end of the test process the switch was still operating, the LED Backlight and the LCD display appeared unaffected. On visual inspection it was clear that there was a minimal amount of debris in the switch and all components were intact. The carbon impregnated pill showed some signs of deformation where it made contact with the switch contacts. Contact resistance was measured as 50 Ohms before and again after the test. This value, effectively unchanged by the number of operations, was well within the original specification.
Measurements of the switch force-displacement characteristics were performed before and after the test. The shapes of the resulting curves were the same, showing the feel of the switch did not deteriorate after almost 5 million operations. A shift in distance of 0.4mm at which resistance is encountered was measured, but considered negligible as it would not be noticed by the user.
The test conclusively proved the durability of the switches. After the test the switch was still in good condition and was continuing to function well. The most important results noted were the contact resistance and the force-displacement curve of the switch after the test. These two parameters remained almost unchanged from their before-test values.
Measurements of the switch force displacement characteristics were performed before and after the test. The shapes of the resulting curves were the same, showing the feel of the switch did not deteriorate after almost 5 million operations. A shift in distance of 0.4mm at which resistance is encountered was measured, but considered negligible, as the user would not notice it.
The SA switches have proven that they are not just intelligent, but tough. The reason for this superior performance lies in their mechanical design. The keycap and switch housing are designed to transfer the force applied by the key press from the top of the switch though the keycap wall to the switch base. When the key is depressed with full force, the bottom of the switch housing will rest flat on the circuit board and, thereby, transfer all excess force to the PCB before the contact element is damaged. This means that even after millions of operations the contact element is not damaged and the mechanical operation is not affected. This design has the additional advantage that the LCD glass remains isolated from the operating force of pressing the key.
It all started in 1978 with an IBM Technical Disclosure Bulletin (Vol. 21 No. 2 July 1978) where S. Bigbie et. al. published their idea about a programmable key/display/switch device. The same year Alan Bagley of Hewlett-Packard patented a calculator with electronically alterable key symbols (US patent 4,078,257) Nice as these ideas were, it proved to be more difficult to come up with a workable switch design that integrated an LCD in a key top and make it work. Many tried and failed.
It took six years until 1984 when Reinhard Engstler, a computer science student in Germany, turned the idea of one of his professors for a programmable LCD keyboard into a fully functioning push-button design with integrated graphic LCD display and incorporated them in a programmable keyboard. The keyboard displayed different special characters for scientific notations.
The first programmable LCD pushbutton switch and the first programmable LCD keyboard were born.
Reinhard Engstler quickly became the Director of Development at LcBloc Computer Technologie GmbH & Co. KG. and oversaw a development department with 10 hardware and software engineers to set up production for programmable LCD pushbuttons and keyboards.
For this development, Reinhard Engstler, together with Dr. Müller, received the Innovation Prize of the Franzis-Verlag for LC Key/Keyboard.
By 1987, Hohe Electronics GmbH & Co. KG had acquired the LCD key technology and Mr. Engstler, as director of R&D, developed the second generation of LCD switches and proprietary control electronics including the integrated ASIC in each LCD switch.
The LC Board EM2.34 programmable keyboard with 34 LCD function keys received the Gold Medal for Best Product at the Leipzig Industrial Fair.
In 1994, Mr. Engstler, together with Mr. Weimer and three partners, participated in a Management Buy-Out to form HE Electronics, Technologie & Systemtechnik GmbH. Mr. Engstler continued in his position as director of R&D while Mr. Weimer oversaw the marketing and sales activities of the LCD key business.
The LCD keyboard development culminated in the design of the TANK (Technically Advanced Network Keyboard) for TTSI. This keyboard combined a PC, Sun and serial interface with expansion modules and could simultaneously control PC, SUN and real-time applications as well as over 700 phone lines for financial services applications on Wall Street.
Mr. Engstler also developed the second generation ASIC for the new Trend series of LCD pushbutton switches as well as numerous customer specific I/O systems.
One of these designs was the T2 keyboard for TTSI with patented software to control any command in any application, bi-directionally and via the internet. This technology was also integrated into the Sybil phone by ISI.
In 1999, Rapid Technology Interfaces Ltd. acquired the LCD key technology from HE Electronics. Mr. Engstler was named General Manager of the RTI Keyswitch Division and Mr. Weimer Director of Sales and Marketing.
In 2001, Messrs. Engstler and Weimer decided to form a new company dedicated to the development of advanced LCD key technology products.
After a year of development
[E³] Engstler Elektronik Entwicklung GmbH began operations in the ZENTEC Technology & Innovation Center specializing in the development of programmable LCD keyswitches and custom I/O systems.
Here are a few highlights of the accomplishments of [E³] since 2003:
What will the future of the LCD Key Technology bring?
[E³] is committed to the continuous development of state-of-the art display switch solutions. At any given time we are working on numerous product improvements as well as technological innovations that allow our customers to incorporate the latest advances in technology to market.
Come visit our booth in Hall C 8033 at NAB 2019 in Las Vegas.
Command Control and Communications panels for the world's most demanding military customers.
[E³] participates at NAB 2018 with new trade show setup
Remote keypad is the solution for stage control upgrade.
[E³] expands its social presence in order to provide up-to-date information on the LCD key technology.
[E³] launches YouTube channel to promote LCD keys and provide tutorials on the LCD key technology.
Devlin Elctronics subjects SA switches to more than 5 million key presses in durability stress test.
While [E³] was founded in 2001, our history and the history of the LCD technology goes back to 1984.