FlexKeys: Rapidly Customizable 3D Printed Tactile Input Devices with No Assembly Required

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Ben GreenspanEric GalloAndreea Danielescu

Abstract: Physical input devices serve as a tactile interface between users and computing systems. These devices are often complex assemblies that consist of both electrical and mechanical components making customization difficult and out of reach for non-engineers. While these components can now be 3D printed on demand, they must still be independently designed and assembled. We present FlexKeys, an approach in which devices that include both electrical and deformable components can be created in a single print on a multi-material 3D printer, requiring no assembly. Designers can customize devices including the input type, travel distance and layout of keys, textures of surfaces, and route all electrical signals directly to a microcontroller socket. In many instances, these devices require no support material, producing a functional device the moment a print finishes. We demonstrate this approach by creating a customized keyboard and report on validation measurements of individual input keys as well as highlighting additional designs. This work provides the first step towards lowering the barrier to entry for non-engineers to design custom tactile inputs, enabling occupational and physical therapists, clinicians, and educators to design and create devices directly based on their assessments of individual user needs.

Keywords: Human-centered computing, 3D-printed interaction, personal fabrication, 3D-printed electronics, inclusive design

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1001587

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