Robert Cox, Sales and Marketing Director at OKW talks to Electronics about some of the cutting-edge developments in enclosure design for handheld electronic devices and how they are taking the user interface to the next-level

The look and feel of a device can be as much a part of creating a winning product as the technology embedded behind the scenes.

Nowadays however to keep up with the fast-paced and often industry-specific nature of medical applications, manufacturers of standard electronic enclosures are changing their product development processes to meet customers’ ever-changing needs, by offering a whole new set of interfaces, to create a novel and engaging experience.

In the past, designing new ranges of enclosures centred purely on detailed consideration of technical requirements. But now successful enclosure companies must take a more visionary approach – considering not just functionality but also how enclosures interact with users – that, which is communicated through touch and feel?

Using this approach, enclosure manufacturer OKW has employed this design technique to surpass existing enclosure solutions. The latest development from the company is a range of asymmetric standard ABS cases.

What is interesting about the company’s new BLOB range is the fact the devices master the concept of ‘teach by touch’ as they are considerably intuitive; allowing users to become quickly familiarised with the workings of the device by its ergonomic nature.

As a result users do not require instructions but automatically master the controls by feel.

Patient care in medical markets

The new enclosures specifically target the rapidly burgeoning medical device market – going beyond just the hospital staff and towards patient care.

Considering the interface with the patient in close regard, the enclosures cater to those who may have acute, chronic and cognitive difficulties that make it hard for them to hold a conventional rectangular housing.

Taking the lead in the concept of ergonomics, each housing is designed to have a curious or odd nature to the design, making the device stand out so that it catches the eye of the user and demands to be picked up, held and tried and tested.

When the devices are picked up, they not only feel comfortable, their very shape guides the user’s fingers towards the controls – so users naturally understand the functionality without the need for instructions.

It has taken three years of development to bring the solution to market having only just recently become available to order.

There are three housings in the range including a small sized product measuring 130 by 60 by 30mm, which is the smallest and most symmetrical and is suitable for left or right handed operational functionality.

A Panel version measuring 200 by 165 by 36mm, can be used with two hands or operated on a desktop.

The third type in the range is the Control option, measuring 114 by 76 by  131mm. This can be held with one hand and operated with the other; different sensory gripping options are available.

All three models are moulded from high-quality ABS (UL 94 HB) and can be sealed to IP 54, while Torx T10 security screws make them tamper-proof.

Cable glands can be fitted anywhere around the edge – increasing their versatility. This is particularly useful for the Control and Panel models, which feature circular recesses, enabling keypads and displays to be rotated into a variety of positions.

A wide range of customisation options are also available across the company’s products, including EMC shielding, silk-screen printing and holes for keypads, connectors, controls and displays.

Robert Cox, Sales and Marketing Director at OKW advises: “The three models are anything but anonymous and yet still manage to be discrete enough not to upstage the products inside. That takes more than skilled design – it takes long hours of trial and error modelling to achieve the best ergonomic form.”

Typical applications include everything from medical and wellness equipment to data recording, communications, safety systems, instruments.