Custom EMC Keyboard for Gas Pressure Control Stations

The Dutch Gasunie distributes natural and green gas in the Netherlands and Germany. Distribution starts at the Pressure Control Stations. Stork Industry Services Groningen has been assigned the task of renovating these Pressure Control Stations. A visit by Mulder-Hardenberg to Stork brought our company into contact with the Gasunie. It emerged from this contact that an industrial built-in keyboard that had to meet a number of specific requirements was being sought for the renovation of the Pressure Control Stations. Mulder-Hardenberg has taken on the task of realising this keyboard.

The Challenge

The keyboard the Gasunie has in mind must possess a number of unique properties. Besides the built-in option, an absolute necessity, the device must also have a TrackBall and the top side must be dust and water-tight. The TrackBall must be removable so that the closed cup in which the ball revolves can be cleaned from above. In addition the Gasunie wants several aspects of this keyboard to be ready for the future. The electro-magnetic compatibility (EMC) must offer protection from radiation from 4G and any other future networks so that the device does not have to be replaced yet again when the next network generation follows. The keyboard must be able to withstand twice the radiation level of 4G before it can be definitively approved.

The Solution

Mulder-Hardenberg has found a solution for each specific requirement. An IP68 foil keyboard with ‘short travel key’ technology has been chosen as the departure point. A 50 mm removable laser TrackBall has been added to the keyboard especially for this application.
The concept of the casing is also unique for the Gasunie. Mulder-Hardenberg has sunk the keyboard and TrackBall combination into an aluminium bearing plate, so that the bearing plate and the outer edge are one unit. Not only does this provide a strong construction and handsome finish, but a separate protective edge is no longer required to finish the sides of the foil. The design guarantees a chink-free and seamless construction on the top, the defense against dust and moisture. In addition this closed construction avoids the potential transfer of radiation.

The Implementation

The requirements have been taken into consideration as much as possible with building in the keyboard.  The electronics under the keyboard have been protected by a metal tray which fits on the bottom of the bearing plate exactly. The connection has been made in such a way that the studs on the underside offer sufficient room to affix nuts. This enables the keyboard to be screwed into the panel on the cabinet. The outer edge has been finished professionally and with care; yes, appearance does matter. All the sharp edges have been removed and the panel looks distinctly attractive and has a brushed finish. Small chinks in the casing have been sealed with copper foil.
Mulder-Hardenberg has applied an EMC seal to electromagnetically protect the keyboard itself. The unit is EMC protected against the radiation from 4G and future networks.

The result

All the requirements have been met. The top of the keyboard can be cleaned safely and easily by the user. Moisture and dirt cannot reach the electronics due to the construction; therefore the system will not be influenced by these external factors. The benefits in respect to maintenance and the continuity of the system go without saying. Moreover the chink-free construction prevents the negative influence of radiation, along with the use of the extra EMC seal on the keyboard. The last phenomenon has been tested by Thales. Successfully.
The success of the application is not without consequences. The Gasunie will provide all the Pressure Control Stations with this solution.


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