Motorola Inc. achieved a tricky material balance in extending its FlexPass line of security-card-access readers.
A few years ago, Motorola's Smartcard Solutions Division got feedback from architects asking for designs other than industrial-style black boxes. Most security-card readers control doors in highly visible locations in commercial and office buildings.
Design work on expanding the FlexPass line began in late 1999.
Motorola aimed for a broader market, receptive to form and color enhancements.
"The solution was realized in a unique combination of wall thickness, texturing, colorations and additives," said Scott Orr, director of engineering with the division in San Jose, Calif.
Diametrically opposed criteria challenged designers that were charged with creating the polycarbonate housings.
A bicolor light-emitting diode needed to shine through a window, but the remainder of the reader had to remain opaque to hide internal components.
The design trick was identifying "the fine line between what you see and can't see," said Pierre-Yves Dubois, senior industrial designer in the San Francisco officer of Lunar Design Inc.
Two new designs in three sizes were created with each style, available in shades of onyx, plum, forest and marine.
A two-piece Wave design incorporates a lens through which the LED shines, and an opaque PC body.
The one-piece Curve design was more difficult.
The lens' thickness and texturing varies to achieve the correct transparency, and the remainder has thicker walls to be rugged and provide opaqueness.
Getting a glow to penetrate PC requires use of color additives that are transparent to the wavelength of a red or yellow LED. Additives for each designer color were balanced to assure consistency in LED appearance.
Acorn Product Development of Fremont, Calif., developed a mechanical engineering design that eliminated an assembly operation.
"They wanted to keep cost down but needed security access," said Ken Haven, Acorn chief executive officer.
The Motorola division markets the Wave, Curve and earlier FlexPass systems through access-control-market integrators and dealers.
A user displays a smart card within 6-14 inches of a reader. The card's embedded antenna and transmitter send data to the reader and its controller, and verification permits access.
Other potential uses include production-line monitoring, logistics management and secure ticketing for a museum or ski resort.
The line extensions, which use inductive read-only technology, entered the market in September.
Motorola will exhibit the FlexPass line at the April 4-6 International Security Conference in Las Vegas.