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System and method for coupling microcomponents

Imported: 24 Feb '17 | Published: 06 Jan '04

Matthew D. Ellis, George D. Skidmore

USPTO - Utility Patents

Abstract

A system and method which provide a general-purpose snap connector suitable for coupling microcomponents are disclosed. A snap connector is disclosed that is suitable for performing general assembly, including out-of-plane, 3-D assembly of microcomponents, wherein such microcomponents may be securely coupled together. That is, a snap connector is disclosed which enables microcomponents to be coupled in a manner that constrains undesirable movement of the coupled components relative to each other. Preferably, such a snap connector may be pressure fit with a receptacle (or aperture) of a mating component in a manner that constrains translational and rotational degrees of freedom of the mating component relative to the snap connector. A preferred embodiment provides a “preloaded” snap connector that may be utilized to perform general assembly of microcomponents. An alternative embodiments provides a non-preloaded snap connector suitable for performing general assembly of microcomponents. Still a further alternative embodiment provides a “squeeze” snap connector that is suitable for performing general assembly of microcomponents. Such snap connectors may be implemented as an integrated part of a microcomponent, or they may be implemented as separate, stand-alone snap connectors. For example, a dual-ended snap connector is disclosed herein, which may be coupled to a first microcomponent, and then used to couple the first microcomponent to a second microcomponent.

Description

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING

For a more complete understanding of the present invention, and the advantages thereof, reference is now made to the following descriptions taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawing, in which:

FIG. 1A shows an exemplary implementation of a single release preloaded snap connector of a preferred embodiment;

FIG. 1B shows an exemplary implementation of a single release preloaded snap connector of a preferred embodiment that is “preloaded;”

FIG. 2 shows an exemplary mating component that comprises apertures for receiving the single release preloaded snap connector of FIGS. 1A and 1B;

FIG. 3A shows an exemplary implementation of a dual release preloaded snap connector of a preferred embodiment;

FIG. 3B shows an exemplary implementation of a dual release preloaded snap connector of a preferred embodiment that is “preloaded;”

FIG. 4 shows the dual release preloaded snap connector of FIGS. 3A and 3B coupled to a mating component;

FIG. 5 shows a first exemplary implementation of a non-preloaded snap connector of an alternative embodiment;

FIG. 6A shows a second exemplary implementation of a non-preloaded snap connector of an alternative embodiment;

FIG. 6B shows the non-preloaded snap connector of FIG. 6A having extended arms to allow for two or more stacked mating components to be simultaneously coupled;

FIG. 7A shows a first exemplary implementation of a “squeeze connector” of a further alternative embodiment;

FIG. 7B shows a second exemplary implementation of a “squeeze connector” of a further alternative embodiment;

FIG. 8 shows an exemplary implementation of a dual snap connector;

FIGS. 9A and 9B show a prior art snap connector used for in-plane coupling of microcomponents; and

FIGS. 10A and 10B show a prior art microcomponent that comprises three hinged plates and snap locks to enable the microcomponent to be assembled into a hollow triangular beam.

Claims

1. A connector for coupling at least two microcomponents, comprising:

2. The connector of claim 1 wherein said connector has a size less than approximately two hundred microns by two hundred microns.

3. The connector of claim 1 wherein said connector is capable of engaging said at least a first microcomponent in a manner that further constrains rotational freedom of said at least a first microcomponent relative to said connector.

4. The connector of claim 1 further comprising:

5. The connector of claim 1 wherein said at least one engagement member includes a barbed end.

6. The connector of claim 5 wherein said barbed end includes a retaining surface for engaging the underside of said receptacle when said connector is coupled with said at least a first microcomponent.

7. The connector of claim 1 further comprising:

8. The connector of claim 1 wherein said position for a desired coupling is a position that enables said at least one engagement member to penetrate said receptacle without contacting the edges of said receptacle.

9. The connector of claim 1 wherein said position for a desired coupling is a position that enables said at least one engagement member to penetrate said receptacle with a minimal insertion force applied.

10. The connector of claim 9 wherein said insertion force is a near-zero insertion force.

11. The connector of claim 1 further comprising:

12. The connector of claim 11 wherein said at least one release mechanism is arranged to release said at least one engagement member as said at least one engagement member penetrates said receptacle of said at least a first microcomponent.

13. The connector of claim 12 wherein upon said release mechanism releasing said at least one engagement member, said at least one engagement member applies a force against said receptacle.

14. The connector of claim 13 further comprising two of said release mechanisms.

15. An apparatus for performing general assembly of two or more microcomponents, said apparatus comprising:

16. The apparatus of claim 15 wherein said apparatus has a size of approximately one hundred microns by one hundred microns.

17. The apparatus of claim 15 wherein said apparatus is capable of engaging said at least a first microcomponent in a manner that further constrains rotational freedom of said at least a first microcomponent relative to said apparatus.

18. The apparatus of claim 15 further comprising:

19. The apparatus of claim 15 wherein said at least one engagement member includes a barbed end.

20. The apparatus of claim 19 wherein said barbed end includes a retaining surface for engaging the underside of said receptacle when said apparatus is coupled with said at least a first microcomponent.

21. The apparatus of claim 15 further comprising:

22. The apparatus of claim 15 wherein said position for a desired coupling is a position that enables said at least one engagement member to penetrate said receptacle without contacting the edges of said receptacle.

23. The apparatus of claim 15 wherein said position for a desired coupling is a position that enables said at least one engagement member to penetrate said receptacle with a minimal insertion force applied.

24. The apparatus of claim 15 further comprising:

25. The apparatus of claim 24 wherein said at least one release mechanism is arranged to release said at least one engagement member as said at least one engagement member penetrates said receptacle of said at least a first microcomponent.

26. The apparatus of claim 25 wherein upon said release mechanism releasing said at least one engagement member, said at least one engagement member applies a force against said receptacle.

27. The apparatus of claim 24 further comprising two of said release mechanisms.

28. A microcomponent comprising:

29. The microcomponent of claim 28 wherein said microcomponent has a size no greater than approximately one centimeter by one centimeter.

30. The microcomponent of claim 28 wherein said connector has a size no greater than approximately two hundred microns by two hundred microns.

31. The microcomponent of claim 28 wherein said connector is a snap connector.

32. The microcomponent of claim 28 wherein said connector is a squeeze connector.

33. The microcomponent of claim 28 wherein said connector is capable of engaging said at least one other microcomponent in a manner that further constrains rotational freedom of said at least one other microcomponent relative to said connector.

34. The microcomponent of claim 28 wherein said connector further comprises at least one engagement member for penetrating a receptacle of at least a first microcomponent to couple said connector to said at least one other microcomponent.

35. The microcomponent of claim 34 wherein said connector further comprises at least one handle for aiding in positioning a gripper as said gripper applies a force against said at least one engagement member.

36. The microcomponent of claim 34 wherein said at least one engagement member includes a barbed end.

37. The microcomponent of claim 36 wherein said barbed end includes a retaining surface for engaging the underside of said receptacle when said connector is coupled with said at least one other microcomponent.

38. The microcomponent of claim 28 wherein said position for a desired coupling is a position that enables said at least one engagement member to penetrate said receptacle without contacting the edges of said receptacle.

39. The microcomponent of claim 28 wherein said position for a desired coupling is a position that enables said at least one engagement member to penetrate said receptacle with a minimal insertion force applied.

40. The microcomponent of claim 28 further comprising:

41. The microcomponent of claim 40 wherein said at least one release mechanism is arranged to release said at least one engagement member as said at least one engagement member penetrates said receptacle of said at least one other microcomponent.

42. The microcomponent of claim 41 wherein upon said release mechanism releasing said at least one engagement member, said at least one engagement member applies a force against said receptacle.

43. The microcomponent of claim 28 further comprising:

44. An apparatus for coupling microcomponents, comprising:

45. The apparatus of claim 44 wherein said apparatus has a size no greater than approximately two hundred microns by two hundred microns.

46. The apparatus of claim 44 wherein said position for desired coupling is a position that enables said at least one engagement member to penetrate a receptacle of said at least a first microcomponent without contacting the edges of said receptacle.

47. The apparatus of claim 44 wherein said position for a desired coupling is a position that enables said at least one engagement member to penetrate a receptacle of said at least a first microcomponent with a minimal insertion force applied.

48. The apparatus of claim 44 wherein said apparatus is capable of engaging said at least a first microcomponent in a manner that constrains three degrees of translational freedom of said at least a first microcomponent relative to said apparatus.

49. The apparatus of claim 44 wherein said apparatus constrains rotational freedom of said at least a first microcomponent relative to said apparatus.

50. The apparatus of claim 44 wherein said at least one engagement member includes a barbed end.

51. The apparatus of claim 50 wherein said barbed end includes a retaining surface for engaging the underside of a receptacle of said at least a first microcomponent when said apparatus is coupled with said at least a first microcomponent.

52. The apparatus of claim 44 further comprising:

53. The apparatus of claim 44 wherein said at least one release mechanism is arranged to release said at least one engagement member as said at least one engagement member penetrates a receptacle of said at least a first microcomponent.

54. The apparatus of claim 53 wherein upon said release mechanism releasing said at least one engagement member, said at least one engagement member applies a force against said receptacle.

55. The apparatus of claim 44 further comprising two of said release mechanisms.

56. A connector for coupling two microcomponents, comprising:

57. The connector of claim 56 wherein said connector has a size of approximately one hundred microns by one hundred microns.

58. The connector of claim 56 wherein said connector is capable of engaging said at least a first microcomponent in a manner that constrains rotational freedom of said at least a first microcomponent relative to said connector.

59. The connector of claim 56 further comprising:

60. The connector of claim 56 wherein said position for a desired coupling is a position that enables said engagement members to penetrate said receptacle without contacting the edges of said receptacle.

61. The connector of claim 60 wherein said position for a desired coupling is a position that enables said engagement members to penetrate said receptacle with a minimal insertion force applied.

62. The connector of claim 56 further comprising:

63. The connector of claim 62 wherein said at least one release mechanism is arranged to release said engagement members from said latch mechanism as said engagement members penetrate said receptacle of said at least a first microcomponent.

64. The connector of claim 63 wherein upon said release mechanism releasing said engagement members, said engagement members apply a force against said receptacle.

65. An apparatus for coupling and decoupling microcomponents, comprising:

66. The apparatus of claim 65 wherein said apparatus has a size of approximately one hundred microns by one hundred microns.

67. The apparatus of claim 65 having a size no greater than one millimeter by one millimeter.

68. The apparatus of claim 65 wherein said apparatus engages said at least a first microcomponent in a manner that constrains rotational freedom of said at least a first microcomponent relative to said apparatus.

69. The apparatus of claim 65 wherein said apparatus comprises at least one spring biased to cause said at least one engagement member to apply a force against said receptacle of said at least a first microcomponent when said apparatus is coupled thereto to pressure fit said at least one engagement member with said receptacle.

70. The connector of claim 1 wherein said at least one latch mechanism is not reliant on a coupling to a substrate for latching said at least one engagement member.

71. The connector of claim 11 wherein said at least one release mechanism is not reliant on a coupling to a substrate for releasing said at least one engagement member.

72. The apparatus of claim 15 wherein said at least one latch mechanism is not reliant on a coupling to a substrate for latching said at least one engagement member.

73. The apparatus of claim 24 wherein said at least one release mechanism is not reliant on a coupling to a substrate for releasing said at least one engagement member.

74. The microcomponent of claim 28 wherein said at least one latch mechanism is not reliant on a coupling to a substrate for latching said at least one engagement member.

75. The microcomponent of claim 40 wherein said at least one release mechanism is not reliant on a coupling to a substrate for releasing said at least one engagement member.

76. The apparatus of claim 44 wherein said at least one release mechanism is not reliant on a coupling to a substrate for releasing said at least one engagement member.

77. The apparatus of claim 48 wherein said manner that constrains three degrees of translational freedom of said at least a first microcomponent relative to said apparatus does not rely solely on frictional forces for constraining any one of said three degrees of translational freedom.

78. The connector of claim 56 wherein said connector engages said at least a first microcomponent in a direction of each of said three degrees of translational freedom.

79. The connector of claim 56 wherein said engagement member engages said receptacle to constrain said at least a first microcomponent in at least two degrees of translational freedom, and said constraining surface and said barbed ends engage said at least a first microcomponent to constrain a third degree of translational freedom of said at least a first microcomponent.

80. The connector of claim 56 wherein said connector engages said at least a first microcomponent in three directions that are each substantially orthogonal to one another.

81. The connector of claim 56 wherein said at least one latch mechanism is not reliant on a coupling to a substrate for latching said engagement members.

82. The connector of claim 56 wherein said connector is not anchored to a substrate on which it was fabricated.

83. The connector of claim 56 wherein said connector is not anchored to a substrate.

84. The connector of claim 62 wherein said at least one release mechanism is not reliant on a coupling to a substrate for releasing said engagement members.

85. The apparatus of claim 65 wherein said apparatus is not anchored to a substrate on which it was fabricated.

86. The apparatus of claim 65 wherein said apparatus is not anchored to a substrate.

87. A connector that is not anchored to a substrate on which said connector was fabricated, said connector capable of coupling with at least a first microcomponent in a manner that constrains at least three degrees of translational freedom of said at least a first microcomponent relative to said connector, and said connector comprising:

88. The connector of claim 87 wherein said connector is not anchored to any substrate.

89. The connector of claim 81 wherein said at least a first microcomponent is anchored to a substrate.

90. The connector of claim 87 wherein said connector does not rely solely on frictional forces for constraining any one of said at least three degrees of translational freedom.

91. The connector of claim 87 further comprising:

92. A system comprising:

93. The system of claim 92 wherein said micro-connector is not anchored to a substrate on which it was fabricated.

94. The system of claim 92 wherein said micro-connector is not anchored to a substrate.

95. The system of claim 92 wherein said at least one latch mechanism is not reliant on a coupling to a substrate for latching said at least one engagement member.

96. The system of claim 92 further comprising:

97. The system of claim 92 wherein said at least one microcomponent has a size no greater than one centimeter by one centimeter.