On November 11, 2011, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals one of the next chapters for Apple's mini media players such as the iPod shuffle and iPod nano. Apple's proposal is to add a speaker to the media players attachment clip. Apple points out how they may use a space age material in the design of the speaker that was once used in NASA's Apollo lunar module. I guess that Apple wants to give their fans a unique out-of-this-world experience. Oh those Crazy Ones of Cupertino are at it again.
About Apple's Speaker Clip
Apple is thinking that a speaker clip for the iPod shuffle and nano would be a natural evolutionary step for their media players. Being that most of us are aware of these mini media players, we'll just jump right into the details of Apple's proposed speaker clip.
The Recessed Region
One of the key patent figures in the first group illustrated below is that of FIG. 4. The clip 102 of figure 2 may be milled to remove material in order to create a recessed region 148. The recessed region may generally have a size and shape that is at least the size and shape of an acoustical member that is to be installed within the attachment member. The recessed region may also have a size and shape designed to affect the sound outputted by the acoustical device.
For example, the size of the recessed region may influence a frequency response of the recessed region. Additionally, indentations holes or other features may be provided within the recessed region to direct reflections of sound waves, or increase the movement of air within the recessed region or the amount of air moved within the recessed region, for example. Within the recessed region there may be one or more guide/support structures.
The guide/support structures may be configured to help orient the acoustical device within the aperture when assembling the media player. Additionally, guide/support structures help to align the acoustical element and provide a bonding area to attach a cover to the attachment member with an adhesive. In some embodiments, the guide/support structures are integral to the attachment member.
About the Speaker
The acoustical device may be any suitable acoustical device. In one embodiment, the acoustical member is a piezoelectric speaker, as illustrated in FIG. 4. The illustrated piezoelectric speaker 160 includes an electrical conduit 162 that may couple the speaker with components in the main housing. The electrical conduit may be any suitable electrically conductive member such as a coaxial cable, flex microstrip (as shown), fine gage wire, or the like. The electrical conduit may flex and bend to move with the attachment member and may pass through or alongside the hinge block 120 and into the main housing of the media player. .
One or more additional layers may be provided over the piezoelectric speaker to secure the speaker in place, protect the speaker, and/or to provide aesthetics.
The Mesh Layer
The cover layer 172 provides rigid support and protection for the piezoelectric element while allowing sound to pass therethrough. In some embodiments, the cover layer may have a solid surface to seal the cavity from the environment. In other embodiments, the cover layer may include a plurality of perforations so as to not block sound. Additionally, in the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 4, the cover layer may be configured to hold a mesh layer 173 having perforations 175 to allow for sound to pass therethrough. The mesh layer generally is thinner than the cover layer and may have smaller perforations than those in the cover.
The smaller holes still allow for sound to pass through but limit dust and moisture intrusion. The mesh layer may be made from materials different from those of the cover. For example, the mesh layer may include materials such as fabric woven from plastic, metal, or natural fibers.
The New Attachment Clip May use a Kapton Film Layer
Apple's patent FIG. 5 illustrates a cross-sectional view of the attachment clip 102 along line AA in FIG. 1 above. The total thickness of the attachment clip may be approximately 1.33 mm thick or less (e.g., approximately 1.15 mm thick). An outer wall of the attachment clip may be less than 0.5 mm at its thinnest point (e.g., approximately 0.35 mm where the piezoelectric speaker is positioned).
In some embodiments, the thin layer 180 may be an approximately 0.05 mm Kapton film layer that is only in a few small spots such as under the electrical attachment point. Kapton is a polyimide film developed by DuPont which could remain stable in a wide range of temperatures, from -273 to +400 °C (-459 - 752 °F / 0 – 673 K). Kapton is used in, among other things, flexible printed circuits (flexible electronics) and thermal micrometeoroid garments, the outside layer of space suits. Kapton was used extensively in the Apollo program. It was used as thermal insulation on the Lunar Module. You know Apple; they just love to give their consumers an out-of-this-world experience – ha!
In some embodiments, the cover plate 172 may have a particular shape to provide specific acoustical effects. For example, the cover plate may have a domed feature 174, as illustrated in FIG. 6 below, or other geometric shape. The domed feature may be used to increase the volume of air that may be displaced by the diaphragm of the speaker and/or may also provide for improved frequency response at lower frequencies. Other geometric shaped may be used to direct the sound output from the speaker and/or amplify the sound. For example, the cover may have a horn or fan shape that would help to amplify the volume of the sound.
In some embodiments, an interior surface of the recessed portion 148 of the attachment member 102 and/or the interior surface of the cover layer 172 may be dimpled, as shown in FIG. 7. The dimpling may be configured to provide increased air space without sacrificing the structural integrity of the surfaces. As such, the dimples may have a depth, diameter and spacing that preserves the strength of the surfaces. In some embodiments, the dimples may be arranged randomly while in other embodiments, the dimples may be arranged in a grid pattern or other pattern that may be determined to provide an improved sound quality.
Apple's patent FIG. 8 illustrates an exploded view of the attachment member in accordance with an alternative embodiment.
Obviously there are times when you want to hear your music while you're walking but need to be aware of your surroundings for safety reasons. Apple's solution will provide that option that parents may appreciate for their kids.
Apple's patent application was originally filed in Q2 2010 by inventors John Filson, Eugene Whang and Matthew Rohrbach.
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