Yesterday, US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a rather inventive idea of fighting grime on your iOS Devices. We were the first to reveal Apple's initial patent on this subject in August that focused on using a vaporizing method involving a physical vapor deposition chamber. In Apple's latest method, they reveal an alternate method of fighting grime that uses mechanical wave mechanisms that could use audio or physical vibrations. The interesting fact is that Apple has expedited this patent application which was only filed seven months ago. Apple is apparently out to fight grime on all iOS devices in the future, and before you know it, they'll be called the Grime Busters! That's right: Who ya gonna call? Grime Busters!
An Overview: The Problem with Grime on Touch Screen Devices
Electronic devices could include external surfaces that a user could touch. A user's finger could include natural oils, grime, water, or other foreign particles that could be accumulated over time. When the user touches the device, the foreign particles of the user's finger could be deposited on the external surface of the device and may leave marks. In particular, the deposited materials could change the manner in which light is reflected from the external surface, and may prevent a user from properly seeing through some external surfaces (e.g., seeing through a glass component), or limit the aesthetic appeal of the device.
Different approaches have been used to attempt to reduce the number of foreign particles that adhere to an external surface, or to remove foreign particles from the external surface. For example, some external surfaces are formed from a material having properties that prevent the deposition or adhesion of particles to the material, or that reduce the visibility of foreign particles when they adhere to the material (e.g., a plastic material). As another example, passive coatings could be applied to an external surface to prevent the deposition of foreign particles (e.g., an oleophobic coating).
In some cases, however, a material selected for an external surface could be particularly attractive to foreign particles. In particular, a material selected for its aesthetic appeal (e.g., based on industrial design considerations) may also allow a relatively easy adhesion of foreign particles to the material surface. Furthermore, the material selected may have surface properties that prevent the application of a preventive coating on the material. One such material could include, for example, stainless steel. When an external surface of an electronic device is constructed with such materials, passive approaches may not be as easily available to prevent the deposition of foreign particles on the surface.
Apple's Solution: An Active Barrier via Mechanical Waves
Apple's invention relates to an active barrier for use with an electronic device. The active barrier could prevent or reduce the deposition of foreign particles on an external surface of an electronic device, or could assist in the removal of foreign particles adhered to the external surface of the electronic device. In particular, this is directed to disposing wave sources within an electronic device operative to emit waves directed towards a surface of an outer component.
External surfaces of a device could include surfaces of outer components such as, for example, surfaces of enclosures, outer shells, housings, bezels, bands, display components (e.g., cover glass), or other such components. An outer component could be constructed from a material to which a passive barrier or coating preventing the deposition of foreign particles can't be applied. To prevent or reduce the ability of foreign particles from adhering to the external surface and adversely affecting a user's enjoyment of the device, or to remove foreign particles that have adhered to the external surface, a source of mechanical waves could be incorporated within the device, for example near the outer component. The source of mechanical waves could include, for example, a voice coil or a piezo-electric component.
Even Cleans Wet Surfaces
The provided mechanical waves propagate along the surface of the outer component towards the location of a foreign particle to change the characteristics of the surface. This may serve to both prevent foreign particles from adhering to the surface, and to assist in the removal of foreign particles already adhered to the surface. In particular, the mechanical waves could change the characteristics of the surface of the outer component to prevent a foreign particle from wetting the surface. In addition, if the foreign particle has wet the surface (e.g., because no waves were provided when the particle came into contact with the surface), the mechanical waves could cause the wetting angle of the foreign particle to increase by changing the characteristics of the surface, which may facilitate the removal of the foreign particle.
Fine Tuning the Mechanical Wave
In some embodiments, the generated waves could be dynamically adjusted or tuned. For example, a wave could be adjusted based on a location on the outer component of a particular foreign particle. As another example, a wave could be adjusted based on the type of foreign particle, or on the type of bond between the foreign particle and the outer component. As still another example, the wave could be dynamically adjusted to prevent a user from feeling the wave when the user holds the outer component. In particular, the wave could have a particular waveform, amplitude, and frequency in the vicinity of the user's finger or hand, such that the wave is not or only lightly detectable by the user.
Apple states that to assist in the removal of the foreign particles, the wave source could, in some cases, emit a wave for directing foreign particles away from the center of the outer component and towards external boundaries of the device (e.g., towards a periphery of the device).
In some cases, the outer component (or the device as a whole) could include one or more collection regions, or one or more wicks into which foreign particles could collect. When the collection regions fill, a user could empty the collection regions to allow additional foreign particles to be directed toward the collection regions. In some cases, the collection regions or wicks could be disposed such that the act of putting a device in a pocket or bag could be sufficient to empty the region and remove foreign particles adhered to the outer component.
The Grime Fighting Wave to the Rescue!
I say, why not have a little fun in describing the concept of the grime fighting mechanical wave, right? Sure. Below is Apple's patent FIG. 1. The yellow markers illustrate the placement of the mechanical wave mechanisms integrated into an iOS device. The nasty little dirt particle to be removed is noted below in evil red (die-die-die!).
Apple states that these mechanical wave mechanisms could apply to any iOS device but also be extended to Apple's MacBook lineup.
In some cases, Apple states that several wave sources (112) or wave sources (122) could provide waves that propagate towards particle (130) and not just one as noted in the patent figure above. Apple also notes that the audio wave could be designed at a frequency that is outside of a user's hearing range so that the user does not hear an audible sound from the wave source (e.g., an ultrasound wave).
Vibration Wave Source
In some embodiments, a wave can be provided in the form of vibrations of the device. For example, the wave source can cause vibrations in an outer component at a particular frequency or amplitude. Any approach can be used to reduce or eliminate a user's ability to detect the vibrations. For example, the vibrations can be tuned to create displacements along an orientation less detectable by a user's finger.
Apple points out that in some cases, the outer casing of a device could include one or more wicks or reservoirs for receiving and holding foreign particles. The mechanical waves generated by the wave sources could direct foreign particles towards the wicks and/or reservoirs, where the particles may collect and be removed.
The reservoir could be constructed using any suitable approach. In particular, the reservoir may need to be constructed such that it may receive and accumulate foreign particles, but also allow the foreign particles to be removed when the enclosure is cleaned. One approach may be to use micro-perforations to form the reservoir. FIG. 6 is a sectional view of an illustrative reservoir for receiving foreign particles in accordance with some embodiments of the invention. Device 600 could include outer component 610 having reservoir 612. The reservoir could include several micro-perforations 620 disposed within the outer component. The reservoir could include any suitable number of micro-perforations disposed in any suitable manner. Each micro-perforation could have any suitable diameter or size, such as a size that is not visible to a user's naked eye.
Apple's patent application was originally filed in Q2 2011, or seven months ago, by inventor Gordon Cameron.
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Other Noteworthy Patent Applications Published Today
We may list other patent applications here later today.
Notice: Patently Apple presents a detailed summary of patent applications with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application should be read in its entirety for full and accurate details. Revelations found in patent applications shouldn't be interpreted as rumor or fast-tracked according to rumor timetables. Apple's patent applications have provided the Mac community with a clear heads-up on some of Apple's greatest product trends including the iPod, iPhone, iPad, iOS cameras, LED displays, iCloud services for iTunes and more. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.
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