In late January Patently Apple reported that production of Apple' iPhone 5 at Hon Hai had begun to utilize a robotic workforce. Hon Hai is aiming to have more than a million robots on their production line over the next few years covering everything from precision work right down to finishing work like polishing. Today, the US Patent and Trademark Office revealed Apple's patent application for an invention relating to a robotic arm designed for the finishing process of products such as the iPhone. Today's patent report closes by presenting you with a wide range of other patent filings that were published today covering such matters as the MagSafe 2 connector and Apple's Internal LCD display testing methodology.
Apple Invents Robotic Arm Finishing System
Apple states that precise surface finishing of metals using operations like sanding, grinding, polishing, buffing often requires the application of a repeatable force. The use of the repeatable force ensures that material removal and resulting surface finish is consistent across a variety of geometries. For example, the use of repeatable force can be quite useful when finishing surfaces have sharp geometries, such as around corners, protruding surfaces and features, and so forth. Conventional approaches to applying a repeatable force in various finishing operation include systems designed to use compliant mechanisms in a support structure of a surface finishing machine that to helps to ensure a more uniform application of force. These compliant mechanisms include for example: foams, coil springs, and air cylinders. However, only systems that incorporate air cylinders (when configured with a proper regulator and bleed valve) are capable of providing a constant force over their travel albeit with limitations.
Thus, in view of above, methods, apparatus and materials are desirable that facilitate the application of constant force in the finishing of work pieces having a variety of shapes.
Apple's invention, broadly speaking, describes methods, apparatus and materials for finishing a workpiece having surface features using a constant force.
Apple's patent FIG. 4 below illustrates a representative finishing system that uses a robotic arm to position and move a workpiece such as an iPhone.
Apple's invention relates to the use of a constant force device (CFD) acting as a compliant mechanism arranged to apply a constant force during a finishing operation carried out by surface finishing equipment, in one embodiment, the CFD can take the form of a device having constant-force magnetic springs. Particular examples of constant force magnetic springs are magnetic springs referred to as MagSpring, manufactured by NTI AG of Spreitenbach, Switzerland.
Apple credits Brian Demers, Subject Matter Expert of Manufacturing Design, as the sole inventor of this patent application originally filed in Q3 2011.
Some of Apple's Other Patent Filings
In May 2012 Apple was granted a camera patent that utilized the same patent figures that are found in today's patent application relating to a camera having a continuous image capture.
Other patents cover matters as: Apple's internal LCD Display testing system; methods and apparatus for providing holes through the housing of handheld iDevices dating back to 2007; mechanism for controlling iDevice operations dating back to 2007.
A Word about Continuation Patents
It should be noted that the US Patent and Trademark Office did in fact publish a series of older continuation patents today dating back to between 2007 and 2009. The continuation patents listed below are specifically referenced as such under the section titled "Cross-Reference to Related Applications." Generally speaking, this type of patent application contains modifications that Apple's legal team have made to the original patent claims in an effort to have the US Patent Office finally approve their invention. In general continuation patents don't represent any new developments from the original patent filing. Some websites mistakenly report on continuation patents as if they were new Apple filings to which they are not. Here are the older continuation patents that were published today by the US Patent Office:
1. 2007 Patent titled "Mouse with Improved Input Mechanisms using Touch Sensors." (It's about the old Mighty Mouse)
2. 2007 Patent titled "Method and Apparatus for Managing Image-Processing Operations"
3. 2009 Patent titled "Thermal Management Techniques in an Electronic Device"
4. 2009 Patent titled "Prefetch Unit"
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. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.
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