On May 22, 2014, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a new robotic arm system for testing iPhones. Before devices are sold to customers, extensive wireless tests are performed. Testing allows designers to optimize antenna and wireless transceiver performance. Testing also ensures that regulatory limits on emitted radiation levels are satisfied. As smartphones are now being designed with the capability to operate in a large number of frequency bands and using multiple antennas, conventional testing systems are becoming overburdened leading to potential delays. Apple has designed a new testing system that uses a new robotic arm. And while we're on the topic of multiple antennas, another Apple patent surfacing today reveals a new antenna structure that will combine NFC with Non-NFC communications to the same antenna. With Apple recently signing an e-Wallet deal with China UnionPay requiring NFC, Apple's latest NFC invention may very well be making its way to the iPhone 6.
Apple Invents a Wireless Testing System that incorporates a new Robotic Arm
Apple's invention covers a new wireless testing system. The test system may include a wireless test chamber with metal walls lined with pyramidal absorbers. A trapdoor may be provided in an opening in a chamber wall to accommodate a robotic arm or other robotic systems.
A robotic arm may have grippers that can grip a device under test or that can grip a phantom head or other support structure that is supporting a device under test. The robotic arm may move the device under test to a docking station for automatic battery charging during testing.
When it is desired to perform wireless tests on a device under test, the robotic arm may move a device under test that is outside of the chamber through the trapdoor (See patent Fig. 7 below) into an interior portion of the test chamber. The robotic arm may also move devices under test within the interior of the test chamber to facilitate testing.
Movable support structures such as a turntable and a test antenna positioner may be used to place a device under test in a variety of angular orientations with respect to a test antenna during testing. The robotic arm may periodically flip the device under test or may otherwise adjust the placement of the device under test on the turntable to ensure that the device under test is tested in all desired orientations.
Emitted radiation levels can be measured using a liquid filled phantom and test probe on a robotic arm. The test probe may be moved within the liquid filled phantom while another robotic arm moves a device under test to a variety of different positions with respect to the phantom.
Apple's patent FIG. 7 noted below is a cross-sectional side view of a portion of a wireless test chamber wall in which a trapdoor covered with pyramidal anechoic chamber wall absorbers has been formed to accommodate a robotic arm.
Apple's FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a rotating wireless test chamber turntable on which a device under test is resting on an end surface;FIG. 10 shows a device resting on a side surface and FIG. 11 illustrates the device resting on a rear surface.
And lastly, Apple's patent FIG. 15 is a side view of a wireless test system of the type in which specific absorption rate measurements on a device under test are being made using a robotic arm.
More specifically, patent FIG. 15 is a cross-sectional side view of test chamber #64 in a configuration in which the device under test is being tested for emitted radiation levels (i.e., device under test 10 is being subjected to specific absorption rate tests).
The robotic arm #66 may be used to position the device under test in one or more positions adjacent to phantom head portion #126 of phantom body #122 during testing. Dielectric support structure #128 may serve as a dielectric interface between the device under test and the robotic arm. This may help to ensure that metal structures in the robotic arm will not affect test results.
Apple credits Robert Schlub, Boon Shiu, Chun-Lung Chen, Jonathan Haylock and Hagan O'Conner as the inventors of patent application 20140141726 which was originally filed in Q4 2012. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
A new Apple NFC Related Patent Surfaces
Earlier this month we posted a report titled "Apple Reaches Agreement with China UnionPay for iWallet," that described NFC being used on future iPhones to be compatible with China UnionPay's iWallet system.
While there's been some skepticism over Apple ever using NFC, it's a fact that Apple has many patents on this technology and today a new one has surfaced under patent application number 20140139380.
Apple's filing states that "The "Antenna structures may be formed at opposing ends of an electronic device. The combining of circuitry may allow the near field communications circuitry and the non-near-field communications circuitry to be coupled to common antenna structures."
Apple's patent FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional diagram of an illustrative electronic device showing how antenna signals may be emitted and received from both ends of the device and from both front and rear faces of the device.
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