There have been rumors of an improved fingerprint sensor in the works for the iPhone 6 and perhaps the next versions of the iPad of late. The rumors hinted that Apple's next batch of fingerprint sensors would be more durable than the Touch ID home button on current iPhones. Today, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple titled "Finger Sensor including Encapsulating Layer over Sensing Area and related Methods" that may very well support the latest rumors. According to the patent filing, the improved biometric sensor could advantageously have the ability to reduce packaging while providing mechanical robustness.
When Apple acquired Authentec and their body of patents it was to help bring Touch ID fingerprint authentication to the iPhone. Not every aspect of their technology could have been used in the first iteration of Touch ID. Today's patent may cover another layer of technology for Touch ID or it may just explain more about the current implementation of Apple's Touch ID.
The patent's inventors reveal that this is an Authentec patent that has now been assigned to Apple.
The patent relates to the field of electronics, and, more particularly, to the field of finger sensors including finger sensing integrated circuits, and associated manufacturing methods.
Features and advantages in accordance with the present invention are provided by a fingerprint sensor that may comprise a substrate, and a finger sensing IC on the substrate and comprising a finger sensing area on an upper surface thereof for sensing an adjacent finger. The fingerprint sensor may also include an encapsulating material on the finger sensing IC and covering the finger sensing area, and a bezel adjacent the finger sensing area and on an uppermost surface of the encapsulating layer. Advantageously, the fingerprint sensor may have reduced packaging and mechanical robustness.
More specifically, the encapsulating material may comprise a body portion covering the finger sensing area, and a flange portion extending from the periphery of the body portion, the bezel being on the flange portion. Outer surfaces of the bezel may be completely exposed, and the finger sensing area may be completely covered by the encapsulating material.
In some embodiments, the encapsulating layer provides a hermetic seal with the substrate, thereby adding extra protection to the finger sensor from contaminants and also providing mechanical damage protection (or mechanical robustness).
Apple's patent FIG. 5 noted below is a cross-sectional view of the finger sensor of FIG. 3 noted above.
For more details, see Apple's patent application 20140205161
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