On August 28, 2014, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals an improved method of producing a lightning connector that has a newly defined breaking strength. This new feature will be able to protect the receptacle lightning connector and/or the electronic device from damage when a force is applied to the lightning connector. One of Apple's patent figures specifically presents a new docking station utilizing this new feature.
Apple's patent FIG. 9A noted below is a diagram that illustrates an isometric view of a docking station: FIG. 9B is a simplified side view of the dock.
Apple notes that the applied force (#940 of FIG 9B) may apply a torque force on the lightning connector #900. The body of the lightning connector may be designed to break at a force that is less than the breaking force of tab #990 and/or receptacle connector #975. Thus, by judiciously designing the breaking force of the bond locations, the lightning connector may break before the receptacle connector, saving electronic device like an iPhone from damage.
The newly designed breaking strength that Apple describes in the patent will likely be mated with another patent pending invention of Apple's that will allow the lightning connector in the dock to be flexible as noted below.
Beyond a new docking example, Apple generally notes that their invention relates to attaching internal enclosures to connector bodies having relatively small geometry such that the connector has a designed breaking strength. By way of example, the connector design may be used on data and/or power connectors, such as USB connectors, Firewire connectors, Thunderbolt connectors and the like.
The design enables plug connectors to break at a designed breaking strength before the connector tab and/or the receptacle connector in an electronic device breaks. This design is particularly useful when the plug connector is relatively strong and when it is desirable to protect the electronic device from damage resulting from the plug connector.
Apple credits Albert Golko, Ibuki Kamei, Warren Jones and Paul Thompson as the inventors of patent application 20140242848 which was originally filed in Q1 2013. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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