Apple began working on various waterproofing methods for iDevices back in 2010 and in 2013 devised a waterproofing nano coating. In March we posted a report covering Apple's most advanced invention on waterproofing to date titled "Apple Invents a Waterproofing Method for Future iDevices using Hydrophobic Conformal Coatings and Silicon Seals." Today, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published yet another waterproofing patent application from Apple that specifically covers a water tight button solution for iDevices.
Apple's Patent Background
Increased demand for continued advancement of electronic devices has motivated improvements in durability, thinness, and portability of electronic devices. Such devices may include apertures in the external housing sized to receive physical buttons. However, as the device is introduced to diverse environmental conditions foreign matter such as dust, lint, condensation, and liquid may penetrate the gap between the button and the housing defined by the size of the aperture. Foreign matter, especially liquids such as water, may undesirably interfere with normal device operation or, in other cases, may irreparably damage internal components. Accordingly, many electronic devices are manufactured with apertures sized to minimize the gap between a physical button and a housing. These devices often include liquid seals such as gaskets about the perimeter of the aperture to prevent and impede ingress of foreign matter. Such liquid seals must be larger than the perimeter opening in order to provide an effective seal.
In addition, liquid seals about the perimeter of the aperture in a housing may be at least partially connected to the movable button cap in order to provide an effective seal through all positions of the button cap. Thus, the larger the perimeter of the button cap, the larger the movable portion of the liquid seal must be. In some examples, large movable portions of liquid seals may be subject to higher failure rates. Further, as a result of the increased size, larger seals may require a button to be positioned a certain minimum distance away from other components of the electronic device. As a result, liquid sealed buttons may not be feasible for particularly thin or compact devices.
Apple Invention: Button Retention, Assembly, and Water Sealing
Apple's patent generally relates to a sealed button assembly, and in particular, to button cap retaining and translation guide features of liquid-impermeable button assemblies.
The sealed button assembly may include a button cap having a flange which may extend outwardly or inwardly. A post may be coupled to the button cap extending downward. The coupling between the post and the button cap may include a tuning shim. The sealed button assembly may also include a housing having a shelf portion extending within internal volume of the housing.
Positioned above and sealed to the shelf may be a retainer having a flange complementary to the flange of the button cap and an aperture positioned to receive the post. The complimentary flange may extend in an opposite direction of the flange of the button cap. For example, if the flange of the button cap extends inwardly, the complementary flange of the button retainer may extend outwardly. The complementary flange may interlock with the flange of the button cap, permitting vertical translation within a defined range. For example, the button retainer flange may impact the flange of the button cap if the button cap is lifted, preventing the button cap from separating from the button retainer. In another example, the button retainer flange may impact the flange of the button cap if the button cap is depressed a select amount, preventing the button cap from translating excess force to components below.
The flanges of the button retainer and the button cap may interlock in an assembly process. For example, the flanges may interlock by positioning the central post of the button cap within the aperture of the button retainer at an angle, such that the longitudinal axis of the button cap is skewed with respect to the longitudinal axis of the button retainer. The button cap may then rotate about an axis defined by the central post and aperture such that the longitudinal axis of the button cap is substantially parallel with the longitudinal axis of the button retainer. In this manner, the respective flanges may interlock.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 is a top down perspective view of an embodiment of a portable electronic device having a water tight button.
Apple's patent FIG. 3A is an exploded perspective view of a portion of a water tight button; FIG. 3B is an exploded perspective view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 3A, with select components of the sealed button positioned to be assembled; FIG. 3C is a perspective view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 3A, showing select components of the sealed button in a first assembly stage: FIG. 3D is a perspective view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 3A, showing select components of the sealed button in a second assembly stage.
Apple credits Colin Ely as the sole inventor of patent application 20150092345 which was originally filed in Q3 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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