Apple Files Multiple Patents Regarding Manufacturing Processes and Systems, Minor Tweaks and Zero Border Displays
Last week the US Patent & Trademark Office published a series of patent applications from Apple covering some of their manufacturing processes, minor tweaks and more. Our patent report covers more than eight patent applications covering such things as Apple's pressure sensors that may be found in a next generation of their EarPods, display fracture and deformation systems regarding iDevices, a tampering detection system, an iDevice laser texturizing process and much more.
Detecting Tampering of an Electronic Device
One of Apple's inventions published last week generally relates to techniques for detecting the occurrence of consumer abuse in electronic devices.
One of Apple's examples of tampering detection is found in Apple's patent FIG. 1 where we see an elevation view of the inside of the housing of an electronic device, showing an opened chassis with a tamper sensor mechanism. The electronic device may be a desktop computer, a notebook/laptop computer, a personal digital assistant, a tablet computer, a smart phone, or any other consumer electronics device that is likely to be tampered with by an end user or consumer.
To review this patent's details and 17 patent claims, see patent application 20130082721.
System for the Detection of Display Fractures
Apple's patent application is generally about systems, methods, and devices for detecting display panel or other patterned device fractures or microfractures using outer resistive trace(s) on the display panel or the other patterned device.
To provide just one example, a system may include a display and data processing circuitry. The display may include a display panel with an outer resistive trace disposed near edges of the display panel. The display may include discontinuity detection circuitry that can detect the occurrence of a discontinuity of the outer resistive trace. The data processing circuitry may determine whether the display panel is likely to suffer a catastrophic failure based at least in part on the occurrence of the discontinuity. The data processing circuitry may also cause the display to display a user warning when the display panel is likely to suffer the catastrophic failure.
Apple's patent FIG. 27 below is a schematic diagram illustrating a display panel with multiple outer resistive traces patterned on the display panel such that properly grinding each display panel edge involves grinding away a different one of the outer resistive traces.
Apple's patent FIG. 37 is a flowchart describing a method for warning an electronic device user when a microfracture of a display panel indicates eminent display failure.
To review this patent's details and 29 patent claims, see patent application 20130082843
A Process Patent for Accurately Removing Material from a Curved, Cosmetic Surface Such as an iPad
One of Apple's new process centric patent applications relates to refining polishing operations for cosmetic surfaces of a three dimensional object having cosmetic curved surfaces. More particularly, a method and an apparatus are described for accurately removing material from a curved, cosmetic surface of a housing during a polishing operation. In another embodiment an apparatus for scribing optically readable scribe marks into a curved surface of a housing is disclosed.
Apple's patent FIG. 4 noted above illustrates a perspective view of scribing bench. To review this patent's details and 20 patent claims, see patent applications 20130084780 and 20130084779.
Another patent application about a similar manufacturing process is noted in a patent titled Laser Texturizing and Anodization Surface Treatment.
Apple's process patent filing generally relates to a method of treating a metallic surface of an article including the steps of providing an article having a metallic surface; texturizing the surface using a laser to create a controlled pattern across the surface; and anodizing the surface. The controlled pattern may include a series of pits etched in a predetermined repeating pattern across the surface, such as an array of dots or a grid. The controlled pattern may also include a series of pits etched in a predetermined pseudo-random pattern across the surface. For more on this, see patent application 20130081951.
Display Deformation Detection System
Another process patent application from Apple generally relates to a display deformation detection system that detects display deformations based upon changes in resistance and/or capacitance. In one embodiment, a method includes measuring a baseline comprising a baseline resistance or a baseline capacitance or both of a conductive mesh disposed within or overlaid on the display panel.
The method further includes detecting a change in the baseline resistance or the baseline capacitance or both and calculating a change location where the change in the baseline resistance or the baseline capacitance or both occurred. The method also includes calculating a magnitude of the change in the baseline resistance or the baseline capacitance or both.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 is a schematic block diagram of an electronic device with display panel deformation detection system; FIG. 3 is a schematic view of a display deformation detection system, including a conductive mesh; FIG. 4 is a schematic representation of a display panel with a concave deformation; FIG. 5 is a schematic representation of a display panel with a convex deformation.
As a side note, Apple's patent FIG. 1 presents a new "Volume" icon that's interesting. That may be hinting that Apple is considering dropping the iPhone's physical volume buttons in favor of virtual controls. Another form of this idea was presented in last week's patent report revealing a possible future iPhone with wraparound display.
To review this patent's details and 24 patent claims, see patent application 20130082973.
Apple Reveals their Optical System and Method that Mimics Zero Border Displays
The process behind Apple's cool edge-to-edge display appearance that is found on all MacBooks and iDevices is revealed in this latest patent filing.
Technically, the invention is about a system and methods to extending the overall display area for a device. At or near the borders of a device, pixel pitch between adjacent pixels may be increased such that overall pixel placement may be provided closer to a border of a display of a device.
In one embodiment, pixel drive circuitry may be located in the spacing between adjacent pixels. Additionally, various optical systems and techniques may be utilized to provide an appearance of a lack of a border around the display such as decreasing the size of border pixels, overdriving the border pixels, or utilizing a light pipe on a surface above the border pixels.
The impression that is given with mention of "zero border display" is that the minor black border around current displays may be even thinner in the future. To review this patent's details and 20 patent claims, see patent application 20130083080.
Apple Pressure Sensing Earbuds System
A new Apple patent application surfaced this week covering another aspect of Apple's EarPods. In September five EarPod related patents surfaced and in January of this year another one surfaced. This may be a patent concerning a future system or it could be another patent covering the original product. We point out the feature that is in question.
Apple's latest patent filing covers their invention for a "Pressure Sensing Earbuds system" having one or more pressure sensors integrated within a housing of the earbud. Each pressure sensor includes an elastomeric material such as, for example, a quantum tunneling composite and first and second contacts disposed adjacent to the elastomeric material. The first and second contacts form a closed circuit via the elastomeric material when the elastomeric material receives an applied pressure that exceeds a predetermined threshold.
In one embodiment, a headset including at least one earbud and a plurality of pressure sensors integrated in the at least one earbud is provided, where each pressure sensor is operative to provide a signal.
The headset also includes a processor electrically coupled to the headset and is operative to receive signals from the plurality of pressure sensors and determine a size of a user's ear. The headset can adjust a volume profile of audio signals being provided to the at least one earbud based on the determined size. As used herein, a volume profile can refer to the amount by which volume levels are adjusted over a frequency range to optimize sound playback for a particular frequency response.
Adjustment of volume levels may be static or dynamic. For example, in some embodiments a user can manually instruct the processor to optimize volume levels for the user's ear dimensions. In other embodiments, the processor can automatically and continuously adjust volume levels based on signals from the pressure sensors. In some embodiments, the pressure sensors can determine whether the earbuds are properly positioned in a user's ear before the processor adjusts any volume levels.
According to Apple's patent filing, "Pressure Sensors" noted above in patent FIG. 1 as #114, "can be arranged on or in earbud where earbud is likely to come in contact with the user's ear."
Because Apple claims that the pressure sensors could be arranged either as a visible or invisible system, it difficult to ascertain if the current EarPods have incorporated under its shell or if this is technology aimed at a future version of EarPods. Apple's literature doesn't promote this feature using this same terminology, so it further complicates the call as to whether this is currently employed or yet to come.
Other obscure aspects behind the manufacturing process or features integrate into iDevices are presented in patents 20130082908 and 20130083928 which respectively cover Integrated Thermal Spreading and Speaker Temperature Control. And lastly, Apple has filed a minor patent regarding the tweaking of their pedometer feature that's a part of their Nike + iPod application. Patent application 20130085711 discusses improving the accuracy of their pedometer. It's difficult to say if this tweak has been already presented in a software upgrade or whether this will be quietly introduced with Apple's next iPhone and iOS upgrade.
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