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Apple Redesigns MagSafe & Invents New Flexible Audio Connector

1. Cover - Apple Patents - Redesigned MagSafe, New Flexible Audio Connector & More
On August 15, 2013, the US Patent & Trademark Office published three patent applications from Apple that reveal new connector related developments. The first invention covers a MagSafe connector design with new "flat attraction plates" for better connectivity and superior aesthetics. The second invention covers a flexible audio connector that could be made with new superelastic materials. And lastly, a third connector related invention reveals a new manufacturing methodology that implements lasers so as to eliminate a lot of manual labor.

Apple Reinvents MagSafe Connectors


Apple's invention relates to improving the MagSafe connector, if not reinventing it. The invention provides arrangements for magnets for connectors that have a high holding strength, are easy to manufacture, and labels that further improve holding power, protect the connectors, and improve connector performance.


Embodiments of the present invention may provide magnetic arrangements having various surface contours. For example, the surface may have a contour that is flat, spline, involute, rounded, or have it may have other contours.


These contours and high-landed forces may provide a connector system where a connector insert may be "blind mated" to a connector receptacle. That is, the connector insert and connector receptacle may be configured such that when the connector insert is brought into close proximity to the connector receptacle in approximately a correct orientation, the magnetic attraction between the connector insert and the connector receptacle is such that the connector insert may be pulled into contact with the connector receptacle. As part of this blind mating, the physical features of the connector insert and the connector receptacle may be such that they pose little or no obstacle to the formation of this connection. This may provide an easy way for a user to make a connection of a cable to a device. Specifically, the user merely brings the connector insert in approximately a correct orientation and into proximity of the connector receptacle. From there, the magnetic attraction between the connector insert and the connector receptacle brings them into contact.


Another illustrative embodiment of the present invention may provide a label for a magnetic connector that may protect magnets in the connector, provide an aesthetically pleasing appearance, and improve the magnetic performance of the connector.


A specific embodiment of the present invention may provide a label that protects magnets in a connector. The connector may be a connector receptacle or connector insert. This label may protect the magnets by providing a more durable surface than brittle magnets would otherwise provide. This better-wearing, more robust surface may protect the magnets from damaging impacts and abrasions. The label may have sufficient thickness to provide adequate protection for the magnets, while not being excessively thick and thereby effectively magnetically isolating the magnets.


Another illustrative embodiment of the present invention may provide a label that provides an aesthetically pleasing appearance. Various embodiments of the present invention may achieve this by hiding the magnets. In various embodiments of the present invention, the labels may have a finish that matches another part of the connector, a device housing for the device that includes the connector, or other desirable finish. For example, illustrative embodiments of the present invention may provide labels having a brushed aluminum-appearing finish, a plastic-appearing finish, or other type of finish.


A New MagSafe Design


Apple's patent FIG. 3 noted below illustrates a connector insert and connector receptacle. The connector receptacle 112 may be located on the housing of an electronic device. Connector receptacle may include one or more magnets or magnetic elements. These magnets or magnetic elements may convey power or signals. Magnets or magnetic elements may be isolated by isolation areas. A label (now shown) may cover one or more magnets or magnetic elements for protection and to increase holding power and reduce stray flux.


2. Apple Reinvents MagSafe Connector Design

The connector insert may include magnets or magnetic elements which may be separated by isolation areas. Magnets or magnetic elements (or attraction plates) may be arranged to mate with magnets or magnetic elements of the receptacle when the insert is mated with receptacle.


Embodiments of the present invention may further improve the performance of these connector systems by providing a magnetically-conductive label. By making some or the entire label magnetically conductive, an air gap between the magnets in the receptacle and the attraction plate in the connector insert may be reduced. This label may thus reduce stray flux when a connection is not made, and may improve the landed force when a connection is made between the insert and the receptacle.


Apple credits John DiFonzo, George Anastas, David Narajowski, Bradley Hamel, Brett Degner and Chris Ligtenberg as the inventors of patent application 20130210244 which was originally filed in Q3 2012.


Apple Designs New Flexible Tip-Ring-Sleeve (TRS) Audio Connector


Another connector related patent filing surfaced today relating to a new flexible audio connector that could be used in place of current standard audio connectors.


A portion or all of the plug connector may comprise a flexible material that allows the connector to bend with respect to an insertion axis and prevent the connector from breaking when inserted or extracted improperly. A method of assembly is provided and may be used for assembling embodiments of the plug connector. The connector is configured to mate with a corresponding receptacle connector along an insertion axis.


3. Apple Patents Flexible Connector

In order to better appreciate the amount of flexibility provided by certain embodiments of the invention, reference is made to Apple's patent FIGS. 6A and 6B noted above. Patent FIGS. 6A and 6B are simplified cross-sectional views that illustrate the deformation or bend that embodiments of the connector will be able to undergo.


Made with New Superelastic Materials


Apple states that the inner conductive member of the connector could be made with a flexible superelastic or similar material. In one embodiment, the inner conductive member could be made from nitinol, which is an alloy of nickel and titanium present in roughly equal amounts that exhibits elasticity some 10-30 times that of ordinary metal.


The superelastic properties of nitinol enable it to flex under very high strain without breaking. Contacts can be made of brass or other metal contacts surrounded by a flexible elastomer so that the sleeve could bend in order to relieve stress when the connector is inserted or extracted off its insertion axis.


Another example, the inner conductive member could also be made from an elastomer, polyurethane or another suitable material in some embodiments.


Apple credits iPhone/iPod Product Development Engineering Manager Albert Golko as the sole inventor of patent application 20130210286 which was originally filed in Q1 2013. To review more of the inventions specifics click here.


Apple Reveals New Simplified Methods of Assembling Connector Inserts


Apple's invention titled "Stepped Termination Block" relates to structures and methods that will simplify the assembly of connector inserts. Apple's patent FIG. 8 shown below illustrates a stepped termination block of a power conductor.


4. Apple Patent - Stepped Termination Block

Apple notes that one of the key advantages to their new method of manufacturing these connectors is that they use lasers for key aspects of construction. Apple's states that "the allocation of labor between laser and hand trimming provides a benefit in that the more numerous and complicated trimming involved with signal conductors are performed mechanically with a laser, while the fewer numbered and simpler power conductor stripping is done by hand. The laser-trimmed conductors are more likely to match accurately than hand-trimmed conductors."


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