An Apple Patent Discovered in Europe introduces us to a Unique Inductive Power Transfer Accessory for AirPower
This morning Patently Apple discovered a couple of patent applications from Apple in Europe. In this first patent report we cover Apple's invention that relates to inductive or wireless power transfer. More particularly, but not exclusively, the present invention is directed to systems for improving inductive power transfer and new accessory devices that supporting it.
Apple begins by noting that in practice, it can be difficult to ensure satisfactory wireless charging efficiency for portable electronic devices that are placed onto a charging mat at different orientations or that have non-planar exterior surfaces. Therefore it may be desirable to provide improved wireless power transmitting devices for wirelessly charging or powering portable electronic devices.
One of Apple's latest inventions cover an inductive power transfer system comprising: an inductive power transmitter having at least one power transmitting coil configured to generate an inductive power transfer (IPT) field; and an IPT director unit moveable with respect to the inductive power transmitter, the IPT director unit comprising a low reluctance element configured to direct the IPT field from the inductive power transmitter to an inductive power receiver having at least one power receiving coil such that the mean direction of the IPT field going into the low reluctance element is substantially different to the mean direction of the IPT field coming out of the low reluctance element.
According to a further embodiment there is provided an inductive power transfer system comprising: an inductive power transmitter having at least one power transmitting coil configured to generate an inductive power transfer (IPT) field; an inductive power receiver having at least one power receiving coil configured to be in a predetermined special relationship to the inductive power transmitter; and an IPT director unit located between the inductive power transmitter and the inductive power receiver comprising a low reluctance element configured to direct the IPT field from the inductive power transmitter to the inductive power receiver, wherein the IPT director unit is rotatable with respect to at least one of the inductive power transmitter and the inductive power receiver.
In the example of Apple's Figure 2, two electronic devices #204 (iPhone) and #206 (Apple Watch) are shown as being powered/charged by charging mat #200.
In order to ensure maximum power transfer efficiency to the Apple Watch, an Inductive Power Transfer (IPT) director such as IPT director unit #208 may be provided. The IPT director unit may function to direct the IPT field of the inductive power transmitter for receipt by the inductive power receiver of the Apple Watch.
The IPT director unit may be moveable with respect to the charging mat #200 (and therefore the inductive power transmitter #2 therein), enabling a user to position the IPT director unit as required. The IPT director unit may be temporarily secured to the charging surface #202 if desired. For example, IPT director unit 206 may be secured using an arrangement of magnets.
In Figure 2, the IPT director unit is depicted as a 'stand' for the Apple Watch. Figure 3 depicts multiple examples of possible configurations of the stand holding or supporting the Apple Watch. The actual configuration, e.g., the exterior shape, dimensions and aspect of IPT director unit is not limited to this however, and may depend on the type of electronic device and inductive power receiver to which power transfer is to be directed.
Apple's patent FIG. 4A illustrates one example of an IPT director units for supporting Apple Watch. As shown, the IPT director unit may have a curved shape that is configured so that a strap/band #210 of the Apple Watch is received over a neck portion #212 of the IPT director unit so as to be supported against a body portion #214. The IPT director unit may include a low reluctance (or high magnetic permeability) element (not shown in Figure 4A) configured to direct the IPT field from the inductive power transmitter of the charging mat (Figures 2 and 3) to the inductive power receiver associated with the Apple Watch.
Apple's patent FIG. 6B shows a vertical cross-section through the IPT director unit. As shown in Figure 6B, the IPT director unit is located adjacent to (e.g., on or over and in contact with) a charging surface #202 above an inductive power transmitter. The IPT director unit includes a housing #606 that encases the low reluctance element #600. The housing may be formed of a moldable material. The form of the housing may, for example, be configured to restrict the movement of low reluctance element inside the housing.
When power is supplied to the inductive power transmitter an IPT field is generated. The field lines of the generated IPT field are shown as dashed lines in Figure 6B. It will be appreciated that, in fact, an IPT field extends infinitely, therefore the field lines in Figure 6B represent, for illustrative purposes, the part of the IPT field that may be used for power transfer.
In the example depicted in Figure 6B, it may be necessary for the wearable electronic device 206 to be positioned so that its receiving coil(s) are properly aligned with the low reluctance element to maximize power transfer.
One possible approach to ensure optimal positioning may be to provide a suitable marking on the IPT director unit to designate the correct orientation, as an example. This is depicted in Figure #2 by a 'flat' facet #215 onto which a 'flat' surface of the Apple Watch will be aligned.
Figures 8A and 8B illustrate another example configuration of the IPT director unit for providing the user with an easy way to correctly position the Apple Watch. In this example configuration, as illustrated in Figure 8B, the flat facet #215 is provided at an angle to base #216 of the IPT director unit and body portion #214 has a seat portion #218 configured to receive an Apple Watch segment having receiving coil(s) therein.
The IPT director unit shown in Figures 8A & 8B may include an electronic indicator #220. In this case, the electronic indicator is an LED, but any combination of audio or visual indicators may be suitable. The electronic indicator is connected to an indicator receiver coil such that when an IPT field is being supplied to the IPT director unit, the electronic indicator indicates that the IPT director unit is ready for use or is activated. For example, the LED may be illuminated to indicate active charging.
Referring to Apple's patent FIGS 10 to 12, an IPT director unit #700 having a frustopyrimidal body located on a charging pad #701 is shown. The IPT director unit includes a suitable low reluctance element that provides four charging zones that coincide with each trapezium surface of the IPT director unit.
According to Apple's European patent application, it was originally filed back in December 2017 and published on June 28, 2018. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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