For such a young device, HomePod has generated a great number of patents that we've covered over the last year (one, two, three and more). Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to a simple focus: the HomePod's fabric covering. If industrial design is of great interest to you, then today's patent is for you.
In their patent background Apple's engineers listed on this invention note that It could be challenging to form fabric items with the desired look, feel, and functionality. Spacer fabrics are sometimes used for their softness, durability, and breathability, but spacer fabrics are often joined with an unsightly seam that users may find aesthetically unappealing.
Seamless fabrics provide a uniform appearance, but generally do not offer the same protection or cushiony feel of spacer fabrics. Therefore the goal of the invention was to provide improved spacer fabrics for Apple's HomePod to give it an appealing aesthetic.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram of illustrative electronic equipment with fabric; FIG. 2 is a perspective view of illustrative electronic equipment including HomePod with a fabric cover; and FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the HomePod of FIG. 2 showing how a fabric cover may be removed.
Technically, Apple's invention for an appealing fabric cover for their HomePod includes a seamless spacer fabric. Seamless spacer fabric may be used as a protective case or cosmetic cover for an electronic device such as a speaker, may be used to form a band that holds an electronic device against a user's body, or may be used for other types of electronic equipment.
A fabric cover formed with seamless spacer fabric may include a seamless outer layer, a spacer fabric interior layer, and an adhesive layer that bonds the seamless outer layer to the spacer fabric interior layer. The seamless outer layer may be a single-layer tube of fabric.
The spacer fabric interior layer may include first and second fabric layers joined by a spacer layer. The seamless outer layer may provide the fabric cover with a uniform appearance, whereas the spacer fabric may provide the fabric cover with a soft, cushiony feel that also helps protect the electronic device from damage by absorbing mechanical stress.
The fabric cover may have an array of openings that extend uniformly around the perimeter of the fabric cover. The openings may extend through the seamless outer layer, the adhesive layer, and the spacer fabric interior layer. The openings may have a diamond shape or other suitable shape.
The spacer fabric layer may have a seam region where one portion of the spacer fabric is fused or otherwise joined with another portion of the spacer fabric. The outer seamless layer may cover the seam region of the spacer fabric layer to hide the seam region from view.
Like most inventions created by a team of corporate engineers, the goal may be to invent a product or process that could be used beyond its initial purpose. So while the advanced spacer fabric was focused on the cover for the HomePod, it could one day be extended to being used as a fabric cover on a MacBook, be a part of an Apple Watch band, on notebook bags, a head band, fabric for a sofa or chair right through to smartglasses, a television and vehicle seat.
Apple's patent application 20180272644 was originally filed back in Q2 2018. This is now considered a patent fulfilled with it launching with HomePod. For those who love fabrics and materials in industrial design could check out Apple's patent here for more details.
Zebina Masse: Product Development with a background as a soft goods designer over at NASA who was responsible for design and fabrication of embedded sensor garments.
Siddhartha H.: Product Design Engineer (Soft Goods Materials). Beyond the HomePod, he worked on flex hinge textile material used on the MacBook Pro, worked on Apple Watch bands, iPhone cases, the Smart Keyboard and more.
The other engineers include Javier Mendez, Amit Barve, Peter Coxeter, Rimple Bhatiaj, Yohji Hamada and Donald Olmstead.
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