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Apple invents new iPhone Metal Support Structure to keep both Key Components and body Frame cooler to the Touch

1 Cover - Apple invents new metal support structure for iPhone


Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to cladded metal structures for iDevices. More particularly, Apple describes a (future) support structure that includes a core and cladded metal structures for dissipating thermal energy generated by operational components of an iPhone or other portable electronic devices. One of the side benefits is making the frame of the iPhone cooler to the touch when the device is generating heat.


Apple notes that due to the small cavity of a device like an iPhone and the types of materials utilized in the enclosure (e.g., glass, ceramic, etc.) an excessive amount of heat could build and lead to premature failure of certain operational components.


Coincidentally, a rumor surfacing in China today points to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (who mysteriously has a different name in China) stating that Apple's 2020 5G iPhones will introduce an updated frame and casing that will cost Apple significantly more to manufacture.


Today's patent may actually shed some light on the subject as to why Apple is considering using cladded metal structures. 5G iPhones may generate more heat and so the timing of this invention to market could be interesting. 


Apple's invention describes various embodiments that relate generally to cladded metal structures for portable electronic devices. More particularly, the described embodiments relate to a support structure that includes a core and cladded metal structures for dissipating thermal energy generated by operational components of a portable electronic device.


Recent technological advances have enabled portable electronic device manufacturers to fit a large combination of different operational components (e.g., processor, antenna, sensor, etc.) within a single enclosure, these portable electronic devices are often subject to over-heating due to the large amount of heat that is generated by each of these operational components.


Further problematic, the over-heating of these portable electronic devices can often be perceived by a user. For example, heat generated by these operational components is absorbed by the sides of the enclosure where a user's fingers are placed to support the portable electronic device. Furthermore, enclosures that include metals to function as heat sinks may also be undesirable in that these enclosures are capable of generating an excessive amount of heat during operation that is unpleasant to the user's touch.


Further complicating matters is that conventional portable electronic devices include enclosures or housings that are formed of materials that are relatively ineffective thermal conductors, such as glass or ceramic.


Indeed, many conventional portable electronic devices carry operational components such as wireless charging coils for inductive charging. In order for the wireless charging coils to receive an electromagnetic field, the amount of metal included within the enclosure should be minimized. However, non-metal materials such as glass or relatively inefficient at dissipating thermal energy away from the operational component.


To cure the described deficiencies, the systems and techniques described in Apples patent application relate to support structures for carrying these operational components.


In particular, the support structures include a thermally conductive core and a set of rails that are formed of a material that has a lower rate of thermal conductivity than the thermally conductive core. In this manner, the thermal energy generated by the operational component is drawn away by the thermally conductive core without being absorbed by the sides of the enclosure.


Beneficially, user discomfort due to over-heating within the portable electronic device is prevented and/or minimized.


Apple's patent FIGS. 1A and 1B below illustrate various views of portable electronic devices that include a support structure having cladded metal structures.


2 new iphone metal support structure


Apple's patent FIGS. 6A to 6D below illustrate support structures having cladded metal structures; FIG. 7 illustrates a flowchart for forming a support structure for a portable electronic device that includes cladded metal structures.


3 - Apple patent figs. 6a-d + 7 thermal


More specifically, Apple's patent FIGS. 6A-6B illustrate an embodiment of an iPhone #600-A that includes a support structure #602-A. The support structure includes a set of rails #630 having a curved shape. The set of rails are joined to metal bands #640, where the metal bands are joined to sides of the iPhone #104-A.


As in FIG. 6B, the support structure includes a thermally conductive core #610. The thermally conductive core is capable of drawing thermal energy (Tq) away from the operational component #120. The thermally conductive core is laterally bound by a set of rails that are characterized as having a thermal rate of conductivity that is less than the thermally conductive core.


The set of rails concentrate the dissipation of the thermal energy (Tq) more heavily about a midline of the thermally conductive core relative to peripheral edges of the thermally conductive core.


In some examples, the dissipation of the thermal energy (Tq) is generally balanced relative to the set of rails. As illustrated in FIG. 6B, the curved shape orientation of the set of rails can define the direction and/or shape of thermal energy (Tq) from the operational component #120 by the thermally conductive core.


In some examples, the set of rails function as a thermal barrier that prevents the thermal energy (Tq) from being absorbed by the sides and bottom of the iPhone's enclosure. Instead the thermally conductive core functions as a thermal bridge when surrounded by the set of rails.


Apple's patent application 20190380224 that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was filed back in May 2019. A part of this patent application was established in June 2018.


Some of Apple's Inventors


Art Counts: Sr. Materials & Process Engineer

Abhijeet Misra: Senior Manager, Product Design Materials

Jim Yurko: Director, Materials Engineering


10.51FX - Patent Application Bar


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