Apple Wins Smart Fabrics Patent that details Technology that could be applied to Future Over-Ear Headphones, an HMD, Glasses & more
Yesterday the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a patent relating to smart fabrics by forming electrical connections in fabric-based items that could include bags, clothing and be integrated into future products such as: Over-ear headphones, Apple Watch bands, accessory cases, eyeglasses an HMD, automotive seating and more. As for automotive seating, Patently Apple covered this in another patent report back in early July. One of the patent figure images is presented below with smart fabrics highlighted in yellow.
Technically, Apple's granted patent covers an item that may include fabric or other materials formed from intertwined strands of material. The item may include circuitry that produces signals. The strands of material may include non-conductive strands and conductive strands. Strands may be intertwined using weaving equipment, knitting equipment, braiding equipment, or other equipment for intertwining strands of material.
The conductive strands may carry the signals produced by the circuitry. Each conductive strand may have a strand core, a conductive coating on the strand core, and an insulating coating on the conductive coating.
The strand cores may be formed from polymers such as para-aramids and aromatic polyesters (as examples).
The conductive coating may be formed from a metal such as silver or other metals.
The insulating coating may be a relatively thin insulator such as an insulator with a thickness of less than 5 microns or other suitable thickness. Examples of materials that may be used for forming the insulator include polyvinyl formal, polyester-polyimide, polyamide-polyimide, polyamide, polyimide, polyester, polytetrafluoroethylene, polyurethane, and other polymers.
Polymer strand cores may be formed by extrusion, spinning, or other techniques.
Metal coatings for the strand cores may be formed by electrochemical deposition or other metal deposition techniques.
Insulating layers may be formed by applying liquid polymer in a thin layer to the exterior of a strand that has been coated with metal and by applying heat or otherwise curing the liquid polymer. In some arrangements, insulating layers may be formed from non-conductive strands that are wrapped (e.g., braided or twisted) around conductive cores.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is a schematic diagram of an illustrative item that may include strands of material; FIG. 5 is a diagram of illustrative equipment of the type that may be used in forming insulated conductive strands and strand-based items that include insulated conductive strands in accordance with an embodiment.
Apple's patent FIG. 6 below is a perspective view of illustrative insulated conductive strands that may be electrically connected; FIG. 8 is a top view of illustrative conductive strands that may include bond regions where bond pads are electrically connected to the conductive cores of the conductive strands.
Apple's patent FIG. 11 is a flow chart of illustrative steps involved in forming electrical connections with insulated conductive strands; FIG. 12 is a flow chart of illustrative steps involved in forming conductive structures on insulated conductive strands.
For more details, review Apple's granted patent 10,844,524 that was published yesterday by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Two of Five Apple Inventors
David Kindlon: Design Engineer-Special Projects at Apple
Daniel Podhajny: Product Designer; formerly with Nike's R&D team that created Flyknit technology.