Apple Invents a new MacBook Hinge System to Protect Flex Cables while Providing Liquid Ingress Control
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to hinge assemblies for future MacBooks. More particularly, the invention relates to liquid ingress control features for hinge assemblies.
Apple notes in their patent background that one challenge associated with a hinged electronic device enclosure is securely routing a signal from one housing section to another housing section. Some electronic devices route a signal transfer mechanism, such as a flexible ribbon-like cable, around the hinge mechanism or through a center hole in a clutch assembly of the hinge.
However, these cables must be protected from exposure to users and from over-bending caused by the actuation of the clutch assembly, hinge mechanism, and relative movement of other computer components. As electronic devices get smaller and thinner, the amount of space available for clutch assemblies, hinges and cables is constrained, making it more difficult to provide room for and properly protect the cables.
Additionally, ingress of liquids and debris into those tight spaces increases the chance of failures and a degraded user experience. There is therefore a constant need for improvements to cables and hinge assemblies for electronic devices. Apple's latest invention addresses these issues.
Apple's invention covers invasive material ingress mitigation and control features that are positioned in a hinge of a MacBook that uses a flexible cable and cable cover at a gap between housing and display.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below illustrates a front-facing perspective view of a MacBook; Referring to FIG. 3, when the MacBook (#200) is in an open state, a cover (#222 - e.g., flexible band) can be used to conceal and protect a top side of cable (#210) between the portions #202 and # 204 at an upper opening or gap (#221) between the portions (#202 and # 204) in the hinge region (#201).
The control features could include a foam material or a hydrophobic material on the cover or a cover-facing surface of the device housing, a barrier between the cover and the device housing, channels or protrusions on the cover-facing surface of the top case, a series of different top case surface feature modifications, and a flex cover profile modification that controls and limits contacting surface area between the cover and the top case.
Apple's patent application titled "Liquid Ingress Control for Electronic Devices" is a rather technical filing that could be appreciated by those who own repair shops like iFixit who know the problems some MacBooks have had with tangled cables. Louis Rossman highlighted an issue with the MacBook Pro's flex cable two years ago as presented in the video below. Apple's new patent filing may be addressing this issue.
For technical details, review Apple's patent application 20210064095.
Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.