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Apple Patent describes equipment designed to integrate electrical components and sensors into Fabrics for future HMDs, Vehicles, Clothing+

1 cover Smart Fabrics


Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to devices that integrate electrical components into fabric securely for future Head Mounted Devices, headbands, vehicles, smart furniture, smart clothing, a MacBook and more. Apple's patent also covers the interlacing equipment needed to insert electrical components securely into fabrics.  


Apple's invention covers interlacing equipment that may create a gap between first and second fabric portions during interlacing operations. The gap may be a void between fabric portions or the gap may be a position or location between fabric portions. An insertion tool may insert an electrical component into the gap, and the electrical component may be electrically coupled to conductive strands in the gap. Interlacing operations may be uninterrupted during the insertion process, if desired. Following insertion and attachment of the electrical component, interlacing operations may continue and the electrical component may be enclosed in the fabric.


In some arrangements, the gap between the first and second fabric portions may remain in place after the electrical component is enclosed in the fabric. In other arrangements, the first and second fabric portions may be pulled together such that the gap is eliminated after the electrical component is enclosed in the gap. The fabric may have a bulge where the electrical component is located, or the fabric may not have a bulge where the electrical component is located (e.g., the fabric may have substantially uniform thickness across locations with electrical components and locations without electrical components, if desired).


An electrical component that is mounted to the fabric may include an electrical device mounted to a substrate and encapsulated by a protective structure. An interconnect structure such as a metal via or printed circuit layers may pass through an opening in the protective structure and may be used to couple a conductive strand to a contact pad on the substrate. The protective structure may be transparent or may include an opening so that light can be detected by or emitted from an optical device on the substrate. The protective structure may be formed using a molding tool that provides the protective structure with grooves or may be molded around a hollow conductive structure to create grooves. An electrical component mounted to the fabric may be embedded within printed circuit layers.


Apple's patent 4 below is a diagram illustrating how interlacing equipment may be used to create fabric while an insertion tool is used to insert one or more electrical components into the fabric.




Apple's patent FIG. 8 above is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative electrical component having recesses for receiving strands.


What kind of Discrete Electrical Components could be Integrated in fabric?


According to Apple, resistors, capacitors, and inductors, may include connectors, may include batteries, may include input-output devices such as switches, buttons, light-emitting components such as light-emitting diodes, audio components such as microphones and speakers, vibrators (e.g., piezoelectric actuators that can vibrate), solenoids, electromechanical actuators, motors, and other electromechanical devices, microelectromechanical systems (MEMs) devices, pressure sensors, light detectors, proximity sensors (light-based proximity sensors, capacitive proximity sensors, etc.), force sensors (e.g., piezoelectric force sensors), strain gauges, moisture sensors, temperature sensors, accelerometers, gyroscopes, compasses, magnetic sensors (e.g., Hall effect sensors and magnetoresistance sensors such as giant magnetoresistance sensors), touch sensors, and other sensors, components that form displays, touch sensor arrays (e.g., arrays of capacitive touch sensor electrodes to form a touch sensor that detects touch events in two dimensions), and other input-output devices, energy storage devices, electrical components that form control circuitry such as non-volatile and volatile memory, microprocessors, application-specific integrated circuits, system-on-chip devices, baseband processors, wired and wireless communications circuitry, and other integrated circuits.


For more details, review Apple's patent application 20210337671. This becomes Apple's 40th smart fabric patent to date. You could review the other smart fabric patents in our specialty archive here.


Apple Inventors


Benjamin Grena: Hardware Design Engineer

David Kindlon: Design Engineer-Special Projects

Bilal Mohamed: Technical Specialist

Lupo Pierpaolo: Process Development Engineer

Kim Kyusang, Renjan Kishore and Vadeentavida Manoj (noted as from Singapore – no LinkedIn info available) 


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