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Apple Invents a Force Sensor Spring System designed for Future Foldable Devices like an iPhone or Hybrid iPad-MacBook

1 X cover - Concept of a foldable hybrid tablet-notebook

(Click on image to Enlarge)


Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to next-gen foldable phones, tablets and/or hybrid tablet-notebooks that implement a new force sensing spring layer that supports the folding display.


Apple notes that portability is often a concern for electronic devices, which tends to limit available real estate for displays. The solution is to introduce devices and displays designed to fold in a compact form factor.


Apple's invention covers a foldable housing that may be configured to bend about a bend axis. First and second portions of the housing that rotate relative to each other may be coupled by a hinge that is aligned with the bend axis.


A foldable display may be coupled to the foldable housing and may be configured to bend along the bend axis as the foldable housing is folded. The device may be placed in a closed configuration in which the display is folded for storage and an open configuration in which the display is unfolded and available for displaying images for a user.


The foldable display may have an array of pixels supported by a metal layer. The pixels may be interposed between a display cover layer and the metal layer.


The foldable housing may have a rear housing wall or other support layer. To help support the display for bending about the bend axis while preventing damage to the display when the display is contacted by an external object, a spring layer may be interposed between the metal layer and the support layer.


The spring layer may be formed from an array of springs. The springs may be formed from metal. Different springs may be formed in different areas. For example, a strip-shaped area aligned with the bend axis may have softer springs than other areas.


Sensors may be included in the spring layer. The sensors may be formed from force sensing structures such as strain gauges and may be supported on portions the springs or may be located adjacent to the springs.


If desired, foam posts and other compressible structures may be interspersed with the springs to help adjust the performance of the spring layer.


Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is a schematic diagram of an illustrative electronic device; FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an illustrative electronic device with a display that could fold; FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative display supported by springs; FIG. 7 illustrates a cross-sectional side view of illustrative electronic device display system mounting arrangement.


2 Apple patent figs 1  2  4 & 7 - foldable device + display system


To not give away which spring design that they could employ in their foldable system, Apple lays out a wide array of spring types in patent FIGS. 13 to 21; FIG. 24 illustrates a top view of an array of illustrative springs formed from a sheet of metal; and FIG. 23 is a cross-sectional side view of a spring coupled to a metal layer.


3 Apple patent foldable device variation of spring designs that could be used


For deeper details, review Apple's patent application number 20220077352. Other flexible, foldable device patents from Apple could be found in our archives here. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.


A Few of Apple's Inventors


Yasmin Afsar: Hardware Engineer, Emerging Display Technology

Zhichun Shao: Emerging Display Technologist

Hoon Kim: Hardware Engineering Manager

Paul Drzaic: Senior Manager, Display Technology, now Director of Display Investigations


Side Note: Our cover graphic is illustrating a concept of a very cool future hybrid tablet-notebook device. Of course, the thinness of the device is unlikely to surface for another decade, but it does convey the concept of a possible future iPad-MacBook or Microsoft hybrid Surface device that could make it to market over the next few years.   


10.51FX - Patent Application Bar


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