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Apple has Filed a new Patent for a Foldable Device Hinge

1 coverUpdate: 11:33 pm PST: A secondary foldable device patent added to this report. 

On March 07, 2024 Patently Apple posted an IP report titled "Apple invents Foldable Displays that are Thinned in the Folding Area & Chemically Treated to prevent it from Cracking." That very day Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reported that a hybrid foldable iPad-MacBook was expected to go into mass production in 2027. Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a patent application from Apple that relates to the key feature of a foldable device, the hinge. A second foldable device patent was also published today, an update to a 2016 invention. 

Hinges For Folding Devices

A foldable display device may have housing portions coupled by a hinge. A flexible display may overlap the hinge. The foldable device may be moved between folded and unfolded positions using the hinge.

The hinge may have portions that rotate relative to each other about axes that lie above the hinge to help reduce stress to the display. The hinge may also have synchronization gear plates. The gear plates may have interlocked teeth that synchronize rotational movement between left and right halves of the hinge.

Friction clips may be included in the hinge. The friction clips may be asymmetric friction clips that impose different amounts of rotational friction to portions of the hinge depending on the direction of rotation of the hinge portions.

Apple's FIG. 1 below represents a foldable device which in this patent filling, Apple describes as a cellular phone (iPhone), a computer or other portable electronic device. It's obvious that beyond an iPhone, Apple is going out of their way to be non-specific; FIG. 2 is a side view of a portion of an illustrative electronic device having a hinge with links. According to Apple, the device the display may be folded outwardly and/or inwardly.

As shown in FIG. 2, for example, hinge #30 may have multiple interconnected portions such as hinge links #40 that may be coupled to each other for rotational motion and may extend in a linked series between first and second portions of housing #12. Each pair of adjacent hinge links may be restricted in its amount of overall rotation.

2. Apple Hinge patent

A pair of mating gear plates #62 is shown in patent FIG. 5.above. Gear plates have openings #84 that receive shafts #82, so that the plates can rotate about the shafts. The gear plates have interlocking teeth #86. When one half of housing (#12) is rotated about axis #28, the mating teeth of the plates cause the other half of the housing to rotate in synchronization. Each gear plate also has a crescent-shaped slot #78 that receives guide pins #80.

Apple's patent FIG. 7 above is a side view of the half of hinge #30. Which has symmetrical right and left halves. Right half #30R is shown in FIG. 7 as an example. The hinge also has a symmetrical left half, which is joined with right half 30R along center line CL. During folding and unfolding operations, device 10 and display 14, which overlap centerline CL, fold and unfold about center line CL.

The diagram of FIG. 7 shows how the elements of each half of hinge #30 are used to form a 4-bar mechanism (sometimes referred to as a four-bar linkage or four-bar linkage hinge portion). Each four-bar linkage has four links: LINK1 (sometimes referred to as the ground link), LINK2, LINK3, and LINK4 (sometimes referred to as the housing link) and four pivot points A, B, C, and D.

To review the full details of this invention, check out patent application 20240147644.

(Click on image to Enlarge) 3-foldable-iPad-hybrid-concept

Today, the U.S. Patent Office also published a "continuation patent" for a folding device. It updates a patent dating back to 2016. We briefly covered this patent in 2021.

5. Second-Apple-Patent-folding-device

For more details, review patent 20240143103.  The updates are found in the 20 new patent claims found at the bottom of the patent.

Side Note: Hi guys, Jack here. After 8 days in the hospital for a heart related issue I was discharged late yesterday. It'll take a little time to get back up to speed. Thanks again to those who sent well wishes. It was appreciated. Cheers! / Jack  

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