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Apple Reveals Third Waterproofing Patent this Month & Ejectable iDevice Corner Shock Absorbers that Float

10.4 - Patent Application


Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published two patent applications from Apple that cover waterproofing and ejectable iDevice corners that are designed to protect a device by deploying prior to hitting a surface during a dropping incident. These shock absorbers also double as part of a floating system so that iDevices that fall into a body of water won't sink. Apple also describes a second system for waterproofing audio components today. Apple describes inflating a moisture resistant material in an iDevice by inputting pressurized gas into a first chamber of the audio component that could create a seal.


Apple's Patent Background


Because users are in possession of these devices in many environments, they are sometimes dropped or otherwise exposed to shock events involving rapid acceleration or deceleration. In addition, these devices may sometimes be exposed to elements such as water and may even be dropped into water environments such as a lake, ocean, or even a bathtub or sink within the home.


By subjecting the portable electronic devices to shock and environmental conditions such as those described above, users risk damage to the electronics in these devices and/or damage to the housing containing these electronics. Such damage can result in poor or no performance of the portable electronic device and/or diminution of the aesthetic appeal of the exterior of such devices. In a situation where the portable electronic device is dropped into water, the user may face a risk not only of irreparably damaging the device due to water ingress, but also of losing the device altogether as these devices will sink, and, depending upon the depth and clarity of the water, the portable electronic device may become unrecoverable.


Apple Invents iDevice Corner Shock Absorbers


Apple's invention relates to improved housing for portable electronic devices to protect them in the event of an unexpected shock due to having been dropped by a user or in the event of having been dropped into a water environment.


The improved housing includes shock absorbers which may be deployed to protect the device and the housing from damage due to an unexpected acceleration such as from having been dropped. In one embodiment, the shock absorbers are deployed from one or more corners of the devices in order to absorb the shock from the fall.


In one embodiment, the shock absorbers on the portable electronic device are contained within the housing and only deployed when rapid acceleration is detected by an accelerometer within the portable electronic device indicating that the movement being experienced by the device is inadvertent due to a drop or other unforeseen event. The shock absorbers may be retractable such that, after deploying in the event of a drop, they may be retracted by a user into the housing and may be later deployed again if necessary. In another embodiment, the shock absorbers may include replaceable pads if the pads have deteriorated due to age or have become worn and less aesthetically pleasing to the user. In the event of a water landing, the user may decide to replace the pads for hygienic or other reasons.


Making an iDevice Floatable in Water


In another embodiment, the shock absorbers may include buoyant material which permits the portable electronic device to float in the event that it is dropped or otherwise exposed to a water environment. By enabling the device to float, this may permit the user time to retrieve the device from the water environment and prevent damage. In addition, by enabling the device to float, it is prevented from sinking to the bottom of a lake, ocean or other turbid waters where retrieval may be problematic.



Apple's patent FIG. 2 noted above shows a front perspective view of a smart phone in accordance with one embodiment, including shock absorbers in a retracted position; FIG. 3 shows a front perspective view of a smart phone including corner shock absorbers in a deployed position; and FIG. 8 shows a user dropping a smartphone and shock absorbers deployed with bumper cushions extended, with an expanded view of the smartphone that is not to scale.


Patent Credits


Apple patent application 20150331456 was originally filed in Q2 2014. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.


A Secondary Waterproofing Invention


Beyond the idea of making the iPhone floatable in water, Apple has filed yet another patent application regarding the waterproofing of iDevice components marking their third such invention in the last 30 days.


Apple's invention relates to waterproofing iDevices. According to Apple, the electronic device includes at least the following: a housing that defines an internal volume accessible by an opening, where the opening is substantially smaller than the internal volume; a component disposed within the internal volume; and a moisture barrier that includes an expandable membrane that in an initial state has a size compatible with the opening and is processed into a final state that substantially conforms to interior surfaces of the internal volume and provides a vibration buffer to components disposed within the internal volume.


Another aspect of the electronic device includes at least the following: a housing, that includes a first compartment accessible by way of an opening in the housing, and a second compartment accessible from the opening by way of the first compartment; an operational component disposed within the second compartment; and a moisture resistant membrane disposed within the second compartment and coupled with an exterior surface of the first compartment, the moisture resistant membrane preventing moisture from the first compartment from contacting the operational component.


A shape of the moisture resistant membrane is established by filling the moisture resistant membrane with a pressurized inflating medium until the moisture resistant membrane substantially conforms with the operational component and interior surfaces of the second compartment. Subsequent to the filling the moisture resistant membrane undergoes a curing operation that stiffens the walls of the moisture resistant membrane, thereby fixing a shape and size of the moisture resistant membrane within the second compartment.


Apple's invention also covers a method for dynamically forming a speaker volume within a portable computing device. The method includes at least the following steps: assembling substantially all components within the portable computing device housing; coupling a moisture resistant material to an exterior surface of a first compartment of the portable computing device, where an audio component is disposed within the first compartment, and the moisture resistant material and first compartment cooperate to form a vapor-tight seal that prevents moisture from passing between the first compartment and a second compartment that encloses a moisture sensitive operational component; inflating the moisture resistant material by inputting pressurized gas into the first compartment until the moisture resistant material expands to fill a substantial portion of unused space in the second compartment; and curing the moisture resistant material until it hardens to form a fixed size back volume of air for the audio component.



Apple's patent FIGS. 3A-3B show how a dynamically formed acoustic volume can prevent moisture entering an electronic device as vapor from damaging moisture sensitive components disposed within the electronic device; FIG. 6 shows a flow chart representing a method for assembling an electronic device having a dynamically formed acoustic volume.


Apple's waterproofing patent application 20150334479 was originally filed in Q2 2014. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.


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