Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that is mainly about polishing and brushing techniques for cylindrical and contoured surfaces of metal body devices. Although the patent filing focuses on the tools behind polishing and brushing new metal devices, the fact is that Apple talks about one particular product that these new tools could be used to finish and it just happens to be an inductive charging station. The fact that Apple's patent claim number 8 also covers tools to create a space for an inductive coil confirms the tools were designed specifically for the creation of their inductive charging station device.
Although Apple's Phil Schiller downplayed such a device back in September 2012, it's clear that the published patent filing was made some three years after his commentary. So in some capacity it's still an ongoing project at Apple. In fact many inductive charging patents are on record after Schiller's commentary as noted in our archives.
Inductive Charging Station
Apple's patent FIG. 24 illustrates an isometric view an embodiment of an enclosure feature 1100 used to enclose several electrical components that define an inductive charging station 1200.
The inductive charging station may be used to provide electrical current to an electronic device by inductive power transmission. In this regard, the inductive charging station may include an inductive coil, or inductive transmitter coil, wrapped around a metal core (iron core, for example) and designed to pair (or inductively couple) with a an inductive coil, or inductive receiver coil, in the electronic device. When the inductive transmitter coil receives an electrical current in the form of an alternating current, the inductive transmitter coil may induce a voltage, via the metal core, in the inductive receiver coil and charge a battery in the electronic device.
Apple notes that "The inductive charging station may include a support surface that receives an electronic device (not shown) to be charged via induction charging free of a wired connection between the inductive charging station and the electronic device to be charged.
In some embodiments, the support surface #1202 is formed from a polymeric material, such as plastic. However, the support surface may be formed from any electromagnetically or radio frequency ("RF") transparent material that allows for an inductive coupling between the inductive charging station and an electronic device.
The support surface may combine with the enclosure feature #1100 to enclose an inductive coil (not shown) wrapped around a metal core (not shown). In this manner, when the inductive charging station #1200 is inductively coupled with an electronic device, the support surface allows an electrical current to flow from the inductive coil and the metal core in the inductive charging station through the support surface, and to an inductive coil (not shown) in the electronic device designed to provide the electrical current to a battery in an electronic device.
The aforementioned inductive coils may be magnetically coupled by, for example, a magnetic attachment disposed in the inductive charging station. However, the enclosure feature may be formed from one or more non-magnetic materials such that the enclosure feature does not alter the magnetic coupling between the inductive coils. Further, the enclosure feature may be an RF-opaque feature that does not allow passing of radio frequencies in the form of electromagnetic waves.
The connector may include a universal serial bus ("USB") connector designed to electrically couple with a power source (not shown). The power source may take the form of a battery disposed in an electronic device such as a laptop.
Apple patent application 20160256931 was filed in Q3 2015. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time. For those wanting to investigate it further could do so here.
While today's patent filing isn't the most exciting or interesting invention on the topic of inductive charging stations, it at least shows us that Apple's engineering team(s) are still at work trying to find a solution that they could bring to market in the future.
Sometimes I wish that Apple would simply deliver a simple wireless charging pad while they continue to find a way to reinvent the world of chargers a decade from now. It still would be better than plugging in devices every day. Their stubbornness in trying to be perfect at everything is really just silly at times.
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