Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to a possible next generation lightning connector that will be able to expand once connected to an iDevice such as an iPhone to create a liquid-tight seal.
As electronic devices become more indispensable to their operators they are used in increasingly harsh environments and are likely to be exposed to moisture or debris that may result in liquid or debris ingression into the connectors and/or the electronic device. This may result in damage within the connector and possibly damage to circuitry within the electronic device. Protection of the electronic device and/or accessories from such environmental damage can enable new applications for the electronic device and/or accessories.
Apple's invention pertains to electrical connectors that have one or more gaskets or seals configured to impede moisture from penetrating the connector and/or electronic devices. Various embodiments relate to a seal positioned on the connector plug and/or within an electronic device such that a liquid-tight seal is formed when the connector plug is mated with the electronic device.
In one example, a deformable peripheral seal is positioned between the receiving opening and the plurality of electrical contacts and the deformable peripheral seal has an aperture aligned with the receiving opening wherein the aperture is smaller than the receiving opening.
Apple's patent FIG. 12A, an isometric view of plug connector #1215 is shown having first surface #1220 and second opposing surface #1225 that are tapered and formed from a deformable material configured to form a seal to a receptacle connector of an electronic device.
Apple's patent FIG. 12B illustrates a cross-sectional view of a plug connector installed in a receptacle connector of an electronic device. The first surface and second surface form a liquid-tight seal to a receptacle connector cavity #1230 of electronic device #1235 as they are inserted within the cavity. In some embodiments the plug connector may include an internal frame #1240 formed from a metal or other rigid material so the plug connector can retain its shape and hold plurality of contacts #1260(1) . . . #1260(8) in place so they may make contact with receptacle contacts #1245. The plug connector may have a contact region #1265 that may retain plurality of electrical contacts in a dielectric frame. While this particular embodiment has eight electrical contacts, other embodiments may have more or less electrical contacts.
In other embodiments (not illustrated in FIGS. 12A and 12B) a front portion of tab #1290 may have an enlarged "bulbous" cross-section and may be made from a deformable seal material such that it forms a liquid-tight seal towards an end of the cavity. In a further embodiment an entire, or a large portion of body #1255 can be made from a deformable material, such as the seal material disclosed herein, and can form a liquid-tight seal to the electronic device. More specifically, in one embodiment the body may be coated with a deformable material.
Apple's patent application was filed back in Q1 2017. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
Patently Apple presents a detailed summary of patent applications with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application should be read in its entirety for full and accurate details. About Making Comments on our Site: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit any comments. Those using abusive language or negative behavior will result in being blacklisted on Disqus.