Apple Wins Patent for Advanced Weaving Equipment for Making Future Product Fabrics for MacBooks, Watch Bands & more
Last week Apple was granted a "design patent" for "Fabric." PCMag, Fox News and others took an interest in our report. Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a patent for the specialized equipment that will make both regular and smart fabrics that Apple has other patent filings on. Apple envisions standard and smart fabrics will be incorporated into future products from Apple Watch bands to MacBooks, clothing, smartglasses and beyond.
Devices and Accessories
The range of applications that Apple is considering for use with future fabrics includes both device housings and accessories. Apple lists a wide range of possible applications as follows:
"a laptop computer, a computer monitor containing an embedded computer, a tablet computer, a cellular telephone, a media player, or other handheld or portable electronic device, a smaller device such as a wrist-watch device, a pendant device, a headphone or earpiece device, a device embedded in eyeglasses or other equipment worn on a user's head, or other wearable or miniature device, a television, a computer display that does not contain an embedded computer, a gaming device, a navigation device, automobiles, wrist bands, head bands, sofa cushions and more."
Apple has a series of patents covering smart fabrics for clothing as well which could take advantage of the equipment described in this patent filing.
On October 1st 2018 Patently Apple posted a report titled "HP Takes a Bold Chance on a new Professional Looking Convertible Notebook Wrapped in Gorgeous Rich Leather."
HP may have caught the beginning of a new trend in device housings going forward that offers premium devices and accessories with rich and smart materials.
Apple's newly granted patent clearly illustrates their interest in the future of smart fabrics and more importantly to custom manufacture smart fabrics to their exact specifications and standards.
Next-Gen Fabric Strands
According to Apple, strands in strand-based item (as noted in patent FIG. 1 further below) may form all or part of a housing wall for an electronic device, may form internal structures in an electronic device, or may form other strand-based structures.
Strand-based items may be soft (light touch), may have a rigid feel (e.g., the surface of item 10 may be formed from a stiff fabric), may be coarse, may be smooth, may have ribs or other patterned textures, and/or may be formed as part of a device that has portions formed from non-fabric structures of plastic, metal, glass, crystalline materials, ceramics, or other materials.
The strands may be intertwined using strand intertwining equipment such as weaving equipment, knitting equipment, or braiding equipment. Intertwined strands may, for example, form woven fabric.
Strands may be single-filament strands or may be threads, yarns, or other strands that have been formed by intertwining multiple filaments of material together.
Strands may be formed from polymer, metal, glass, graphite, ceramic, natural fibers such as cotton or bamboo, or other organic and/or inorganic materials and combinations of these materials.
Conductive coatings such as metal coatings may be formed on non-conductive strands (e.g., plastic cores) to make them conductive. Reflective coatings such as metal coatings may be applied to strands to make them reflective.
Strands may also be formed from single-filament metal wire, multifilament wire, or combinations of different materials. Strands may be insulating or conductive. Strands may be conductive along their entire length or may have conductive segments (e.g., metal portions that are exposed by locally removing insulation or that are formed by adding a conductive layer to a portion of a non-conductive strand.).
Apple's patent FIG. 2 below is a side view of illustrative weaving equipment that may be used to form fabric; FIG. 3 is a diagram showing how strands may be processed as the strands are being incorporated into a fabric.
Apple's newly granted patent covers their invention relating to weaving and, more particularly, to equipment for processing strands during weaving.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is a schematic diagram of an illustrative strand-based item; FIG. 6 is a perspective view of illustrative strand rotating equipment for rotating a strand to allow portions of the outer surface of the strand to be exposed to coating equipment or other equipment for processing the strand as the strand is being woven with other strands; and FIG. 13 is a top view of an illustrative woven fabric showing how selectively modified strands may be woven into a fabric to create a desired signal path.
Apple's granted patent was originally filed in Q4 2015 and published today as a granted patent by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
One of the inventors of today's granted patent is Yohji Hamada, Product Designer at Apple. More importantly, Hamada previously worked at Shima Seiki Knitting Machines who happens to have a VR-Knit App on the Apple Store which was just updated yesterday. Will we eventually see a VR-Knit type of app from Apple someday? Only time will tell.