The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 48 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we cover two granted patents. One covers smart fabrics, and the other covers a possible future digital periodical. In light of Apple News+ introduced yesterday, the granted patent is timely. Could Apple be thinking of marketing a future foldable iPad as a digital periodical device? Only time will tell.
Apple's newly granted patent (#10,241,543) covers their invention relating to digital periodical / newspaper / magazine device using a flexible display that could be folded. Patently Apple covered Apple's first granted patent for this invention back in 2014. You could review the original granted patent report here for more patent figures and depth.
The only differences between the first and second granted patent rests with the "patent claims." The first patent presented 18 patent claims. The second granted patent published to covers on 6 patent claims focused on a "plurality of sensors configured to detect folding of the flexible displays …"
Apple's newly granted patent (#10,244,625) covers their invention relating to conductive strands for forming conductive pathways in fabric-based items.
Apple notes that "It may be desirable to form electrical devices, enclosures, and other items from fabric. The fabric may contain insulating and conductive strands. In some situations, it may be desirable to form signal paths or other conductive structures from the conductive strands."
Apple's patent FIG. 1 above is a schematic diagram of an illustrative item that may include strands of material; FIG. 2 is a diagram of a portion of a fabric with conductive strands; and FIG. 4 is a diagram of illustrative extrusion and coating equipment of the type that may be used in forming conductive strands.
The fabric containing these conductive structures may be used in forming a fabric-based item such as illustrative fabric-based item 10 of FIG. 1. The item may be an electronic device or an accessory for an electronic device such as a laptop computer, a computer monitor containing an embedded computer, or a tablet computer.
Whether this has already been used in Apple's Smart Keyboard folio is unknown but iFixit's tear down Step 4 did state: "Apple encapsulated the entire accessory inside some high tech fabric."
Smart fabric may also one day be found in other future devices or accessories including a headphone or earpiece device, a device embedded in eyeglasses or other equipment worn on a user's head, or other wearable, in an automobile, airplane, or other vehicle, or part of a chair, sofa, or other seating (e.g., cushions or other seating structures) and more.
Technically Speaking, Apple notes that conductive strands may be formed from elongated cores and associated coatings. Strands may also include intermediate layers between the cores and coatings and may include additional layers. The cores, intermediate layers, and coatings may be formed from materials such as polymer without conductive filler, polymer with conductive filler, and metal.
A polymer core may be provided with recesses to help retain subsequently deposited layers such as a metal coating layer. The recesses may be grooves that extend along the longitudinal axis of the core. When a coating is formed on the core, the metal of the coating may extend into the recesses. The recesses may therefore enhance the ability of a core to retain a metal coating. If desired, the bottoms of the recesses may be enlarged to form interlocking features that retain the metal coating.
Extrusion techniques or other fabrication techniques may be used to form elongated polymer cores with longitudinal grooves. Metal coatings may be deposited using electrochemical deposition techniques (e.g., electroless deposition). If desired, additional fabrication techniques may be used in forming layers of material in the conductive strands.
Patently Apple began archiving "Smart Fabrics" patents back in 2017 in order to keep track of Apple's ongoing R&D in this emerging field of technology. You could check out our first 18 patent reports here.
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