Microsoft Invents a New Hinge System for Foldable Devices that uses an Encased Liquid to reduce Stress on the Display
Earlier this month, Patently Apple posted a report titled "Wintel is Developing Foldable Notebook & Device Standards for Hardware OEMs, Paving the way for a new wave of Products." Microsoft has been working on all kinds of hinges for future foldable devices. In 2019 beginning with the report noted above, we've covered three additional hinge-related reports (01, 02 and 03). The filings weren't filed under Microsoft Corporation but rather "Microsoft Technology Licensing, LLC," something that we pointed out in our June 29th report (#03 above) prior to the revelation that "Wintel" was working on hardware standards for foldable devices.
The latest Microsoft Technology Licensing patent application covers a new hinge system design or concept that incorporates a fluid filled deformable member that is designed to avoid imparting stresses on the flexible display during rotation.
The Focus of today's patent report is solely on the part of Microsoft's patent application that reveals a new hinge concept beginning with patent FIGS. 9A-10C.
As noted in the patent figures above, we're able to see the key deformable member 124B positioned between the flexible display (#1128) and the bridge structures (#204B) of the hinge assembly (#1068).
A flexible cover (#902) is positioned opposite the flexible display. The flexible cover can cosmetically cover the hinge assembly (#106B) and prevent foreign materials from entering the hinge assembly/device (which was a problem with Samsung initial Galaxy Fold units earlier this year).
In this implementation the deformable member includes a cavity defining element (#904). The cavity defining element can define one or more cavities (#906) that can contain a fluid #908.
The cavity defining element can be any type of flexible material, such as various polymers, that is impermeable to fluids (seals fluids within the cavity). The fluid can be any type of gas or liquid. In the illustrated implementation, the fluid is a semi-viscous fluid that moves slowly within the cavity at operating temperatures of the device. For example, the fluid could be an oil, such as a vegetable oil, among other fluids.
As shown in FIG. 9A, the deformable member can support the flexible display (#112B) in the 180-degree orientation so that the flexible display has a generally uniform feel (e.g., area over hinge assembly feels the same as areas over the first and second portions).
Microsoft's patent FIG. 9B shows movement of the fluid that can allow the deformable member to assume a shape that accommodates the flexible display in other orientations, such as this 100-degree orientation.
Microsoft's patent FIGS. 10A-10C above show views of the flexible display and the deformable member in the zero-degree (e.g., closed) orientation. The fluid filled deformable member can deform so that the flexible display can maintain a minimum bend radius R that will not damage the deformable member.
Another example (not shown) can include the hinge assembly that can define a 360-degree range of rotation between the first portion and the second portion, and wherein the pathway is relatively shorter at a zero-degree orientation than at a 360-degree orientation.
Individual elements of the hinge assemblies can be made from various materials, such as metals, plastics, foams, polymers, and/or composites. These materials can be prepared in various ways, such as in the form of sheet metals, die cast metals, machined metals, 3D printed materials, molded or 3D printed plastics, and/or molded or 3D printed composites, among others, or any combination of these (and/or other) materials and/or preparations can be employed.
Although the hinge is primarily designed to support a foldable device such a smartphone or mini-tablet, Microsoft doesn't want the hinge system to be boxed into a single device. So they include the following message: "The present hinge assembly concepts can be utilized with any type of device, such as but not limited to notebook computers, smart phones, wearable smart devices, tablets, and/or other types of existing, developing, and/or yet to be developed devices."
Microsoft's patent that was published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this month, was filed in February 2019. As with all patent applications, timing to market is a complete unknown, especially for new concepts.