Apple's Materials Team have Invented new ways to manufacture future Apple Accessories & Wearable Products
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to items formed from automated assembly equipment and, more particularly, to items such as fabric-based items having pieces of material with holes that are stitched together using stitching equipment with adjustable-shape fixtures. This invention relates to possible future iPhone case, an Apple Watch Band and other wearable related items and products from shirts, to a headset, eyeglasses and more.
Some of the same engineers on this patent have participated in patent relating to smart fabrics for future Apple products. The team is rather large in this patent application listing 14 engineers. Apple is spending a lot of time and money in this area of fabric manufacturing for future products. This category of research is associated with Apple's wearables team.
The use of this fabric can also be associated with other future Apple products such as a MacBook, iPhone, eyeglasses or any headset, an iPad, television, vehicle, a bag, a wallet, pocket, clothing (belt, shirt, pants shoes).
Apple's invention covers an item that may be formed from structures that include holes. The structures that include holes may include layers of fabric, leather, plastic, or other materials. Stitching may be used to form a seam that joins the structures. The stitching may be formed from a chain stitch or other stitch that passes through the holes in each of the structures being joined.
In some arrangements, the layers being joined may be fabric layers such as knit layers. Loops in the knit layers of fabric may form the holes. An electronic device cover may be formed by joining first and second knit layers. The first knit layer may be a rectangular planar knit layer that forms a rear wall of the cover and the second knit layer may be formed from a strip of knit fabric that is bend into a rectangle to forms a rectangular sidewall of the cover.
During fabrication, a layer of material with holes may be placed on an adjustable-shape fixture having a bed of needles. The shape of the adjustable-shape fixture and layer of material may then be changed. For example, computer-controlled positioning equipment may adjust the positions of links supporting the bed of needles in two or three dimensions. After the adjustable-shape fixture has been used to transform the shape of one or more of the structures, the structures may be placed on needles in an assembly fixture and the stitching between the structures may be formed with a computer-controlled stitching head.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 is an exploded perspective view of an illustrative electronic device and a cover for the electronic device; FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional side view of a layer of woven fabric; FIG. 3 is a top view of a layer of knit fabric
Apple's patent FIG. 17 above is a perspective view of an illustrative watch having a band with multiple layers of material of the type that may be joined using equipment of the type shown in FIG. 5 below.
Apple's patent FIG. 5 above is a system diagram of an illustrative system with equipment for forming items with holes linked by stitches.
Apple's patent application 20190344536 that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was filed back in Q1 2019 with some work being done in 2018. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
Some of Apple's Inventors on this Patent
Daniel Podhajny: Product Designer. Podhajny came to Apple via Knit Exploration Innovator – Nike – part of the Flyknit Technology Team
Sofiane Berlat: Sr. Manufacturing Design Engineer
Pete Coxeter: Softgoods Development Engineering Mgr.
Sarah Montplaisir: Manufacturing Architecture Engineering Manager
Yohji Hamada: Product Design
Patrick Perry: Manufacturing Design Engineer
Chad Miller: Product Design Engineer