Yesterday Patently Apple posted a report titled "Samsung continues to Leak details of their all-new Z Flip Phone launching next week as a new Twitter Video emerged today," wherein we touched on foldable devices coming to market in 2020 from Samsung, Motorola, Microsoft and others. While Patently Apple has a dedicated archive on Apple's work on foldable and flexible display inventions, today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially issued Apple a granted patent for the most detailed foldable device patent to date and one that was never made public under Apple Inc. The patent covers a new idea that Apple describes as "Movable Flaps" that are designed to support the display when the housing is in its unbendable state.
Apple notes that electronic devices often include displays for presenting image to a user. Displays are typically formed from rigid planar substrates. Although satisfactory in many situations, rigid displays such as these may be difficult to integrate into certain devices, such as devices with bendable housings.
Apple's granted patent covers an electronic device that uses a flexible display. The display may be mounted in a foldable housing that can bend about a bend axis. In a first configuration, the display may be supported by the housing and may be held in a planar state.
In a second configuration, portions of the housing may be rotated about the bend axis with respect to each other, so the housing and display are bent.
A hinge mechanism may be used to ensure adequate separation between first and second portions of the housing when the housing is bent. This ensures that the flexible display can maintain a desired minimum bend radius in the vicinity of the bend axis. The hinge mechanism may be based on a rack-and-gear arrangement or other arrangement that maintains the first and second housing portions at a desired distance from each other.
In another arrangement, the housing may have movable flaps that extend parallel to the bend axis. The movable flaps may be placed in a planar configuration to support the display when the housing is in its unbent state.
The movable flaps may be retracted when the housing is placed in its bent state. This creates room for a bent portion of the display along the bend axis.
Apple's patent FIG. 33 below is an exploded perspective view of an illustrative electronic device housing having movable flaps. Flexible displays may contain materials that stretch over time, so it may be desirable to provide device #10 with biasing structures that help maintain display #14 in a planar state whenever housing #12 is unfolded.
Apple's patent FIG. 20 below is a perspective view of structures assembled to form an electronic device hinge; FIG. 21 is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative electronic device having a hinge structure of the type shown in FIG. 20; FIG. 22 is a cross-sectional side view of the electronic device of FIG. 21 in a folded configuration.
Apple's patent FIG. 30 below is a front view of a foldable device in an open position; FIG. 31 is a side view of the hinge structures; FIG. 47 is a front view of an illustrative electronic device.
Apple's granted patent 10,551,880 was originally filed in Q3 2016 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.