Two Apple Watch Inventions cover the use of new materials such as Liquid Metal & Polymers + Advancing Audio
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published two patent applications from Apple that relate to Apple Watch. The first covers Apple considering the use of liquid metal (amorphous glass) for a higher-end material and a variety of polymers for lowering the cost on lower end Apple Watches. The polymers could be used in forming a strong weave finish as noted in our cover graphic in the internal volume area. The second Apple Watch invention covers the attempt to advance audio in Apple Watch for voice and music playback without the use of AirPods.
Apple notes early on that a housing for a portable electronic device can have a combination of properties, such as strength, appearance, toughness, abrasion resistance, electromagnetic shielding, and cost, in order for the device to function as desired. Certain materials can provide a desired level of performance with respect to some properties, but not others.
For example, a metal housing can be strong and tough, but can provide varying levels of electromagnetic shielding. A plastic housing can be electromagnetically transparent, but can have lower levels of strength, toughness, and abrasion resistance. Ceramic materials can be stronger than plastic, but can be more expensive to form and machine.
One aspect of Apple's invention relates to a housing of electronic devices such as Apple Watch, the iPhone or iPad that could include a substrate having a shape partially defining an internal volume of the electronic device and including ceramic fibers arranged in a weave pattern.
The weave pattern can be embedded in a matrix material. Additionally, an overmold material can at least partially surround the substrate. An operational component, such as an antenna, can be integrated into the overmold material.
The antenna can be a cellular antenna. The substrate can amplify a signal transmitted or received by the operational component, such as an antenna. The ceramic fibers can include zirconia or alumina. The matrix material can include a thermoset polymer, thermoplastic polymer, or combinations thereof. The overmold material can include a polymer. The weave pattern can be a fabric weave pattern. The weave pattern can be a satin weave pattern.
Apple's patent FIG. 4A below illustrates the inside of possible future Apple Watch backside cover constructed with a new material. An overmold material #231 can at least partially surround the substrate #232. The overmold material #231 can be any moldable material that is capable of being overmolded at least partially around the substrate #232.
In some examples, the overmold material can be a metallic material, an amorphous material such as glass, a polymeric material, or other appropriate material. An amorphous material such as glass translates to being "Liquid Metal."
Apple notes that the overmold material can provide a pleasing look and/or feel to the surface of the device. The overmold material can also serve to enhance the durability or toughness of the backside of Apple Watch. For example, the overmold material can serve to absorb shocks and impacts during use to prevent or reduce cracking or chipping of the substrate #232.
As you can see in both the example of the backside of Apple Watch and an iPhone (and iPad not shown) the construction is a formed pattern or weave.
in some cases, the pattern can be a plain weave, a twill weave, a satin weave, a jacquard weave, a unidirectional pattern, a tri-axial pattern, or any other pattern. In some examples, the matrix material can be any thermoset polymer, thermoplastic polymer, or combinations thereof. The matrix material can include metallic material, amorphous materials such as glass, polymeric materials, and/or combinations thereof. The matrix material can also be substantially transparent to electromagnetic signals.
Apple's patent covers both higher end material such as liquid metal and lower cost polymers. One advantage for using polymers could be to save on costs for entry level iDevices. It could theoretically be considered for a future version of the iPhone 9 (or SE2) for example.
Apple's patent application 20200096948 that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was filed back in Q3 2018. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
Inventors: Ely; Colin M.; (Sunnyvale, CA); Slabaugh; Scott W.; (Gilroy, CA)
New Apple Watch Audio, Haptics & Force Sensing
Apple's second patent application 20200097086 covering Apple Watch, Apple focuses on advancing audio, haptics and force sensing.
Apple notes that wearable electronic devices such as Apple Watch could have very small form factors that can limit the size of a speaker. For this reason, audio output is sometimes limited entirely to headphones (AirPods) or wireless connections to other devices with larger speakers.
This can be problematic when the device is used for voice applications or music playback. One solution to this problem is to apply vibratory motion to a device housing component to produce audio waves or augment audio waves being produced by a low power dedicated audio transducer.
Applying vibratory motion to a housing component having a large and relatively flat exterior surface such as a display assembly can result in generating audio waves with increased volume and/or quality when compared to a much small speaker assembly that fits within a device housing of the small form factor portable electronic device.
In addition to generating acoustic output, piezoelectric actuators can also be operative as force sensors. When a user applies a force to the display assembly a portion of this force is then transferred to the piezoelectric actuators. Forces received by piezoelectric actuators are converted to voltages, which can then be used as sensor inputs to characterize an amount of force received from a user input.
Inventors: Bushnell; Tyler S.; (Mountain View, CA) ; Crosby; Justin D.; (Cupertino, CA) ; Truong; Kevin; (Markham, CA) ; Vitt; Nikolas T.; (Sunnyvale, CA) ; Corona; Daniel; (Austin, TX)