Apple wins a Hinge System Patent that was used in the new iPad Pro Keyboard's Floating Design & Future Notebook
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 66 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we cover Apple's patent that relates to a bending structure in an electronic device that is compliant, adjustable and provides variable applied stiffness. This patent also appears to have been the inspiration for Apple's new iPad Pro Magic Keyboard that offers a seemingly floating platform that holds the iPad in place.
Apple has a few patents about bendable and foldable devices beyond foldable iPhones, such as a folding iPad and next-gen type of notebook cover/encasement that Apple called a "living hinge." Today's granted patent, which was never published as a patent application under "Apple," is titled "Planar hinge assembly."
Apple's granted invention describes various embodiments related to an adjustable bending structure in a portable electronic device. Specifically, the adjustable bending structure includes a stack of layers that can transition from an uncompressed state to a compressed state.
Stiffness modulator technology can be used to create a bending structure that allows a user to switch from a non-composite state where layers are capable of moving relative to each other to a composite state where there is reduced slippage between layers in.
For instance, the design that Apple presents in patent FIG. 4A and 4B below is likely behind Apple's new iPad Pro Magic Keyboard with its floating form factor.
Apple's patent FIG. 2A shows a cross sectional view of the stiffness modulator according to the first embodiment in a compressed state; FIG. 2B shows a magnified cross-sectional view of the layers in the stiffness modulator of FIG. 2A; FIG. 3A shows a stiffness modulator according to a second embodiment in a laptop-computing device; FIG. 3B shows a cross sectional view A-A of the laptop-computing device of FIG. 3A.
In the big picture, Apple's patent relates to "an electronic device, such as a mobile communication device that takes the form of a laptop-computing device, a smart phone cover or a tablet computer device."
The electronic device can include several enhancements and modifications not found on traditional electronic devices. For example, the electronic device may include a bending medium connecting a display assembly to an input medium such as a keyboard thereby providing a hinge assembly adjustable angularly and adjustable in applied resistance. The electronic device also includes haptic surfaces having the bending medium that creates an input device with a flat keyboard edge definition for an improved typing experience.
Wearable devices such as a glove and a knee brace are electronic devices that use the bending medium and varying the number of layers at different locations of the electronic device to adjust a relative stiffness and vary an applied resistance to movement.
Apple's granted patent also covers some real off-the-wall ideas that I don't think will be coming to market anytime soon but you could review them all in granted patent 10,642,318 here.
Apple's granted patent was originally filed in Q1 2019 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.