Apple Experimenting with Next-Gen MacBook & iPad Keyboard-Cover Assemblies using a Multi-Roller Hinge System
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to a next-gen hinge system primarily for future iPad Smart Keyboard accessories. The new hinge system is also shown in conjunction with a possible future MacBook-like portable device. Microsoft was first to move to a flexible hinge system for their Surface book and Apple's next-gen flexible hinge presents a similar style of hinge though technically different using multi-roller and spacer elements.
Apple's possible next-gen iPad keyboard accessories are shown to include multiple sections and a new hinge system assembly that provides additional flexibility and range of motion of the section holding the iPad, thereby allowing a user to position the iPad at multiple different angles relative to the section carrying the input mechanism.
Apple describes this new hinge assembly including multiple roller and spacer elements, as well as a retention structure passing through each roller element and spacer element.
The retention structure can provide tension to increase the frictional force between the roller and spacer elements, and/or provide counterbalance to offset the weight of the electronic device.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below illustrates an isometric view of an embodiment of an accessory device, showing the accessory device in an open position using an all-new multi-roller retention hinge; Shows the accessory in a closed position; FIG. 9 illustrates a side view of the accessory device carrying an iPad.
The patent figures below illustrate what could be a future MacBook device using this next-gen multi-roller hinge assembly that will provide an all-new form factor illuminating the traditional hinge assembly and possibly adding addition flexibility for the display to be held in more positions that available in today's MacBooks.
Apple's patent FIG. 48 below illustrates an isometric view of an embodiment of an accessory device with retention structures, showing each retention structure coupled to a tension adjustment system; FIG. 51 illustrates a side view of the accessory device in an open position; FIG. 52 illustrates a plan view of the tension adjustment system, showing the position of the extension relative to the coupling mechanism when the accessory device is in the open position shown in FIG. 51;
Apple's patent FIG. 57 below illustrates a side view of an alternate embodiment of an accessory device #3000 with an automated opening system, showing the accessory device 3000 in a closed position.
Apple further notes that when a user contacts the button #3064 on the cover, the accessory device can automatically transition from the closed position to the open position. The accessory device that can also automatically move to vary desirable positions without manual movement.
Apple's patent application 20200301480 that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was filed back March 2020. Early work on this shows it going back to Q1 2019. The patent is jam packed with details that you could review here. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.