Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a patent that relates to future devices supporting a foldable display. A foldable housing or other support structure may be used in supporting the foldable display during folding and unfolding. First and second support structures may be joined at a hinge. The hinge allows the support structures to rotate relative to each other during folding and unfolding.
The new hinge may include toothed members such as gears and a rack member. The rack member may have a surface with curved portions. The gears may include rotating gears that walk along the curved portions of the rack member as the electronic device is folded and unfolded. The hinge may include gears that are fixedly attached to the first and second housing portions and that engage the rotating gears. Linkage members may hold together the rotating gears, fixed gears, and the rack member.
Apple's patent FIGS. 1 and 4 illustrate an iDevice (iPhone or iPad) in both the unfolded and folded positions; FIGS. 6 and 7 are side views of the illustrative hinge mechanism; and FIG. 10 is a side view of the illustrative hinge mechanism in use during device folding.
Apple notes in their granted patent that in order to help accommodate a user's desire for compactness while accommodating a user's desire for large amounts of display real estate, the folding device can have structures that allow the shape and size of the device and display to be adjusted. In particular, the device may have a display and associated housing structures that support folding motions, sliding motions, scrolling motions, and/or other behavior that allows the device to be adjusted during use.
For finer details, review Apple's granted patent 10,955,880.