Apple patent application highlights active shutter system to protect devices from spills, contaminants

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Date: Friday, November 27th, 2015, 07:23
Category: Hardware, iPad, iPhone, News, Patents


Somewhere down the line, this could really come in handy.

An Apple patent application published Thursday describes a powered shutter system that automatically blocks access to speaker, microphone and other iPhone and iPad port openings, protecting the sensitive components within.

The patent application, known as Apple’s “Electronic devices with housing port shutters” application, describes a system of electrically controlled shutters disposed over the openings of critical components like speaker boxes and microphones. At the command of an onboard logic board, these shutter mechanisms can quickly block acoustic pathways — portholes — from damaging physical contaminants, potentially saving hundreds of dollars in repair costs.

Apple’s invention can be applied to nearly any opening on an iPhone, from the headphone jack to the side-mounted SIM card slot. The document goes into detail on higher risk structures like an ear speaker or microphone, which in current designs have only a fine mesh standing between them and the elements.

In practice, the shutter system would seal off areas of the phone that aren’t in use, preventing liquid, dust and other contaminants from entering.

Coupled to the shutter members, either individually or as an integrated mechanism, are movable positioners controlled by dedicated circuitry. Ideal embodiments for these components include solenoids, shape memory metals, piezoelectric actuators and the like. When activated by the central control logic, the positioner or positioners rotate, slide, pivot or otherwise move its attached shutter into position over a corresponding housing port.

The patent application also proposes employing sensing modules to detect the presence of moisture, airborne contaminants and other potentially detrimental environmental conditions that would warrant a state change from open to closed, or vice versa. The shutters might maintain a fully closed state, opening only when an event like a phone call or system alert requires speaker access. Alternatively, shutters could naturally maintain a fully open state, closing when onboard sensors detect an elevated risk of contamination.

Finally, Apple’s invention allows for an external switch to act as a manual override, handy for conserving energy or operating a shutter mechanism on a powered-down device.

It’s hard to say when this idea could come to fruition, as Apple’s already working with space constraints inside its devices.

Apple’s active shutter patent application was first filed for in May 2014 and credits Sung Chang Lee, Kee Suk Ryu and Ki Myung Lee as its inventors.

Via AppleInsider and United States Patent and Trademark Office

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