Apple's fingerprint sensor encapsulation tech could be headed for future iPhone

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday published an Apple filing for a unique encapsulation structure which holds both a fingerprint sensor and its conductive bezel, allowing for a smaller, more protective final component suitable for a mobile device.

Fingerprint
Fingerprint sensor surface array (16), die (14) and bezels (18). | Source: USPTO


Apple's patent application, filed in February and titled "Integrally molded die and bezel structure for fingerprint sensors and the like," describes a unitary encapsulation structure that protects a delicate biometric array, while still allowing for a portion of the sensor and bezel to be exposed or thinly coated with a protective seal. While the filing is for a "strip" type sensor, the technology can feasibly be applied to other fingerprinting methods.

As noted in the filing, current electrical-based sensors are formed in a package containing the die, which holds a semiconductor and said sensors along with related circuitry. Because of the small die size, secondary structures like a lead frame and wires are needed to make an electrical connection between the die and the printed circuit board on which it is situated. These structures are then encased in an encapsulation material to protect the intricate wirebonding and other internal components from damage.

Because such sensors can only operate within a certain threshold distance between a user's fingerprint and the die, many encapsulation methods leave the package uncovered.

Current circuit designs may also use a small electrical current to charge a user's finger for reading. In order to send the correct current through the finger, small contact structures are formed and disposed near the sensing die. These "bezels" are largely positioned in the same plane as the upper sensing surface of the die, thus ensuring both a charged finger and ideal positioning for the sensor.

Fingerprint
Cutaway of assembly with finger.


Apple's patent filing looks to combine the encapsulated die with the bezel contact structures to form a single unitary package:
By encasing both the bezel and the sensor die in the encapsulation structure, those elements may be brought closer together than heretofore possible. In addition, the encapsulation structure physically protects the bezel and sensor die, and in particular maintains the spacing therebetween, in a fashion not possible by currently known device designs.
In one embodiment, the sensor assembly includes a substrate like a PCB or ceramic structure with a region specifically designed to receive a die assembly, as well as regions for holding bezels. The encapsulation structure is molded from a resin or plastic and is injected in such a way as to leave the top portion of the die and bezel parallel or nearly coplanar. These structures can be either partially exposed, or covered with a thin layer of material to protect it from the elements.

In addition to the above embodiments, the filing notes that the bezels can be provided with visual indicators and possibly a light source.

The invention would prove to be of substantial value if Apple were to deploy a fingerprint reader in a future iteration of the iPhone, as the tech would allow for a small, reasonably durable component that can withstand everyday wear and tear.

Fingerprint
View of bezel frame according to one embodiment.


Apple is widely rumored to be incorporating fingerprint scanning technology into its next-generation iOS devices, with the forthcoming "iPhone 5" being a prime candidate. Rumors and speculation were sparked by the company's 2012 acquisition of biometrics firm Authentec.

Interestingly, Apple's filing cites multiple patents and patent applications on fingerprint biometrics owned by STMicroelectronics, one of the world's largest semiconductor companies. Besides sensors and embedded processing solutions, the firm also supplied Apple with the three-axis gyroscope found in the iPhone 5.

At least one of the inventors credited with the application, Giovanni Gozzini, is also named on the cited STMicroelectronics patents. Accompanying Gozzini in the Apple-assigned filing are Robert Henry Bond and Alan Kramer.
«13

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 41


    how much effective is that sensor is??

  • Reply 2 of 41
    imonusimonus Posts: 2member
    You write 'with the forthcoming "iPhone 5" being a prime candidate'. I guess you meant the iPhone 6 or else you lost the 's' somewhere... ;-)
  • Reply 3 of 41
    lostkiwilostkiwi Posts: 601member
    I can't see them adding new hardware like this until iP6. The S models are streamlining and speed iterations. A feature like this would be a marquee feature methinks, therefore it will be on the 6 - if this tech is implemented soon.
  • Reply 4 of 41
    rcoleman1rcoleman1 Posts: 153member
    Here's Apple again beating everyone else to the punch...I can see this being a killer feature on a future IPhone and iPad.
  • Reply 5 of 41
    irelandireland Posts: 17,623member
    lostkiwi wrote: »
    I can't see them adding new hardware like this until iP6. The S models are streamlining and speed iterations. A feature like this would be a marquee feature methinks, therefore it will be on the 6 - if this tech is implemented soon.

    The 4S got Siri.
  • Reply 6 of 41
    irelandireland Posts: 17,623member
    rcoleman1 wrote: »
    Here's Apple again beating everyone else to the punch...I can see this being a killer feature on a future IPhone and iPad.

    Apple didn't release anything with a finger print sensor, yet. Don't jump the gun. And there are laptops and phones o the market with fingerprint sensors already.
  • Reply 7 of 41
    matrix07matrix07 Posts: 1,993member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post





    Apple didn't release anything with a finger print sensor, yet. Don't jump the gun. 


    Wise words. I sense something is cooking at Apple about this finger print sensor, Bluetooth 4 etc. I hope I won't be disappointed.


  • Reply 8 of 41
    While this sounds exciting, and I'm planning to buy the next iPhone, I can't help but wonder whether the new "follow your eyes" features in the new Samsung phone aren't a precursor to retina-scanning technology that may trump this fingerprinting idea.
  • Reply 9 of 41
    geekdadgeekdad Posts: 1,131member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by matrix07 View Post


    Wise words. I sense something is cooking at Apple about this finger print sensor, Bluetooth 4 etc. I hope I won't be disappointed.




    I wonder if they can use the fingerprint scanner as part of a payment authentication?


    They bought a whole company just for this technology....so we know they are going to use fingerprint scanning somehow....

  • Reply 10 of 41
    macbook promacbook pro Posts: 1,605member
    While this sounds exciting, and I'm planning to buy the next iPhone, I can't help but wonder whether the new "follow your eyes" features in the new Samsung phone aren't a precursor to retina-scanning technology that may trump this fingerprinting idea.

    Interesting thought but the two technologies are completely unrelated, in fact, the two technologies are so far removed that we may as well suggest that eye tracking will lead to matter-energy converters in Samsung products.
  • Reply 11 of 41
    matrix07matrix07 Posts: 1,993member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by droslovinia View Post



    While this sounds exciting, and I'm planning to buy the next iPhone, I can't help but wonder whether the new "follow your eyes" features in the new Samsung phone aren't a precursor to retina-scanning technology that may trump this fingerprinting idea.


    How's the Facial Recognition in Android works out for you?


  • Reply 12 of 41
    Question: If married and you don't want your spouse to look at your iPhone, what happens when one spouse is sleeping and the other is awake and the spouse takes the finger of the sleeping person and places is it on the iPhone? Will it unlock? Hope there is a secondary backup when authorized.
  • Reply 13 of 41
    matrix07matrix07 Posts: 1,993member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by geekdad View Post


    I wonder if they can use the fingerprint scanner as part of a payment authentication?


    They bought a whole company just for this technology....so we know they are going to use fingerprint scanning somehow....



    I think they have something in mind before they bought the company. Kind of like you know what you wanna do then shop around for a company that fits. So it must be something bigger than just to unlock the screen etc.


    The timeline seems to coincide with the support for Bluetooth 4 on iPhone. And the U-turn of Bob Mansfield who also heads the wireless dept. Very interesting.


  • Reply 14 of 41
    Retina-scanning is done with a laser. I don't see Samsung adding a laser to their phones anytime soon.
  • Reply 15 of 41
    jessijessi Posts: 302member
    Apple will release it when two things happen-- first the hardware has to be ready for robust deployment at volume. Apple doesn't want to ship a feature that causes an increase in return rates. Secondly there needs to be a compelling usability benefit for the customer.

    Either Apple wallet or some other feature that makes fingerprint sensors really compelling needs to be finished.

    Who knows which device will be the one where both of those things are completed.

    Also, the next iPhone may be a 6, or they might give up the numbering completely and go to an iPhone "pro" and regular, and just give them year numbers since they do one each year "the 2013 iPhone" and the "2013 iPhone Pro".
  • Reply 16 of 41
    jinjo235jinjo235 Posts: 17member


    I can see this being built into the back house of an iPhone instad of how many phones have it now. That way, you can just hold the phone as normal and when the fingerprint API is requested, you're fingers will already be there.

  • Reply 17 of 41
    bigmac2bigmac2 Posts: 637member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Shiva Nagi View Post


    how much effective is that sensor is??



     


    Ask the Mythbusters to test this out

  • Reply 18 of 41
    bigmac2bigmac2 Posts: 637member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AAPLforLife View Post



    Retina-scanning is done with a laser. I don't see Samsung adding a laser to their phones anytime soon.


    You've seen too much movies.  Retina-scanning uses pictures of the retina colours and blood vessel patterns from an optic camera.

  • Reply 19 of 41
    joe mecca wrote: »
    Question: If married and you don't want your spouse to look at your iPhone, what happens when one spouse is sleeping and the other is awake and the spouse takes the finger of the sleeping person and places is it on the iPhone? Will it unlock? Hope there is a secondary backup when authorized.

    Mittens attatched with duct tape. That's should work until one or the other comes to their senses and files for divorce.
  • Reply 20 of 41
    gtrgtr Posts: 3,231member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Joe Mecca View Post



    Question: If married and you don't want your spouse to look at your iPhone, what happens when one spouse is sleeping and the other is awake and the spouse takes the finger of the sleeping person and places is it on the iPhone? Will it unlock? Hope there is a secondary backup when authorized.


     


    Use your penis as the authentication digit instead.

Sign In or Register to comment.