Apple invention uses self-healing elastomers to weatherproof iPhone connectors, audio jack

Posted:
in General Discussion edited December 2015
An Apple patent application on Thursday suggests a method of portable device weatherproofing that buries sensitive electrical device contacts beneath a layer of self-healing elastomer, allowing connectors to penetrate without leaving lasting aesthetic or structural damage.




Published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple's application for an "Electronic device with hidden connector" details a method of protecting electrical device connections commonly exposed to the elements with specialized self-healing elastomeric material. Probes attached to power, data or audio feeds are able to puncture the elastomer, which re-seals itself upon their extraction.

Specified as a silicone material, or polymerized siloxane, in Apple's invention, such substrates have the ability to "heal" themselves after penetration or other structural damage by reforming chemical bonds to regain mechanical properties. According to the document, an ideal elastomer would be able to regain at least 90 percent of its original tensile strength in the penetration region.

Ideal elastomers would be mixed with other materials to achieve a color matching that of the portable device to which it will be applied, for example black or white for iPhone. Some manufacturing techniques call for the material to be applied over sensitive contacts in liquid form, while others allow for installation of pre-molded attachments.

In other embodiments, regions of the elastomer in contact with exposed traces are doped with conductive particulates into which the connector probe is inserted. This method provides improved electrical contact and enhanced reliability.

On the connector side, sharp probes designed to pierce the self-healing elastomer might be integrated into a connector body or plug, such as Apple's Lightning protocol. Alternatively, a separate device might be used to the same effect.




Of particular interest is a well detailed example involving common 3.5mm audio plugs. According to Apple's document, self-healing elastomers can be applied to the opening of a headphone jack, as well as inside the cylindrical housing, to protect the exposed contacts from liquid, dust and other contaminants. The layer or layers of elastomer can be penetrated by a headphone plug, then reseal when the connector is removed.

In another example the entire audio jack is completely filled with elastomer, with conductively doped bands of material interspersed over audio jack contacts to better interface with tip-ring-ring-sleeve (TRRS) conductors on a 3.5mm audio plug. Ports are disposed within the audio jack housing to accept elastomer displaced when the plug is inserted. Once the plug is removed, the self-healing material regains its initial mechanical properties, protecting the contacts therein from contaminants.




It remains unclear if Apple intends to implement self-healing elastomers in its product lineup, but the company has been rumored to be working on a weatherproof iPhone. Other smartphone manufacturers have experimented with self-healing materials, the most notable being LG's Flex, but the requisite characteristics Apple describes are far beyond any contemporary commercial application.

Apple's self-healing elastomer patent application was fist filed for in June 2014 and credits David I. Nazzaro, Tyler S. Bushnell and Ibuki Kamei as its inventors.
pmz

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    This is awesome.  It can be very useful in wearables.

  • Reply 2 of 14
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 1,981member
    Why do they care about this? They want us to rebuy a phone every year. 

    Also, how do users intuit where they're supposed to violate the device and where such penetration attempts are just going to result in damage?

    This reeks of patent application for no reason other than to get there first in case someone else thinks up the idea.

    im sick of patents. 

    Svu im sick of autocorrect and text selection sucking so much on websites/forums. 

    loiuf at that. The first word on every line gets no autocorrection.

    its like the Apple forum where every first line has two capital letters.

    ny fascination with Apple has run out. 
  • Reply 3 of 14
    Just wait til this shows up on Apple Car tires...and Apple Shoes.
  • Reply 4 of 14
    dysamoria said:
    Why do they care about this? They want us to rebuy a phone every year. 

    Also, how do users intuit where they're supposed to violate the device and where such penetration attempts are just going to result in damage?

    This reeks of patent application for no reason other than to get there first in case someone else thinks up the idea.

    im sick of patents. 

    Svu im sick of autocorrect and text selection sucking so much on websites/forums. 

    loiuf at that. The first word on every line gets no autocorrection.

    its like the Apple forum where every first line has two capital letters.

    ny fascination with Apple has run out. 
    clearly you still don't get Apple.
  • Reply 5 of 14
    "would be able to regain at least 90 percent of its original tensile strength in the penetration region."


    .....that's what she said
  • Reply 6 of 14
    dysamoria said:

    ny fascination with Apple has run out. 
    And yet you're commenting on a minor article on an Apple rumors site....
    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 7 of 14
    jfc1138jfc1138 Posts: 3,090member
    "ny fascination with Apple has run out. "

    Apparently not.

    Oh and additional weatherproofing would be a guard against device damage BETWEEN those every year purchases you're assuming.
  • Reply 8 of 14
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    dysamoria said:
    Why do they care about this? They want us to rebuy a phone every year. 

    Also, how do users intuit where they're supposed to violate the device and where such penetration attempts are just going to result in damage?

    This reeks of patent application for no reason other than to get there first in case someone else thinks up the idea.

    im sick of patents. 

    Svu im sick of autocorrect and text selection sucking so much on websites/forums. 

    loiuf at that. The first word on every line gets no autocorrection.

    its like the Apple forum where every first line has two capital letters.

    ny fascination with Apple has run out. 
    clearly you still don't get Apple.
    He's right about the autocorrect issue. But the usual suspects will dismiss his entire post because he has legit criticism for Apple.

    ibe been wondering why autocorrect doesn't work sometimes.

    ehat a shame :(
  • Reply 9 of 14
    dysamoria said:
    Why do they care about this? They want us to rebuy a phone every year. 

    Also, how do users intuit where they're supposed to violate the device and where such penetration attempts are just going to result in damage?

    This reeks of patent application for no reason other than to get there first in case someone else thinks up the idea.

    im sick of patents. 

    Svu im sick of autocorrect and text selection sucking so much on websites/forums. 

    loiuf at that. The first word on every line gets no autocorrection.

    its like the Apple forum where every first line has two capital letters.

    ny fascination with Apple has run out. 
    nyour fascination with Apple has run out?

    Oh please.

    Apple does what every other tech company in the Valley does, and for the same reasons. The only difference is when Google/Alphabet/Larry Page wastes his time, money, and resources on jetpacks and cardboard VR, the tech press and the gadget-obsessed spurt their load all over the Internet about how great and innovative Google's Chocolate Factory is.

    Secondly, it has nothing to do with any of the supposed ills, bugs, or annoyances that you have with (insert Apple product name). It's not "innovation/patents or bug fixes but not both." That's a false dilemma. Surely you know this.
  • Reply 10 of 14

    cali said:
    dysamoria said:
    Why do they care about this? They want us to rebuy a phone every year. 

    Also, how do users intuit where they're supposed to violate the device and where such penetration attempts are just going to result in damage?

    This reeks of patent application for no reason other than to get there first in case someone else thinks up the idea.

    im sick of patents. 

    Svu im sick of autocorrect and text selection sucking so much on websites/forums. 

    loiuf at that. The first word on every line gets no autocorrection.

    its like the Apple forum where every first line has two capital letters.

    ny fascination with Apple has run out. 
    clearly you still don't get Apple.
    He's right about the autocorrect issue. But the usual suspects will dismiss his entire post because he has legit criticism for Apple.

    ibe been wondering why autocorrect doesn't work sometimes.

    ehat a shame :(
    Whatever product defects Apple has are legitimate gripes, and should be directed to Apple's feedback pages.

    It has NOTHING to do with patent applications, R&D, Tim Cook getting a humanitarian award, or Jony Ivy attending fashion events, or whatever else supposedly disgusts you about Apple. Not everyone at Apple has the job of fixing software bugs, but you guys sure think that is the case. Conflating these unrelated things into a single, hand-waving justification to be allegedly disillusioned with Apple on a Web forum just reeks of concern trolling. What a shame.
  • Reply 11 of 14
    jakebjakeb Posts: 557member
    Still think Apple's thing to get rid of the 3.5mm headphone connector? That's a lot of work for something you're discontinuing support for ;)
  • Reply 12 of 14
    Why spend all the time and effort creating such elaborate protection systems when it would be easier to just blame users for not holding it properly or not keeping it dry?  Don't those people deserve to have their devices ruined because "I always take care of my iPhone properly", "I never drop my iPhone" and "I never get my iPhone wet"?
  • Reply 13 of 14
    Blaster said:
    Don't those people deserve to have their devices ruined because "I always take care of my iPhone properly", "I never drop my iPhone" and "I never get my iPhone wet"?
    If they're doing that, how will they get it ruined?

    I used my first gen naked for seven years. Not a scratch. I expect to use my 6 for the same amount of time.
    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 14 of 14
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 3,976member
    Blaster said:
    Don't those people deserve to have their devices ruined because "I always take care of my iPhone properly", "I never drop my iPhone" and "I never get my iPhone wet"?
    If they're doing that, how will they get it ruined?

    I used my first gen naked for seven years. Not a scratch. I expect to use my 6 for the same amount of time.
    So your next iPhone will be iPhone 12?
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