Apple invents stretchable display backed by mesh-like elastomer

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2017
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday published an Apple patent application hinting at the company's plans to build an advanced iPhone, or other personal device, with an exceedingly flexible display.


Source: USPTO


Apple's filing for "Electronic Devices With Soft Input-Output Components" discusses potential solutions for fitting modern LCD or OLED panels, or derivatives of said displays, into a consumer product with a bendable design.

More specifically, the invention provides a system of forming a flexible input-output display with integrated sensors and haptic feedback mechanisms from a mesh-like elastomeric substrate layer. Traditional flexible displays, like certain OLED models fitted onto smartphones made by Samsung, rely on a sheet of plastic.

To enhance substrate flexibility, Apple proposes laying down the necessary light-emitting components (LEDs, micro-LEDs and OLEDs), input mechanisms and the conductive traces that form interconnect paths in a grid shape. These paths can be straight, serpentine or undulate up and down to better facilitate flexing.




Importantly, the process calls for thinning or complete removal of the underlying polymer substrate layer, leaving a mesh-like structure topped by discrete "electrical units" or "islands." This arrangement is well suited to handling deformations such as bending or stretching in one or more dimensions without cracking or breaking.

In addition to being bendy, Apple's display is able to accommodate a range of onboard sensors and other components common to modern smartphones. For example, the document notes the potential inclusion of touch sensors, force sensors, strain gauges, light sensors and more, many of which are already included in iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch.

Other embodiments include the use of backlight structures, transparent materials, alternative light-emitting modules, fabrication techniques and other technical considerations.




Whether Apple intends to bring this particular invention to market remains unknown, but the company is widely rumored to adopt flexible display technology in a future iPhone model. Beyond general industry trends, flexible OLED panels allow greater latitude in designing aesthetically appealing and functional next-generation devices.

Apple can deploy bendable screens to utilize a larger portion of surface space on small format devices. For example, bezels, which are commonly used to hide display control circuitry, might be made a functional part of the smartphone touchscreen.




Alternatively, flexible displays could spawn an entirely new class of device that goes beyond the rigid glass and metal monolith designs made popular by iPhone. Future portables with full-face screens might be capable of bending in on themselves like clamshell style folders of the 1990s, for example. Perhaps not coincidentally, Apple is working on that, too.

Apple's flexible display patent application was first filed for in October 2016 and credits Hoon Sik Kim, Yung-Yu Hsu and Paul S. Drzaic as its inventors.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    Or a wrist-worn device:
      - Apple Watch band with embedded display
      - Medical wristband displaying realtime patient data
    fotoformatleavingthebiggmike1SpamSandwichGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 15
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,295member
    I think this article is a bit of a stretch ....    ;)
    SpamSandwichGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 15
    MacPro said:
    I think this article is a bit of a stretch ....    ;)
    I agree. If they could expand on this, maybe lengthen the article or broaden the scope, that would help me widen my understanding.
    jdgazroundaboutnow
  • Reply 4 of 15
    Do it for the kids, Apple. The end of broken iPhones and iPads for the moppets.
  • Reply 5 of 15
    Headbands and wrist bands.  Bring back 80's fashion!
    jdgaz
  • Reply 6 of 15
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,631member
    MacPro said:
    I think this article is a bit of a stretch ....    ;)
    I agree. If they could expand on this, maybe lengthen the article or broaden the scope, that would help me widen my understanding.
    It sounds a lot like a future MacBook keyboard to me. One regular screen and then a flexible one laid over a haptic layer where a regular keyboard would be. 
    radarthekatfastasleepfrantisek
  • Reply 7 of 15
    JinTechJinTech Posts: 377member
    Headbands and wrist bands.  Bring back 80's fashion!
    The new AppleWatch will be in the form and function of a Slap Braclet.
    randominternetperson
  • Reply 8 of 15
    JinTech said:
    Headbands and wrist bands.  Bring back 80's fashion!
    The new AppleWatch will be in the form and function of a Slap Braclet.
    And it shall be called Slappy.
  • Reply 9 of 15
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,448member
    Headbands and wrist bands.  Bring back 80's fashion!
    No, woven directly into garments. Particularly sport gear. But also even fashion wear, suit jackets, etc. Imagine never having to carry a phone or even wear a watch. The CPU is in a bracelet, or eyeglasses, or even a shoe and connects to everything else wirelessly. 
  • Reply 10 of 15
    JinTechJinTech Posts: 377member
    JinTech said:
    Headbands and wrist bands.  Bring back 80's fashion!
    The new AppleWatch will be in the form and function of a Slap Braclet.
    And it shall be called Slappy.
    No way dude, it will be the iSlap, it will be Apple's most controversial product to date.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 15
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,093moderator
    Rayz2016 said:
    MacPro said:
    I think this article is a bit of a stretch ....    ;)
    I agree. If they could expand on this, maybe lengthen the article or broaden the scope, that would help me widen my understanding.
    It sounds a lot like a future MacBook keyboard to me. One regular screen and then a flexible one laid over a haptic layer where a regular keyboard would be. 
    Beat me to the punch.  Keyboard keys are what I thought of when reading the article.  
  • Reply 12 of 15
    AR blindfold
  • Reply 13 of 15
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,631member
    Rayz2016 said:
    MacPro said:
    I think this article is a bit of a stretch ....    ;)
    I agree. If they could expand on this, maybe lengthen the article or broaden the scope, that would help me widen my understanding.
    It sounds a lot like a future MacBook keyboard to me. One regular screen and then a flexible one laid over a haptic layer where a regular keyboard would be. 
    Beat me to the punch.  Keyboard keys are what I thought of when reading the article.  
    And then this appears on Patently Apple. 

    http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2017/02/cool-apple-invents-a-dual-display-macbook-that-a-user-will-be-able-to-use-outdoors-with-sunglasses-on.html

    What is interesting here is that Apple is trying to tackle the problem of reflections from keyboard screen showing on the main display. 

    I'd say they have a prototype running somewhere if they've noticed this is a problem. 
  • Reply 14 of 15
    MacPro said:
    I think this article is a bit of a stretch ....    ;)

    But it shows Apple's flexibility.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 15
    I do not think it is Apple's invention. It was invented over decade ago as idea for news as replacement ofr paper.It seems many forgot about that. It may have not been patented, butthen you have many patents that were not invented by patent owners and existed long before.

    I wonder how many from yopund generations peoplee read technology information around 2000 and earlier. It sounds like hype brings back old ideas. For the record Musk did not invent electric car and few others. We did in universities in '80 and '90, but there was no means to produce that. In cfacty wiireless headphones was my mid-term project around 1988 in one of Eastern European Polytechnics. Think about that before creating innovation hype.
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