Apple’s latest patent indicates that curved displays might be closer than we think

Posted: April 27, 2014 by mattmargolis24 in My Publications
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Apple’s mutli-touch sensor patterns and stackup patent was issued on 4/24/14.   The patent is actually a continuation of a similar patent issued in November 2009.  The 2009 patent goes by the same name but Apple has made significant improvements to the claims of the previous multi-touch sensor patent.  The patent’s focus is on multi-touch sensor panels that are stacked and thin which make them more flexible and particularly well suited for curved or other non-flat touch sensor panels.  Apple applied for the patent on December 19, 2013 and the patent was issued just 5 months later.

The date of the latest patent application falls just a month after Apple opened up the  Mesa, AZ sapphire plant.  Also in January, Apple was in the market for design engineers that would focus on the iPhone/iPod inside  Apple’s Mesa location.  The 2009 issued patent and the 2014 issued patent both include sapphire as a cover option.  However, if Apple is going to drastically change the iPhone 6 and introduce sapphire cover screens and a curved display it would make sense to experiment and file the latest application in December 2013 after the Mesa plant opened.    Perhaps Apple has already determined that they would switch from flat  to curved displays for the next generation iPhone?  Perhaps the switch from flat to curved displays explains why Reuters was reporting that the 5.5″ iPhone was experience touch screen display yield challenges?  I have to believe a flat display panel at 5.5″ would be much easier to manufacture than a curved display.

The newly issued patent claims indicate that Apple has put in some significant time and effort focused on improving the functionality of their multi-touch sensor patterns that will improve the user’s overall experience while handling a device with a curved screen. The number of individual claims has decreased from 39 to 14, however the precision of their 2014 claims versus the 2009 claims is astounding.  This newly issued patent might indicate Apple is very close to introducing a curved iPhone screen in the not to distant future.

 

Example of the 2009 Patent Claims

1. A touch sensor array comprising:

a first conducting layer comprising a row trace and a column trace;
a second conducting layer;
a first dielectric layer that separates the first conducting layer and a second conducting layer; and
one or more vias that route the column trace or the row trace to the second conducting layer prior to an intersection of the column trace and the row trace.
14. A touch sensor array comprising:

a plurality of row traces arranged in comb pattern configurations; and
a plurality of column traces comprising cross elements arranged between fingers on the comb pattern configurations.
Example of the 2014 Patent Claims

1. A touch sensor array comprising: one of a plurality of row traces or column traces arranged in pairs of opposing and spaced apart comb pattern configurations having opposing fingers facing one another; and the other of the plurality of row traces or column traces comprising a plurality of cross elements substantially perpendicularly disposed with respect to the opposing fingers on the comb pattern configurations, with each cross element having perpendicularly disposed traces corresponding to the opposing fingers of the comb pattern configurations.

9. A touch sensor array comprising: a plurality of row traces arranged in opposing comb pattern configurations, each opposing comb pattern configuration having finger elements extending toward the opposed comb pattern configuration, and defining finger regions between the finger elements; and a plurality of column traces comprising plural rows of traces and perpendicular cross elements, the rows of traces arranged parallel to the finger elements and extending between each of the finger elements within the finger regions of the opposing comb pattern configurations, and the cross elements extending between the opposing comb pattern configurations continuously over multiple row traces but not extending between the finger regions.

14. A multi-touch mouse comprising a touch sensor array comprising: a plurality of row traces arranged in opposing comb pattern configurations, each opposing comb pattern configuration having finger elements extending toward the opposed comb pattern configuration, and defining finger regions between the finger elements; and a plurality of column traces comprising plural rows of traces and perpendicular cross elements, the rows of traces arranged parallel to the finger elements and extending between each of the finger elements within the finger regions of the opposing comb pattern configurations, and the cross elements extending between the opposing comb pattern configurations continuously over multiple row traces but not extending between the finger regions.

 Patent Abstract

Capacitive multi-touch sensor panels in which both row and column traces may be formed on a single conducting surface are disclosed. These stack-ups may be made thinner and more flexible allowing them to be particularly well-suited for curved or other non-flat touch sensor panels, such as those that might be present on a mouse or other device designed to be grasped by a user’s hand. Curved sensor panel arrays that may be formed from flat substrates are also disclosed. These sensor panel configurations may include channels around the periphery of the array. These channels allow the flat array to lie flat when applied to a curved surface, such as the inside of the curved surface. The pattern of the touch sensor elements may be adjusted across the array to avoid the channels.

[0055] FIG. 4 illustrates an exemplary capacitive touch sensor panel 400 fabricated using a double-sided ITO (DITO) substrate 402 having column and row ITO traces 404 and 406, respectively, formed on either side of the substrate, and bonded between cover 408 and LCD 410 using transparent adhesive 412 according to embodiments of this invention. Substrate 402 can be formed from glass, plastic, hybrid glass/plastic materials, and the like. Cover 408 can be formed from glass, acrylic, sapphire, and the like. To connect to column and row traces 404 and 406, respectively, two flex circuit portions 414 can be bonded to directly opposing sides at the same edge of DITO 402, although other bonding locations may also be employed.

Computing System

Figure 4

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  1. […] Apple’s latest patent indicates that curved displays might be closer than we think […]

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