Apple working on bendable display screens
Thu 9 Feb 2017
Apple has filed a new patent with the U.S Patent and Trademark Office which suggests that the tech giant is working on an advanced iPhone or personal device with a bendable display screen.
The filing, titled ‘Electronic Devices With Soft Input-Output Components‘, outlines potential solutions for fitting stretchable LCD and OLED panels onto a consumer handheld device.
The invention involves a system for building a flexible input-output display with integrated sensors and haptic feedback using a mesh-shaped elastomeric substrate layer. To enhance the flexibility further, Apple suggests that the components, including OLEDs, conductive trace materials, and input mechanisms, be arranged in a grid-like format.
It proposes that the interconnections between units, or ‘signal paths’, can either be straight, serpentine or undulate vertically as required to help accommodate stretching.
The paper continues that the process calls for thinning or removal of portions of the underlying polymer substrate layer, in order to leave a mesh structure mounted with components – ‘electrical units’ or ‘islands.’
The research argues that this mesh-structured arrangement is well-suited for coping with deformations, like conforming to a human body part such as a wrist, without cracking or breaking.
Further to its bendable capability, the proposed display screen is also able to house a variety of sensors common to modern devices. The document details that the screen could accommodate many sensors already incorporated into iPhones, iPads and the Apple Watch, including force sensors, touch sensors, temperature sensors, accelerometers, and strain gauge sensors, among others.
It remains unclear whether Apple will ever bring this product to market, but rumours have long circled around a flexible screen featuring in a future iPhone model. The technology would allow the company a significant space advantage on its small devices.
The latest bendable screen patent was first filed in October last year and credits California-based researchers Hoon Sik Kim, Yung-Yu Hsu and Paul Drzaic.