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Patent Application Titled "Systems and Methods for Applying Protective Coatings to Internal Surfaces of Fully Assembled Electronic Devices" Published...

July 2, 2014



Patent Application Titled "Systems and Methods for Applying Protective Coatings to Internal Surfaces of Fully Assembled Electronic Devices" Published Online

By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Electronics Newsweekly -- According to news reporting originating from Washington, D.C., by VerticalNews journalists, a patent application by the inventors Stevens, Blake (Morristown, NJ); Sorenson, Max (Cottonwood Heights, UT); Clayson, Paul S. (Draper, UT); Gordon, Scott B. (Salt Lake City, UT), filed on February 11, 2014, was made available online on June 19, 2014.

The assignee for this patent application is HzO, Inc.

Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "With the increased development of semiconductor technology, electronic devices have played an important role in modern equipment, including mobile phones, digital cameras, computers, and the like. For example, mobile phones have become important equipment in the lives of an office worker, particularly with the advent of so-called smart phones which allow a person to not only make and receive phone calls, but also to view and create calendar events, receive emails, view and edit documents, and the like. Mobile phones and other portable devices are also used outside of an office setting and it is estimated that nearly 475 million smart phones were produced in 2011, and by the end of 2015 that number is expected to double and approach one billion per year.

"As the portability and use of portable devices has increased, so has the likelihood that the devices may be damaged. For instance, when carrying a smart phone, laptop, e-reader, digital camera, tablet computing device, and the like, the electronic device may be exposed to water from rain or other environmental conditions, or the device may accidentally be dropped into a puddle, sink, toilet, or other location where water is present. Although some devices may have removable covers on their respective exteriors, the removable covers often do not offer full protection against water. As a result, when the electronic device is exposed to water, the water can leak into the device and damage electronic components within the electronic device.

"Exposure of interior electronic components of an electronic device to water or other moisture can also void the warranty of an electronic device. If the warranty is voided and the moisture causes the electronic device to malfunction, the user may have little choice but to expend significant sums to repair or replace the electronic device. As moisture exposure can void the warranty, manufacturers of such devices may have little incentive to provide significant protection against moisture to interior components."

In addition to obtaining background information on this patent application, VerticalNews editors also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent application: "In accordance with one or more aspects of this disclosure, method and systems are provided for applying protective coatings to surfaces within an interior (e.g., surfaces that are exposed or will be exposed to an interior cavity, etc.) of an electronic device. In various embodiments, the material of the protective coating, which is also referred to herein as a 'protective material,' may be applied only to interior surfaces of the electronic device to apply, or form, the protective coating. In other embodiments the protective material may be applied to both interior and externally exposed surfaces of the electronic device. The protective material may be applied to a previously fully assembled electronic device as part of a so-called 'aftermarket' process. In some embodiments, protective material may simply be introduced into the interior of an electronic device (e.g., through a port, through another opening, etc.). In other embodiments, at least a portion of a body, housing, covering or shroud that defines an exterior of the electronic device and, optionally, encapsulates, contains or otherwise carries one or more components within an interior of the electronic device may be at least partially removed to expose the components, or at least portions thereof, and protective material may be applied to at least some of the newly (and temporarily) exposed interior surfaces of the electronic device. In embodiments where an interior of the electronic device is actively exposed to facilitate the application of protective material to one or more interior surfaces, the interior may be closed (e.g., by reassembly of the body, housing, covering or shroud; by covering or plugging any openings that have been formed; etc.). For the sake of simplicity, the term 'housing' and its variants, as used herein, refer to any of the features that form part or all of the exterior of an electronic device.

"In some embodiments, the application of protective material to an electronic device, including one or more of its interior surfaces, may comprise part of a method for refurbishing and/or remanufacturing electronic devices, including portable consumer electronic devices and, thus, may be performed by a system for refurbishing and remanufacturing electronic devices.

"The protective materials applied to surfaces of an electronic device may impart at least a portion of the electronic device with moisture resistance. As used herein, the term 'protective coating' includes moisture resistant coatings or films, as well as other coatings or films that protect various parts of an electronic assembly from moisture and/or other external influences. While the term 'moisture resistant coating' is used throughout this disclosure, in many, if not all, circumstances, a moisture resistant coating may comprise or be substituted with a protective coating that protects coated components and/or features from other external influences. The term 'moisture resistant' refers to the ability of a coating to prevent exposure of a coated element or feature to moisture. A moisture resistant coating may resist wetting or penetration by one or more types of moisture, or it may be impermeable or substantially impermeable to one or more types of moisture. A moisture resistant coating may repel one or more types of moisture. In some embodiments, a moisture resistant coating may be impermeable to, substantially impermeable to or repel water, an aqueous solution (e.g., salt solutions, acidic solutions, basic solutions, drinks, etc.) or vapors of water or other aqueous materials (e.g., humidity, fogs, mists, etc.), wetness, etc.). Use of the term 'moisture resistant' to modify the term 'coating' should not be considered to limit the scope of materials from which the coating protects one or more components of an electronic device. The term 'moisture resistant' may also refer to the ability of a coating to restrict permeation of or repel organic liquids or vapors (e.g., organic solvents, other organic materials in liquid or vapor form, etc.), as well as a variety of other substances or conditions that might pose a threat to an electronic device or its components.

"Protective coatings may be non-selectively applied to, or formed on, surfaces of an electronic device (e.g., 'blanket coated' onto all surfaces that are exposed to a protective material), or the protective coating may be applied to, or formed on, selected portions of one or more surfaces of the electronic device that are exposed to the protective material. Protective material may be applied to, and protective coatings may be applied to, or formed on, one or more surfaces of an electronic device using any of a variety of different types of equipment. Without limitation, a protective material may be applied to one or more surfaces of an electronic device using chemical vapor deposition (CVD), plasma-based deposition processes (including, but not limited to, plasma enhanced CVD (PECVD) processes), physical vapor deposition (PVD) or physical application (e.g., by spraying, rolling, printing, etc.) of the protective material.

"Selective application of protective material to an electronic device may include placing a mask or coating release element on one or more portions of the exposed surfaces of the electronic device. A coating release element (e.g., a material that prevents adhesion of a mask material or protective coating to a surface that has been coated with the material, or coating release element; etc.) and/or a mask may be placed on one or more surfaces (e.g., a port, an electrical contact, a lens, a speaker, a microphone, a peripheral surface, etc.). When the mask is applied, the coating may be applied to the mask rather than to the surface beneath the mask. The mask and any portion of the protective coating thereon may then be removed to expose the underlying surface of the electronic device. In some cases, the underlying surface may be exposed to enable electrical contact or communication during reassembly and/or use of the electronic device. In other embodiments, one or more portions of a protective coating may be selectively removed from one or more features of the electronic device by suitable means. Such means for removing a portion of the protective coating may ablate, dissolve, vaporize, mechanically remove or otherwise take protective material away from each selected region of the protective coating.

"In embodiments where at least a portion of a housing, covering or shroud is removed to at least partially expose an interior of an electronic device, the act of removal may comprise at least partial disassembly of the electronic device. Disassembly of an electronic device may occur in a variety of different ways, and may vary from one type of electronic device to the next. In some embodiments, one or more portions of a housing may be disassembled or separated from one or more other portions of the housing to expose at least a portion of an interior of the electronic device. Once the interior of the electronic device has been at least partially exposed, a protective coating may be applied to interior surfaces of one or more portions of the housing and/or to features or surfaces within the interior of the electronic device. In some embodiments, disassembly of an electronic device may include removal or separation of components other than or in addition to the housing, including separation of a power supply (e.g., a battery, etc.), a circuit board, a semiconductor device (e.g., a processor, a memory device, etc.), or another component from a remainder of the electronic device. A protective coating may be applied to the remainder of the electronic device assembly, to one or more of the components that have been removed from the electronic device (e.g., collectively, or to any or all components in isolation, etc.) or to any suitable combination of components.

"As indicated, at least a portion of the housing of an electronic device may be configured for selective separation from one or more other portions of the housing or from a remainder of the electronic device, or the housing may not include any feature that provides ready access to an interior of the electronic device (e.g., the entire housing may permanently house other components of the electronic device, etc.). In embodiments where the housing of an electronic device is not configured for ready removal and does not include any features that provide ready access to the interior of an electronic device, it may be difficult to access the interior of the electronic device or to separate the electronic device into multiple components. Some embodiments, therefore, include cutting or otherwise removing a portion of the housing of an electronic device to form access locations through which components or features within an interior of the electronic device may be accessed. Access locations in the housing may provide access to desired locations (e.g., features, components, surfaces, etc.) within the interior of an electronic device and, in some embodiments, access locations may correspond to locations within the electronic device through which various features or components can be removed, masked, or treated (e.g., to prevent adhesion of a protective coating, to enable removal of a mask material and/or protective material, etc.). In some embodiments, access locations may correspond to locations where a protective material will be or has been introduced into the electronic device, and from which the protective material may access and, thus, be applied to one or more surfaces, features or components inside of the electronic device. After use of an access location is complete, a plug, cap or cover may be formed or assembled with the electronic device to close each access location and, thus, to limit the exposure of surfaces, features or components within the electronic device to an environment outside of the electronic device.

"According to some embodiments, components of a disassembled electronic device may, prior to application of a protective coating, lack water-resistant or other protective features. In other embodiments, a disassembled electronic device may include one or more mechanical seals (e.g., O-rings, gaskets, etc.) that are configured to prevent moisture from entering into the housing of the electronic device. In still other embodiments, the disassembled components may include a protective material which is the same as or different from (e.g., in material, texture, purpose, or other characteristics) the protective coating applied using the methods and systems of this disclosure. Where a protective coating of some sort is in place upon at least some surfaces of an electronic device prior to application of a protective coating in accordance with teachings of this disclosure (e.g., prior to accessing at least a portion of the electronic device, etc.), subsequent application of a protective coating in accordance with teachings of this disclosure may produce a discernible boundary or seam between adjacent protective coatings, with the subsequently applied, aftermarket protective coating be located at the same elevation as the original protective coating, at a more outward elevation than the original protective coating or, in some embodiments, at least partially superimposed over the original protective coating.

"Various embodiments of systems for applying protective coatings are also disclosed. Such a system may include components of a production line (e.g., a manufacturing line, an assembly line, etc.) in which processes or elements thereof are performed manually or are automated, or a system may be configured to perform a combination of manual and automated actions. An example of such a system may include an access element for providing access to at least a portion of an interior of an electronic device (e.g., dissembling the electronic device, opening the electronic device, etc.). The disassembly element may be configured to separate one or more portions of a housing from one or more other portions of a housing, or from other components of the electronic device (e.g., a remainder of the electronic device, etc.), to cut into the housing, to remove or provide access to one or more features or components within an interior of the electronic device, or to perform any combination of these actions. Once interior features or components are accessible or exposed, a coating element of the system may apply a protective coating. Thereafter, a sealing element may limit access to the interior of the electronic device (e.g., by reassembling the electronic device or otherwise closing it, etc.) to enable resumed operation and use of the electronic device.

"Embodiments of a coating application system may also include a selectivity element. The selectivity element may apply a coating release element and/or a mask to selected portions (e.g., features, components, etc.) of an electronic device or an electronic device assembly, etc.) to prevent or inhibit a protective coating from being applied to, or to enable the ready removal of a protective coating from, one or more surfaces of the electronic device. The selectivity element may be located upstream from the coating element. Additionally, an optional material removal element may be located downstream from the coating element to optionally remove a mask and/or one or more portions of a protective coating.

"Other aspects, as well as features and advantages of various aspects, of the disclosed subject matter will become apparent to those of skill in the art through consideration of the ensuing description, the accompanying drawings and the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

"In the drawings:

"FIG. 1 illustrates an embodiment of an electronic device;

"FIG. 2 illustrates the electronic device of FIG. 1 following its disassembly into front and rear portions;

"FIG. 3A is a schematic representation of a front portion of the disassembled electronic device of FIG. 2;

"FIG. 3B is a schematic representation of the front portion of the disassembled electronic device of FIGS. 2 and 3A, with a protective coating applied to the front portion;

"FIG. 4 illustrates the front portion of the disassembled portable electronic device of FIG. 2, with elements of a mask applied thereto;

"FIG. 5A is a schematic cross-sectional representation of the front portion of the disassembled portable electronic device of FIG. 4, with a mask and a protective coating applied thereto;

"FIG. 5B is a schematic cross-sectional representation of the front portion of the disassembled portable electronic device of FIG. 5A, with masking elements removed therefrom;

"FIG. 6 is a rear view of the electronic device of FIG. 1;

"FIG. 7 illustrates the electronic device of FIG. 6 with holes formed through a housing of the electronic device to expose interior features or components of the electronic device;

"FIG. 8 illustrates the electronic device of FIGS. 6 and 7, with masking elements applied to interior features or components;

"FIG. 9 illustrates the electronic device of FIGS. 6-8 and includes covers for the openings through the housing of the electronic device; and

"FIG. 10 is a schematic representation of an embodiment of a system for applying protective coatings to electronic devices."

For more information, see this patent application: Stevens, Blake; Sorenson, Max; Clayson, Paul S.; Gordon, Scott B. Systems and Methods for Applying Protective Coatings to Internal Surfaces of Fully Assembled Electronic Devices. Filed February 11, 2014 and posted June 19, 2014. Patent URL: http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.html&r=4600&p=92&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=20140612.PD.&OS=PD/20140612&RS=PD/20140612

Keywords for this news article include: HzO Inc., Semiconductor, Electronic Components.

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Source: Electronics Newsweekly


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