News Column

Patent Issued for Sheet and Block for Enhancing Proximity Sensor Performance

August 20, 2014

By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Journal of Engineering -- According to news reporting originating from Alexandria, Virginia, by VerticalNews journalists, a patent by the inventors Wittenberg, Mike (Cupertino, CA); Tan, Tang (Palo Alto, CA), filed on January 10, 2011, was published online on August 5, 2014.

The assignee for this patent, patent number 8796611, is Apple Inc. (Cupertino, CA).

Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Electronic devices can include a variety of components that provide functionality to the devices. For example, some devices can include a proximity sensor. As another example, some devices can include a camera for capturing images (still images or video). As still another example, some devices can include circuitry or sensors for detecting how it being used, such as whether a face is close by so that the touch screen should be deactivated. The camera, sensors, or other circuitry can be incorporated in the electronic device using different approaches. In some cases, however, it may be desirable to mount or connect the camera, sensors, or other circuitry in a manner that enhances the reliability and precision of outputs provided by the camera, sensors or other circuitry."

In addition to obtaining background information on this patent, VerticalNews editors also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "An electronic device can include several sensors for detecting how the device is used. In some cases, an electronic device can include a proximity sensor having an emitter emitting light. The light can be reflected outside of the device, and be detected by a detector. The emitter and detector can be placed underneath a glass cover to prevent damage to the components. To ensure a proper operation of the sensor, one or more foam blocks can be placed at least between the emitter and detector to prevent cross talk, or light emitted by the emitter being detected by the detector without passing through the glass cover and into the environment (e.g., detection of emitted light due to reflection within the device). In some cases, one or both of the emitter and detector can be surrounded by foam blocks.

"The disposition of the foam blocks, and the size of openings within the blocks for each of the emitter and detector, can affect the performance of the sensor. Therefore, it may be desirable to utilize different configurations of blocks providing different openings for each component of the sensor in order to tune the sensor performance. Creating different foam blocks, and placing them accurately in the device in a consistent manner for testing, however, may be an expensive, time-consuming, and/or difficult endeavor.

"To improve performance of the sensor, a sheet of material can be applied to a top surface of foam blocks. The material used for the sheet can be more robust or rigid than the material used for the foam block, such that manipulation of the sheet is less likely to damage the foam block than direct manipulation of the foam block. For example, the sheet can be constructed from Mylar adhered to a surface of the foam blocks. The sheet can also be used to facilitate testing of the sensor.

"In some cases, different sheets of material can be provided on a single size of foam blocks. Each sheet of material can be sized such that the sheet of material extends beyond a periphery of a surface of the foam blocks. Using this approach, the sheet boundaries can define the size and shape of openings for each of the emitter and detector. Each of the different sheets, however, can be supported by a single size or type of foam block. This can reduce costs and accelerate the timeframe for tuning a proximity sensor, which can thereby increase the likelihood that the sensor will have superior performance in the device.

"Some electronic devices can include a camera for capturing images. The camera can be enclosed within an electronic device to protect components of the camera, such as the lens, from damage. The enclosure can include a transparent cover through which light from the environment can be transmitted and so that it reaches the camera. The cover can be treated or include one or more coatings for improving the performance of the camera. For example, an oleophobic coating can be applied to an exterior surface of the cover, and an infrared filter can be applied to an interior surface of the cover.

"The cover can be secured to any suitable portion of the electronic device enclosure. In some cases, the enclosure can include an opening over which the cover is placed. The opening can be smaller than the cover, such that a ring around a periphery of the cover can come into contact with a portion of the enclosure (e.g., an edge) forming a ring around the opening. An adhesive (e.g., a pressure sensitive adhesive) can be applied around the opening to secure the cover to the enclosure.

"Some adhesives, however, may have difficulty bonding to glass (e.g., the cover) or to metal (e.g., the enclosure). To improve the bond provided by the adhesive, an ink layer can be provided over the adhesive. For example, an ink layer can be applied to the ring around the periphery of the cover such that the ink layer is between the cover and the adhesive (which is placed in contact with the enclosure). In some cases, a filter or coating can be applied to the cover. For example, an infrared filter can be applied to a surface of the cover. Then, a second ink layer can be placed between the cover and the infrared filter to improve the adhesive of the infrared filter to the cover. The enclosure and cover can be heated to improve the bond provided by the adhesive. The enclosure and cover can be secured within a fixture, which can be constructed from silicon, to be heated.

"Some electronic device components may need to be grounded to operate properly. For example, providing a conductive path for a component to ground can reduce or eliminate potential interferences caused by antennas, or by radiation emitted by other components. In some cases, a component such as a camera may need to be grounded by providing a conductive path between a housing of the camera and a grounding platform of the device (e.g., a portion of or connected to the enclosure).

"In some cases, a component may move relative to an enclosure during assembly. For example, a camera can be placed in an initial position during the assembly process, and subsequently be slid to a final position later in the process, such as when a cover closing the enclosure is placed over the camera and slid into place. To ensure that the camera operates properly, it may be desirable to ground the camera in both the initial position and in the final position. This may require a grounding assembly that includes a movable component that can accommodate the change in position of the camera.

"The grounding assembly can take any suitable form. In some cases, the grounding assembly can include a spring having several different arms that deflect in different manners. The amount of deflection of arms can vary based on the position of the camera. Alternatively, the grounding assembly can include a clip and a flex. The flex can include a flexible section between two rigid sections. A rigid section can be connected to each of the camera and to the grounding platform such that the flexible section can deform to accommodate the different positions of the camera during the assembly process and after the process is complete."

For more information, see this patent: Wittenberg, Mike; Tan, Tang. Sheet and Block for Enhancing Proximity Sensor Performance. U.S. Patent Number 8796611, filed January 10, 2011, and published online on August 5, 2014. Patent URL:

Keywords for this news article include: Apple Inc.

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Source: Journal of Engineering

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