Yesterday the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to a new accessory device that, in addition to providing a protective cover for the electronic device, it provides a heat removal system to draw heat from one or more heat-generating components in the electronic device. At a first glance, the patent figures appeared to have a similar look as the iPhone 5c case. However in patent FIG. 15 further below you'll clearly see that the third layer and backside of the case is solid without holes. So there's absolutely no connection to the former fruity 5c case design.
Accessory devices are used to provide a protective cover for an electronic device. The accessory device generally covers the enclosure, or housing, and protects the electronic device in the event the electronic device is dropped. The thickness of an accessory device varies with the desired level of protection. For example, some accessory devices include a thickness of several millimeters and offer increased protection.
However, while the increased thickness may provide additional protection, it may also cause some drawbacks such as trapping heat which could cause problems. In some cases, heat could cause an iPhone (or other electronic device) to throttle down to reduce its performance in order to reduce the heat, which may then in turn reduce the overall performance of the iPhone.
Alternatively, or in combination, the accessory device may retain the heat causing a hot spot in the accessory device. As a result, a user contacting the hot spot may experience a burn.
Apple's invention to combat this problem is to reinvent an iPhone's casing by adding a new heat transfer mechanism on the face that accepts the backside of the iPhone.
The heat transfer mechanism may include a heat collector capable of receiving heat generated from the component. The heat transfer mechanism may further include a heat conduit thermally coupled with the heat collector. The heat conduit may provide a pre-defined heat path that limits a transfer of heat to a pre-defined portion of the wall.
In another aspect, a method for forming an accessory device having a shell configured to secure an electronic device and aid in navigating heat away from a heat-generating component in the electronic device is described. The method may include disposing a thermally conductive layer in the shell in a first location that corresponds to a location of the heat-generating component when the electronic device is secured by the shell. The method may further include extending the thermally conductive layer from the first location to a second location different from the first location. The thermally conductive layer may define a path along which heat flows from the first location to the second location. In some embodiments, the second location corresponds to an opening that extends through the shell to allow any of the heat at the opening to dissipate away from the shell.
In some embodiments, in response to heat from the heat-generating component, the thermally conductive feature absorbs the heat from the electronic device by changing from a solid to a liquid.
Apple's patent FIG. 3 noted above illustrates a front view of the accessory device with the iPhone removed to show the new heat navigation features; FIG. 12 noted below illustrates a bottom isometric view of an embodiment of an electronic device having heat navigation features embedded in an enclosure of the electronic device.
Triple Layer Construction
The First Layer: Apple's patent FIG. 15 noted below illustrates an exploded view of an alternative embodiment of an accessory device. The first layer #910 of the new case is formed from a porous material, such as microfiber to allow heat generated from an electronic device (not shown) to pass through the first layer. Also, the first layer may include one or more thermally conductive features #912 (shown as dotted lines), such as a first thermally conductive feature #914 and a second thermally conductive feature #916. The thermally conductive features 912 may be disposed on a rear exterior region 918 of the first layer 910. In some embodiments, the thermally conductive features include a material (or materials) designed to absorb heat.
Further, the thermally conductive features may absorb heat by a phase change. For example, in response to heat generated by one or more heat-generating components in an electronic device, the thermally conductive features may absorb or extract the heat, causing the thermally conductive features to change from a solid state to a liquid (or quasi-liquid) state.
The Second Layer: The accessory device 900 may further include a second layer 920 designed to couple with the first layer 910. The second layer 920 may be formed from a polymeric material, such as plastic, designed to add structural rigidity to the accessory device 900.
The Third Layer: The accessory device 900 may further include a third layer 930 designed to couple with the second layer 920. In some embodiments, the third layer 930 includes a silicone material. In this regard, the third layer 930 may be designed to provide an aesthetic and low-maintenance cover that may easily cleaned and may readily resist microorganisms.
Apple's patent application was filed back in Q3 2015. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time. One of the inventors listed on the patent filing is Apple's Product Design Manager.