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Apple's iconic earbuds may get a makeover with this patent

April 13, 2012 5:33pm
A new patent by Apple Inc. hints at a makeover for the now-iconic earbuds for its devices such as the iPhone and iPod, where a new manufacturing process will make the buds seamless and beautiful.
 
Enthusiast site AppleInsider reported Apple’s latest patent will use a process known as ultrasonic bonding to create earbuds with a seamless, aesthetically pleasing “unibody” appearance.
 
The expected resulting product would be in contrast with existing headsets and earbuds, which can be “abrupt and aesthetically displeasing” due to its different components such as cables, a jack, a microphone, and the headphones.
 
In Apple’s patent, components would “seamlessly integrate” with through “Ultrasonically Welded Structures and Methods for Making the Same.”
 
AppleInsider described the new headphones as having an appearance that they were constructed as “a seamless unibody structure,” even if the earbuds may include two different component pieces welded together.
 
The manufacturing process allows the headphone to appear to be one piece, even though it may actually be a number of connected pieces, AppleInsider added.
 
It added Apple’s desire to build a better set of earbuds was also detailed in a separate application published this week, entitled “Curved Plastic Object and Systems and Methods for Deburring the Same.”
 
It describes building curved plastic objects in the shape of a cap or grill of a headphone or earbud.
 
The filing said holes are needed in earbuds to allow sound to travel, but the creation of those holes can have remnants in or around them that degrade the appearance of the device and the acoustic properties of the headphones.
 
Its solution is a tool for “deburring” a curved plastic object. The tool could be coated in an abrasive material and would conform to the shape of the curved object.
 
The tool can also polish it by vibrating while in contact with the plastic surface.
 
“Both the inner and outer surfaces would be both ‘deburred’ and polished, ensuring that no remnants remain in the holes or on any surface of the headphones,” AppleInsider said.
 
The ultrasonic welding patent application is credited to Jeff Hayashida, Jonathan Aase, Rico Zorkendorfer, and Evans Hankey. Hayashida and Aase are also credited with the curved plastic patent application, AppleInsider said.
 
A separate article on CNET said Apple’s “obsession” with aesthetics had prompted it to spend some $6.6 million to remodel its Fifth Avenue store in New York to cut the number of glass panels for its exterior cubic entrance from 90 down to 15.
 
It added that since 2008, Apple has made efforts to make its computers and mobile devices using so-called “unibody” construction techniques, a form of manufacturing that takes a single material and cuts away room for circuitry, batteries, and other components.
 
The result is a structure that can be thinner, lighter, and stronger than some traditional, multi-piece designs. — TJD, GMA News



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