Apple wants to make iPhones and iPads more resistant to drops and hits, especially the camera components of the devices. The tech giant has filed for a patent (number 20170331993) for an “impact absorber.”
In the patent filing, Apple notes that the advent of small, mobile multipurpose devices such as smartphones and tablet or pad devices has resulted in a need for high-resolution, small form factor cameras for integration in the devices. Some small form factor cameras may incorporate optical image stabilization (OIS) mechanisms.
Some small form factor cameras may incorporate an autofocus (AF) mechanism whereby the object focal distance can be adjusted to focus an object plane in front of the camera at an image plane to be captured by the image sensor. In some such autofocus mechanisms, the optical lens is moved as a single rigid body along the optical axis (referred to as the Z axis) of the camera to refocus the camera.
In addition, Apple says that high image quality is easier to achieve in small form factor cameras if lens motion along the optical axis is accompanied by minimal parasitic motion in the other degrees of freedom. In such systems, the ability to dampen vibration of the position of the lens or absorb impact of the lens carrier with other components of the camera is useful.
Apple’s invention involves a camera that includes an optical package, a camera actuator for moving the optical package, a camera cover, and an impact absorption member to prevent contact between the camera cover and the lens carrier. In some embodiments, the camera actuator includes a lens carrier moveably mounted to a camera cover.
Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.