The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday published a patent application by Apple that details a method of waterproofing components within a device, such as an iPhone, enabling it to create a waterproof device without the need for a special case.
The patent application, originally filed in September 2013, describes a “hydroponic coating” that would be applied to integral parts within a device, such as a circuit board. The process would be achieved via a “plasma-assisted chemical vapor deposition (PACVD) process” that would adhere to the component, in such a way as to not take up much additional room inside of the device.
One method Apple notes is to create a hydrophobic seal around an electrical connector on a PCB.The method includes a step of configuring a silicone seal on the PCB to frame the electrical connector on the PCB such that the silicone seal covers a soldered portion of the electrical connector. Additionally, the silicone seal includes an opening for the electrical connector to reside within.
In the bigger picture, immersing electronic devices in water generally has predictably negative results. Through testing it has been determined that high voltage power components are more likely to short or malfunction after only brief exposure to liquids or moisture. More specifically, exposed metal areas having high voltage differentials in close proximity can easily experience short circuit events when corrosion or water immersion bridges the gap between such areas.By providing an insulating layer or barrier around these highly susceptible parts, water resistance can be substantially increased without obscuring functional openings leading into a device housing of a particular electronic device. A thin hydrophobic (i.e., water resistant) conformal coating having a thickness between at least one and ten microns can be applied to a substrate using a plasma-assisted chemical vapor deposition (PACVD) process. The PACVD process charges the surface of the substrate so that the coating can be bonded to the charged surface.
The patent application doesn’t specify which Apple devices the waterproofing process could be applied to. However, it is easy to imagine such a process being applied to the company’s iPhone, iPad, or even their upcoming Apple Watch devices.
While we likely won’t see any use of the patented process any time soon, as Apple continually patents such processes as results from its research, the patent filing does indicate that Apple is exploring possibly waterproofing their devices in the future.