Microsoft patent describes a folding-screen device with a liquid-filled hinge


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It seems like just about every major laptop, tablet, or smartphone maker is confirmed or at least rumored to be working on a folding-screen device of some kind. There's Samsung's Galaxy Fold, Lenovo's ThinkPad X1, and now, Microsoft may be taking an increased interest in this market segment as well.

According to a patent filed by the company with the World Intellectual Property Organization, Microsoft has toyed with the idea of a dual-screen device with a unique hinge design. In one potential implementation, the hinge could be filled with either a gas or "semi-viscous" liquid that would "slowly move" within the hinge's cavity.

The purpose of this design would be to keep out dust and protect the overall integrity of the device by lowering stress at the flex point. You can see Microsoft's interpretation of the idea in the drawing below.

Though we'd have to see this design in action before we could confirm its effectiveness, it does seem like a smart answer to a difficult problem. Other folding-screen devices, such as Samsung's Galaxy Fold, have struggled with quality assurance and durability as of late (though the Fold situation is improving).

At any rate, this isn't the first time rumors of a Microsoft-designed folding device have hit the web. The company is reportedly working on a dual-screen Surface laptop of some kind (it was shown to employees behind closed doors back in June), so perhaps this hinge technology may be put to use there.

Notably, however, Microsoft's patent concept images more closely resemble a folding tablet or smartphone than a full-sized laptop -- further, as Engadget spotted, this patent was filed by the company's technology licensing team, which suggests it may sell off the concept rather than a product.

Regardless, the usual disclaimer: this concept is just a patent at the moment, and does not necessarily mean Microsoft will actually release or license folding tablet, smartphone, or laptop with a similar design. Technology like this sometimes gets patented just so a company can more easily block competitors from swiping its ideas. Either way, we look forward to seeing what the future holds for Microsoft-branded dual-screen and folding-screen gadgets.

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Uncle Al

Posts: 8,014   +6,783
A very interesting solution to the problem ... but how long will it last? 1 million folds? 5 million folds? That will be a VERY important answer to the users questions .....


Posts: 271   +94
First the Galaxy Crack #crackGate, now the Surface Splash! All kidding aside. Very innovative. A few more years and we might actually have viable folding devices


Posts: 174   +148
Repairability goes out the window.

I imagine by the time one of these phones has to be repaired the cost of the repairs would outweigh the phone anyway.

Ex. My Nexus 6 had a cracked screen, inflated battery (caused the cracked screen), and the charge port broke connections. The cost in parts alone was worth more than the phone was. Keep in mind this was well after it was dated and the hardware couldn't keep up anymore.


Posts: 624   +373
Very innovative, using human joint's function, to solve a mechanical-movement problem.

There is a new Surface phone coming next year, with ARM running it. I don't care about the price, it is what been needed in the smartphone space for a long time.


Posts: 628   +247
It looks like the stretching of flexible display and flexible cover are on the right side only and not on both sides (Fig 9B).