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Apple granted patents for pioneering unibody MacBook design

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 
Two years after Apple introduced its first unibody computer in the MacBook Air, the company has officially been granted ownership of its unique design and manufacturing process.

The ownership comes from a trio of patents officially awarded this week. Two entitled "Portable computer" show the design of the MacBook Air, while one, called "Electronic device," apply to Apple's larger, more powerful aluminum MacBook Pro. The patents were originally applied for in 2008 and 2009.

Introduced as an ultra-light, ultraportable laptop in January of 2008, the MacBook Air was the first to employ Apple's unique unibody design with built-in battery. Two years later, the computer is still considered to be a marvel of design, with the computer and its 13.3-inch screen squeezed into a body that is no thicker than 0.76 inches when closed.

The patents pertain to the computer's glass multi-touch trackpad, and the clamshell design, which tapers to as small as 0.16 inches at its thinnest point.

Later in 2008, Apple released unibody MacBooks, employing the same design cues and manufacturing techniques. The computers come from an extruded block of aluminum, allowing them to be thinner and lighter while retaining rigid durability.



In 2008, Apple touted the unibody design, detailing the process and noting that the new MacBooks were the "industry's greenest notebooks." The redesigned portable computers also added a glass, LED backlit display.



Last October, Apple made the unibody transformation complete, when it took its low-end, $999 plastic MacBook and gave it an upgrade. In the process, the 13.3-inch computer lost a half-pound and gained an LED display with 7 hours of battery life.

post #2 of 31
The most solid piece of machinery I ever owned.
No one does hardware like Apple.
post #3 of 31
How is the plastic MacBook a "unibody" construction? The benefits of cutting from a single ignot are relative to shaping sheet metal. With a plastic body you don't have the same stress issues because it is cast... or am I missing something.
post #4 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by aaarrrgggh View Post

How is the plastic MacBook a "unibody" construction? The benefits of cutting from a single ignot are relative to shaping sheet metal. With a plastic body you don't have the same stress issues because it is cast... or am I missing something.

A lot of tech sites (AppleInsider included), have been promoting the plastic MacBook as "unibody" construction since the day it came out. I believe Apple has even referred to it that way at least once.

But yeah, they are all totally wrong and don't know what they are talking about. It's just a popular misconception that's been going around.
post #5 of 31
hasn't dell had an aluminum unibody design for years? I've used Panasonic Toughbooks as well
post #6 of 31
Is the new polycarbonate MacBook case injection-molded, or cut from a block of plastic? I had the same reaction as the OP when it came out, and was wondering if there was some advantage to machining plastic parts instead of casting them.
post #7 of 31
The unibody design relates to how the components are placed within the structure. The new Macbook places the components within the structure in the same way as the aluminium Macbook. Thus providing a more rigid design utilising less parts than normal laptop construction.

Whether it be made from plastic or metal the actual construction is very similar.
post #8 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by jetlaw View Post

Is the new polycarbonate MacBook case injection-molded, or cut from a block of plastic? I had the same reaction as the OP when it came out, and was wondering if there was some advantage to machining plastic parts instead of casting them.

If it is glass-reinforced, laying up and casting is much more efficient for plastic. Looking at the assembly of military helicopter rotors, they do machine a solid block of titanium down to a honeycomb infill, but the carbon fiber portions are all laid up on the outside. I always understood that metals are omni-directional in strength, whereas plastic gets all of it real strength from fiber reinforcement.
post #9 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by aaarrrgggh View Post

How is the plastic MacBook a "unibody" construction? The benefits of cutting from a single ignot are relative to shaping sheet metal. With a plastic body you don't have the same stress issues because it is cast... or am I missing something.

The reasoning seem to be threefold. 1) There is a single major piece forming the core frame, just like in the MBPs. 2) While unibody is being used it may be more apropos to use milled, which allows for much tighter controlls than simply using a mold. (it is milled?) 3) The terms became marketable in the MBPs so it makes sense to use the same term for a similar process and construction even if it's not completely correct, though I think it is.
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post #10 of 31
They seriously just got a patent for billet aluminum?

Oh, it must be a design patent. It's only a patent on that particular shape of billet aluminum, which is really a stupid misuse of the patent system. They need to go away, along with business method patents.
post #11 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by kiwee View Post

The most solid piece of machinery I ever owned.
No one does hardware like Apple.

If you spend seven days a week working and hauling a laptop, it might as well be the best.

Unibody MBPs do the job.
post #12 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by al_bundy View Post

hasn't dell had an aluminum unibody design for years? I've used Panasonic Toughbooks as well

Looking around, looks like MBA came out before Dell's Adamo. Couldn't confirm anything about Panasonic's Toughbook. Checking Apples website Unibody construction http://www.apple.com/macbookpro/design.html
watch the video.

Whether Apple invented it and used it first--who ever files the patent first has a leg up on any possible claimants.
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無心 The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders., Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit__Edward Abbey
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post #13 of 31
Unibody MBP for 1.5 years now, never looking back. Wow what a machine! And its so cool to look at

Now come the lawsuits for the copycats
post #14 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkVader View Post

They seriously just got a patent for billet aluminum?

Oh, it must be a design patent. It's only a patent on that particular shape of billet aluminum, which is really a stupid misuse of the patent system. They need to go away, along with business method patents.

Then why design or develop anything if someone else will steal it and make money off your design or concept. Patents system was initiated to protect inventors from others who would seize upon their invention to make a profit for themselves. Just read about the number of patent lawsuits between Apple, Nokia, Kodak etc, etc.

FYI from the US Patent Office

" * Utility Patent- Issued for the invention of a new and
useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of
matter, or a new and useful improvement thereof, it
generally permits its owner to exclude others from
making, using, or selling the invention for a period of
up to twenty years from the date of patent application
filing ++, subject to the payment of maintenance fees.
Approximately 90% of the patent documents issued by the
PTO in recent years have been utility patents, also
referred to as "patents for invention."

* Design Patent- Issued for a new, original, and
ornamental design for an article of manufacture, it
permits its owner to exclude others from making, using,
or selling the design for a period of fourteen years
from the date of patent grant. Design patents are not
subject to the payment of maintenance fees."
無心 The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders., Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit__Edward Abbey
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無心 The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders., Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit__Edward Abbey
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post #15 of 31
I have an MB/P, when I first saw it, I fell in love with it, got it within the first month of release... still a beauty, although it kinda pissed me off that it became a Pro 6 months later.
post #16 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by kiwee View Post

The most solid piece of machinery I ever owned.
No one does hardware like Apple.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tpf1952 View Post

If you spend seven days a week working and hauling a laptop, it might as well be the best.

Unibody MBPs do the job.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ch2co View Post

Unibody MBP for 1.5 years now, never looking back. Wow what a machine! And its so cool to look at

Now come the lawsuits for the copycats

Quote:
Originally Posted by ilogic View Post

I have an MB/P, when I first saw it, I fell in love with it, got it within the first month of release... still a beauty, although it kinda pissed me off that it became a Pro 6 months later.

Watch out, I think you all just gizzed all over yourselves.
post #17 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by ilogic View Post

I have an MB/P, when I first saw it, I fell in love with it, got it within the first month of release... still a beauty, although it kinda pissed me off that it became a Pro 6 months later.

Look at this way, you have a great product and no matter what you do it'll always be less functional than the next model regardless of the name Also, you have the ONLY aluminium MacBook Apple will likely ever create. That has to be worth a little resale value.

PS: When did you buy it and what LCD ID do you have, because there was a time when they started the upgrade of the LCDs from TN to the Pro panels while they were still just a MacBook. That in itself will help the resale value.
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post #18 of 31
The word "unibody" does not refer to a process of milled metal - it refers to a design where the external main case and structural frame are one and the same part.

Previously laptops would have an assembly of parts that together create the structure that holds everything together, provide the needed strength and stiffness, and for the exterior case. The Unibody MacBooks have *one* part that does all of this.

The term comes from the automotive industry. Most modern cars and SUVs are built this way.

Examine an American car from the 60's (or even most new trucks), and you will find a frame that holds all the mechanical peices - engine, transmission, suspension, etc. Then the bodywork gets bolted on top.

Compare that with a modern car; there is no separate frame. You start with the body, then the engine, transmission, suspension etc. get bolted to the body directly. There are some "access panels", such as the hood and doors that are separate, but the majority of the exterior is the frame.

(This is also known as a "monocoque", but that term is more typically used for aircraft and composite-body race cars.)
post #19 of 31
No, patents were created to protect the small (read single person) inventor from large corporations. Unfortunately our patent system is so utterly abused at this point that it mainly just a lawyers playground and profit center.

Apple is really showing its true colors here with these recent patent troll filings.

Seriously, has the design of a notebook chassis really changed that much over the last 20 years to warrant a patent? Let's see, display - check, keyboard - check, pointing device - check, optical drive - check, etc...

Even the multi-touch technology is somewhat bogus. I'm sure Synaptics would have something to say about the glass touchpad patent seeing how they've been making them for years and have several patents of their own on the technology.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FineTunes View Post

Then why design or develop anything if someone else will steal it and make money off your design or concept. Patents system was initiated to protect inventors from others who would seize upon their invention to make a profit for themselves. Just read about the number of patent lawsuits between Apple, Nokia, Kodak etc, etc.

FYI from the US Patent Office

" * Utility Patent- Issued for the invention of a new and
useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of
matter, or a new and useful improvement thereof, it
generally permits its owner to exclude others from
making, using, or selling the invention for a period of
up to twenty years from the date of patent application
filing ++, subject to the payment of maintenance fees.
Approximately 90% of the patent documents issued by the
PTO in recent years have been utility patents, also
referred to as "patents for invention."

* Design Patent- Issued for a new, original, and
ornamental design for an article of manufacture, it
permits its owner to exclude others from making, using,
or selling the design for a period of fourteen years
from the date of patent grant. Design patents are not
subject to the payment of maintenance fees."
post #20 of 31
the hp envy looks very similar to a macbook pro, maybe this patent will be grounds for a possible lawsuit?
post #21 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by doyourownthing View Post

the hp envy looks very similar to a macbook pro, maybe this patent will be grounds for a possible lawsuit?

And what about the Sony Vayo's? Almost a copy of the MacBook (-Pro/-Air) if you ask me.
post #22 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by trboyden View Post

Watch out, I think you all just gizzed all over yourselves.

What's your problem? People are not allowed to appreciate nice products anymore?
Compared to all the other laptops I've had, the MBP is by far the greatest.
post #23 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by mbmcavoy View Post

The word "unibody" does not refer to a process of milled metal - it refers to a design where the external main case and structural frame are one and the same part.

Previously laptops would have an assembly of parts that together create the structure that holds everything together, provide the needed strength and stiffness, and for the exterior case. The Unibody MacBooks have *one* part that does all of this.

Yeah, that's what all these people don't understand. They didn't patent a "look" or case. They patented a structure.
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post #24 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by trboyden View Post

No, patents were created to protect the small (read single person) inventor from large corporations. Unfortunately our patent system is so utterly abused at this point that it mainly just a lawyers playground and profit center.

Apple is really showing its true colors here with these recent patent troll filings.

Seriously, has the design of a notebook chassis really changed that much over the last 20 years to warrant a patent? Let's see, display - check, keyboard - check, pointing device - check, optical drive - check, etc...

Even the multi-touch technology is somewhat bogus. I'm sure Synaptics would have something to say about the glass touchpad patent seeing how they've been making them for years and have several patents of their own on the technology.

Where did I say in my posting that patents were not created to protect "small (read single person) inventor?" Apple or any other corporation are also protected patent laws if they invent or develop something new.

One of the co-inventors of the integrated silicone chip, Robert Noyce went on to be a co-founder of Intel. His patent number was #2,981,877, and he was working for Fairchild at the time. The other co-inventor was Jack Kirby who was working for TI. His patent number is #3,138,743.

While the system isn't perfect, it is better than nothing. It is in need of a major revision though.
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無心 The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders., Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit__Edward Abbey
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post #25 of 31
So those doggone Apple lawyers need to do something when they're not beating up on small inoccuous companies like Psystar or stealing patents and IP from Nokia and Kodak!

LOL!!!

Seriously, trboyden, given the number of ways that screen, processor, keyboard and pointing device can interface, your statement is pretty silly dotcha think? And don't even get into multitouch - there are dozens of ways multitouch is implemented. Having worked for 3M, for example, I know that every large corporation that creates products has a legal team that reviews existing patents. There are so many that it is necessary to make sure first that an implementation of a technology does not infringe on other IP. They also have a team (may be the same one) that protects their own IP/patents, either via suit or license. Just one of the scientists (in this case a metallurgist) had HUNDREDS of patents registered to him (and 3M of course) alone. So to patent a system like the unibody construction is important because it is a different approach than most of the computer industry takes in structure, assemble and parting. The entire system from billet to final assembly is critical to the success of the concept. Which is why when someone introduces something that reduces cost, labor or parting - the rest of any given industry rushes to implement something very similar.
post #26 of 31
無心 The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders., Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit__Edward Abbey
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無心 The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders., Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit__Edward Abbey
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post #27 of 31
Hopefully they don't decide to too anything controversial like defend it.
post #28 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by trboyden View Post

Watch out, I think you all just gizzed all over yourselves.

You sound like a jealous Windows user. Tell us: Dell? Or Toshiba?

My Android phone is the worst phone I've ever owned.
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My Android phone is the worst phone I've ever owned.
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post #29 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by knightlie View Post

You sound like a jealous Windows user. Tell us: Dell? Or Toshiba?



HP Envy

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post #30 of 31

It's interesting how they didn't use an image that resembles the MacBook Air or the MacBook Pro. Is there a reason for doing that?

Also, it's a bit of a stretch to say that the MacBook Air/Pro is a "docking station" for an electronic device. If Apple use this to sue Dell on using this method of manufacturing for their laptop, would they win?
post #31 of 31
The unibody acts as a "docking station" for the motherboard, processor etc i.e "an electronic device".

You can run the "electronic device" (i.e. components of a computer) on a table without "docking" it to a case of any sort.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Transformist View Post

Also, it's a bit of a stretch to say that the MacBook Air/Pro is a "docking station" for an electronic device. If Apple use this to sue Dell on using this method of manufacturing for their laptop, would they win?
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