Originally Posted by Sambredeson
No. Molding carbon fiber into shells has been used, yes, and coloring those shells has been used also. However, such shells are usually just painted to color them, which in the case of car, plane, and boat hulls, works great.
I can't speak for cars or planes but I've looked very deeply into boat building and I have to object to the description you have given. Usually what you see is a mold that has layers built up before the fiber layer is even applied. Thus the fiber gets molded to layers of color that are already in the mold. While this is't a process of coloring the resin used for the laying up the fibers one could certainly do so. From the practical perspective I've heard of people adding color to the resin used to lay up the layers of fibers to be able to gage application but this has little to do with making the boat pretty.
What Apple has patented is the method of repeatedly dying each layer of a carbon fiber shell (which may have been done before, although I've never heard of it) and applying a finishing layer to the top (which is almost definitely new, as bonding different layers to carbon fiber is very difficult).
I'm not sure where you get the idea that bonding different layers is difficult as that is exactly what is done in boat building. Obviously there are a lot of variables here but I don't see this as extremely difficult. frankly there is even a method of boat building that doesn't use a female mold and effectively leaves one with a system like you describe above.
Even if this entire process HAS been done before, it certainly hasn't been patented, which is really all that matters anyway.
Actually it does matter. If this is just a rehash of existing methods (open to debate) then why should Apple be able to patent it. The excuse for many of these patents seems to be "well it is a new use for the technique". Maybe maybe not but it does raise the question of just how obvious the technique is.
If Apple filed a patent for this two years ago and were planninon ever actually using it, I thiink they already would have.
Nope! it could take them five years to bring this to market, maybe longer depending upon exactly what they are aiming for.
As to Apples intentions that seems to be rather clear, they are in the process of actually beefing up their materials teams with a strong emphasis on fiber technology. So I would have to say something is up.
As an engineer, I think it's safe to say that it would be difficult or impossible for Apple to make an iPad shell out of any kind of resin fiber composite that would be as strong as aluminum while staying as thin - carbon fiber is much stronger pound for pound than aluminum, but since aluminum is much denser, it can be made much thinner. Resins also have the nasty habit of cracking very easily...
In the end it will come down to economics. If Apple can come up with a lighter and less expensive shell they will. As to thinnest well when is the last time you wadded up some aluminum foil, or ripped off a sheet. Aluminum isn't all that strong and in things like the iPad a lot of strength comes from the shape of the shell as it would with fiber resins. Aluminum has to be rather thick to have any stiffness at all where as fiber resins have more control over the structure and stiffness. This is easy to see just by picking up sheets of aluminum or fiber reinforced resin.
Oh, and to the guy who said that this would let Apple's air shipping costs to drop: do you really think Apple's internal shipment costs are what drive their product designs??