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Apple patent could lead to carbon fiber MacBook housings

post #1 of 44
Thread Starter 
Apple on Tuesday was granted a patent for a carbon fiber molding process that could one day be used to produce parts made from the lightweight material, like laptop casings or mobile device chassis.

Apple's U.S Patent No. 8,257,075 for a "Carbon composite mold design" describes the systems and methods needed to manufacture "aesthetically pleasing" parts from carbon fiber and other resin based composites.

While the applications of carbon fiber composite materials are many, Apple specifically notes that the invention can be used to "form outer housings for a laptop computer or other similar device." The patent may prove useful as an increasing consumer demand has pushed the industry toward slim and sleek portables with relatively heavy large screens. For example, the weight of the much-rumored next-generation iPhone's expected 4-inch screen could be offset by a carbon fiber monocoque.

It seems that the invention is aimed at larger devices like Apple's MacBook line, however, much like Sony's carbon fiber Vaio Z thin-and-light series.

Mold Apparatus
Source: USPTO


From the patent's background:

As but one example, it would be particularly helpful if portable electronic device housings and components could be stronger and more durable than what is now typically provided in plastic parts that are formed via ordinary plastic injection molding processes. In particular, it would be beneficial if laptops, notebook computers, and other relatively large and heavy portable computing devices could have outer housings that are better able to protect the entire device from drops and other mechanical shocks.


The patent notes that traditional resin-based composites are made by layering resin-impregnated sheets of into or over a mold, which then cures under increased heat and pressure. Removal of the part can prove a hassle as the resins stick to the mold surfaces, which often requires manual prying and peeling from an operator. As a result, surface blemishes and other defects often occur.

Apple's proposed method looks to enable the mass-production of carbon fiber parts that have a consistent visual appearance by streamlining the manufacturing process.

Mold Cutaway


The invention calls for a two-part mold, one a cavity and another portion "adapted to mate with the first," allowing composite parts to be formed in between. After curing, ejector pins located on one or both of the mold portions are used to separate the material from the mold body.

In another embodiment, a mold can have one or more internal fluid lines to help with cooling, a permanent release coating, and guide pins to accurately align the fiber sheets. Either a fluid or gas-actuated ejection system can also be employed for easy removal of the cured parts.

While Apple has shown no signs of using the advanced carbon fiber molding techniques in any future devices, the company may very well choose to do so in its push toward lighter and stronger products.
post #2 of 44

If anyone can pull it off, it's Apple.  I'm not a fan of carbon fiber though.  It's just a nasty process to work with.  Recycling that stuff is not a walk in the park.  It doesn't seem to be Apple's style to be mass-producing that stuff.

post #3 of 44

Getting ready for the 7th generation Iphone, anyone?

post #4 of 44
Do other companies patent stuff like this all the time?

Apple was just granted a patent for a carbon fiber molding process... streamlining the method of molding carbon fiber.

Were other companies on the brink of this new method too... but Apple just beat them to the patent office?

Or is this one of those crazy ideas that only Apple would ever think of... yet it will be deemed "obvious" when everyone else want to use it? Who wants to bet some other company will end up doing it... and get dragged into court?

My point is.... starting today Apple has a patent on a new method of carbon fiber production. If you want to use it... you have to license it. Or come up with your own method.

I only bring it up because of the recent courtroom battles.
post #5 of 44

I would be surprised if prior art didn't pop up to invalidate this.
 

post #6 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

If anyone can pull it off, it's Apple.  I'm not a fan of carbon fiber though.  It's just a nasty process to work with.  Recycling that stuff is not a walk in the park.  It doesn't seem to be Apple's style to be mass-producing that stuff.

They could use it for minor things like the Macbook hinges or the plastic Apple logos so they are less prone to cracking.
post #7 of 44

Apple patents whatever they possibly can (particularly in design), and have been doing it for years. Patenting is in their DNA. Others don't, aren't fast enough, or don't take the idea seriously. 

 

This helps Apple release great products that often put their competitors to shame. 

 

Competitors mess with Apple's IP because they didn't take seriously what Apple took *very* seriously.

 

Apple has a problem with competitors messing with their IP - often the same competitors who didn't take patenting seriously/didn't understand their long-term significance and got lazy because it was too late anyway.

 

Apple looks to legal remedies.

 

Competitors who are thus affected cry foul. 

 

Apple keeps going after them. 

 

Conclusion: the industry outside Cupertino needs to smarten up. 

post #8 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Scrip View Post

Do other companies patent stuff like this all the time?
Apple was just granted a patent for a carbon fiber molding process... streamlining the method of molding carbon fiber.
Were other companies on the brink of this new method too... but Apple just beat them to the patent office?
Or is this one of those crazy ideas that only Apple would ever think of... yet it will be deemed "obvious" when everyone else want to use it? Who wants to bet some other company will end up doing it... and get dragged into court?
My point is.... starting today Apple has a patent on a new method of carbon fiber production. If you want to use it... you have to license it. Or come up with your own method.
I only bring it up because of the recent courtroom battles.

 

Apple's been playing the game this way since the early days. 

 

I have no no sympathy for competitors who can't keep up.

post #9 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post

I would be surprised if prior art didn't pop up to invalidate this.

 
I believe Lenovo makes carbon fiber laptops. But obviously these patents are about specific methods and implementation. Of course cue the trolls who will oversimplify and claim Apple is patenting carbon fiber laptops when [insert competitor name here] has been doing so for years.
post #10 of 44
deleted
Edited by kellya74u - 7/24/13 at 9:18am
post #11 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post


I believe Lenovo makes carbon fiber laptops. But obviously these patents are about specific methods and implementation. Of course cue the trolls who will oversimplify and claim Apple is patenting carbon fiber laptops when [insert competitor name here] has been doing so for years.


I know Apple were patenting a molding process, not a product.  I wonder which part of this Apple thinks is new, the ejector pins?

 

 

Quote:
Ejector Pins: Pushing Your Parts Around

Ejector pins are the ‘bouncers’ of the injection molding world. They apply a force to eject a part from the mold, and in some cases can leave marks. At Protomold, our goal is to design and position pins to minimize their effect on your parts, and while Protomold typically determines pin placement, customers get to sign off on pin locations before an order is finalized.

Pins are located in the B-side mold half, the side in which the part will stay when the mold opens. Once the mold is opened, the pins extend into the mold cavity, push the part out, and then retract, allowing the mold to close and be refilled.

 

 

Quote:

Ejection systems

 

The method of ejection has to be adapted to the shape of the molding to prevent damage. In general, mould release is hindered by shrinkage of the part on the mould cores. Large ejection areas uniformly distributed over the molding are advised to avoid deformations.

Several ejector systems can be used:

  • Ejector pin or sleeve
  • Blades
  • Air valve
  • Stripper plate

 

Air pressure is already used to eject parts from molds.  Two part molds aren't new either. Guide pins aren't new.  I will be surprised if anything in this patent is new.

post #12 of 44
I don't think Apple will use this. Carbon fiber isn't well suited to large, flat surfaces. You'll need more curves and ridges compared to other materials to make it rigid like unibody.
post #13 of 44

I have to agree.  I was at Lockheed a few weeks ago working on a project for them.  They were molding some carbon fiber aircraft parts using a process that looks exactly like this patent.  It was a two piece aluminum mold with a ceramic non-stick coating.  The upper and lower mold sections had heaters in them to warm the mold and also liquid cooling to chill it.  It used ejector pins around the perimeter along with air pressure to release the part from the mold...

 

I really do not see much difference from this patent claim.....

post #14 of 44

Wondering what happened to this development

I was wondering when this was going to show up again...

 

It's been almost a year and a half since this:

http://www.engadget.com/2011/04/11/apple-hires-carbon-fiber-expert-kevin-kenney-to-posit-composites/

 

Plus I remember hearing Apple talk about Carbon Fiber frames for laptops even longer ago than this.

post #15 of 44

Eww. Aluminum please.

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"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

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post #16 of 44

A company already has a carbon-fiber laptop for sale, so Apple won't be the first.  They also make desktop PC cases.

http://www.geek.com/articles/chips/gigabyte-x11-carbon-fiber-laptop-is-worlds-lightest-20120531/

I don't know if this company already got a patent or not.  Apple is probably not the first company to do anything because there are smaller companies willing to experiment with niche products.  Apple will only do something that has mass market appeal in order to make money.  Carbon-fiber cases may not have enough profitability to make it worthwhile for Apple to use.  If Apple is the first to get a patent, I hope it can make it stick in court when other manufacturers follow if Apple has any success at all with the material.

post #17 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post
Air pressure is already used to eject parts from molds.  Two part molds aren't new either. Guide pins aren't new. 

 

That was my immediate reaction too. Anyone who's been around plastic moulding, or even aluminum die-casting, is familiar with these processes for ejecting the finished part.

 

I wonder if it's possible to patent the use of an existing process for use on a new material, in this case CF?

post #18 of 44

One of the problems with carbon fiber is when it is dropped and it might develop exposure to the fibers.  For some applications it is great, but it can only withstand certain amounts of abuse.

 

If Apple does happen to use, I hope they field test it first to find out how much abuse it can take before the carbon fiber starts to expose the fibers.

post #19 of 44

I'm presently copyrighting the letter A in addition to patenting wood and flat glass...

post #20 of 44

I don't care for Apple's patenting this, given how nasty they're getting at using patents to crush competition. But I've never cared for metal laptop enclosures, since that can make WiFi coverage spotty. It'd be great if carbon fiber could come to the next generation MacBook Air.

post #21 of 44

My first thoughts about Carbon Fiber is it's the exact opposite direction to take for recycling and limiting the use of plastics.  It looks like crap when it gets worn and gets that chalky scratched up look.  Just sayin...

post #22 of 44

I agree with the criticisms of CF.  Not recyclable.  Has wear issues.  Exposed fibers can be harmful.  It's really nothing more than glorified fiberglass.

 

The aluminum unibody used today is a marvel of rigidity and precision.  Molding something like CF is certainly not as precise.  The only advantage I see is lightness.

post #23 of 44
Originally Posted by doug0613 View Post
I'm presently copyrighting the letter A in addition to patenting wood and flat glass...

 

Could you people at least stop for a month or so? My list is getting longer than I ever wanted it to be.

Originally posted by Relic

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Originally posted by Relic

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post #24 of 44

Wait for it.......new lawsuit against anyone making any ""aesthetically pleasing" parts from carbon fiber and other resin based composites."

 

Yep, if it's "aesthetically pleasing" and a composite(ie filled plastic), Apple will sue for infringement.

post #25 of 44
Originally Posted by yutube View Post
Wait for it…….new lawsuit against anyone making any ""aesthetically pleasing" parts from carbon fiber and other resin based composites." Yep, if it's "aesthetically pleasing" and a composite(i.e. filled plastic), Apple will sue for infringement.

 

No. Seriously. Stop it, you fools.

Originally posted by Relic

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Originally posted by Relic

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post #26 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by sranger View Post

I have to agree.  I was at Lockheed a few weeks ago working on a project for them.  They were molding some carbon fiber aircraft parts using a process that looks exactly like this patent.  It was a two piece aluminum mold with a ceramic non-stick coating.  The upper and lower mold sections had heaters in them to warm the mold and also liquid cooling to chill it.  It used ejector pins around the perimeter along with air pressure to release the part from the mold...

 

I really do not see much difference from this patent claim.....


Thanks for posting. I am glad that I am not the only one who sees through Apple's efforts to patent existing technology.

 

If Apple spent more time producing product than litigating we, the customers, would benefit greatly.

post #27 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

 

Could you people at least stop for a month or so? My list is getting longer than I ever wanted it to be.


???

 

What is wrong with a bit of satire?

 

Cheers

post #28 of 44
Originally Posted by RBR View Post
What is wrong with a bit of satire?

 

Nothing at all, when it is. Sadly, it isn't. Not with many here.

Originally posted by Relic

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Originally posted by Relic

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post #29 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Scrip View Post

Do other companies patent stuff like this all the time?
Yes they do.
Quote:
Apple was just granted a patent for a carbon fiber molding process... streamlining the method of molding carbon fiber.
Were other companies on the brink of this new method too... but Apple just beat them to the patent office?
Carbon fiber materials have been in use for decades there are many methods to employ the stuff. Is this method unique, I can't say for sure but it does appear to be an adaptation of an injection molding process. If I understand the patent correctly it looks like a very high volume method.
Quote:
Or is this one of those crazy ideas that only Apple would ever think of... yet it will be deemed "obvious" when everyone else want to use it? Who wants to bet some other company will end up doing it... and get dragged into court?
Legitimate companies won't want to get dragged into court for obvious violations like you imply. Is it obvious maybe but that isn't the question, the question is has something similar been employed in the past. Many patentable processes have been adaptations of previous technology used in different ways.
Quote:
My point is.... starting today Apple has a patent on a new method of carbon fiber production. If you want to use it... you have to license it. Or come up with your own method.
So? There is nothing unusal here. This patent is likely something that would be easy to license from Apple for non competeing products.
Quote:
I only bring it up because of the recent courtroom battles.

Again I don't know what your point is. Like I said legitimate companies don't steal. This is really only an issue for those that want to compete with Apple materials wise.
post #30 of 44
Seriously guy Apple has never used the patent system to crush the competition. They have used it to protect themselves against thieves. Why people can't grasp the difference is beyond me. If you can look at Samsung devices and honestly say they didn't steal Apples designs then there is something wrong with your value system.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Inkling View Post

I don't care for Apple's patenting this, given how nasty they're getting at using patents to crush competition. But I've never cared for metal laptop enclosures, since that can make WiFi coverage spotty. It'd be great if carbon fiber could come to the next generation MacBook Air.
post #31 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post


I know Apple were patenting a molding process, not a product.  I wonder which part of this Apple thinks is new, the ejector pins?

Air pressure is already used to eject parts from molds.  Two part molds aren't new either. Guide pins aren't new.  I will be surprised if anything in this patent is new.

The only thing that really needs to be new is the application of the technology to a specific use. An example from history would be Fords patent on the so called ladder frame used in its trucks.
post #32 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

If anyone can pull it off, it's Apple.  I'm not a fan of carbon fiber though.  It's just a nasty process to work with.  Recycling that stuff is not a walk in the park.  It doesn't seem to be Apple's style to be mass-producing that stuff.

 

Agree.  Not sure that CF is recyclable enough to satisfy Greenpeace.  And from what I've heard, CF is easy to scratch.

 

I seem to remember Apple hiring a CF manufacturing process expert a few years ago.  And I also seem to remember that

Apple submitted a patent request (or received a patent) on a method of attaching a metal "skin" to a CF chassis.

This would add extra strength, reduce the scratching problem, and allow for Apple to maintain the metallic product appearance.

Maybe the next-next-gen MacBook Air will have that construction.  (If CF can be recycled efficiently enough.)

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post #33 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post

I believe Lenovo makes carbon fiber laptops. But obviously these patents are about specific methods and implementation. Of course cue the trolls who will oversimplify and claim Apple is patenting carbon fiber laptops when [insert competitor name here] has been doing so for years.

The sad thing is: you may be joking, but this will happen.

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

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post #34 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by WelshDog View Post

I agree with the criticisms of CF.
You mean you are gullible?
Quote:
 Not recyclable.
It burns. Further it is a method of binding carbon. Asti is the whole dog and pony show about recyclability is becoming a bit tiresome. It takes a lot of energy to recycle aluminum.
Quote:
 Has wear issues.  
So does aluminum! This is why many carry their laptops in cases.
Quote:
Exposed fibers can be harmful.
So can an exposed edge on aluminum.
Quote:
 It's really nothing more than glorified fiberglass.
And what is wrong with fiberglass? Seriously Corvets have been using it for ages.

I suspect you miss an important point here though these materials can absorb energy in ways that materials like Aluminum can't. This means Apple can build devices that effectively are more durable when dropped.
Quote:
The aluminum unibody used today is a marvel of rigidity and precision.
A nice design for sure, a marvel not so much. More than anything else this an example of how far we have come these days with the capability of CNC machines. If you think Unibody is impressive take a tour of any CNC based machine shop, you will be amazed.

Apples great accomplishment with Unibody isn't so much the CNC part as it is the mass production part.
Quote:
 Molding something like CF is certainly not as precise.  The only advantage I see is lightness.
The process really doesn't have to be precise. Think about it, you mold a part and then trim it to size. Tolerances can be very precise. Lightness is important also, I wouldnt be surprised to see this process used in the manufacture of chassis for iPads first, maybe even the rumored iPad Mini. Done right it would yield a very light but ridged Mini. A Mini by the way that could take some abuse. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find the next Mini with all of its components potted right into the chassis in such a way as to produce a single mass. Take this a step further and the chassis can become the circuit board yielding a device that is thinner again and effectively reduces waste even more.
post #35 of 44

I agree with the criticisms of CF.

 

And please don't call me names.

 

Thank you.

post #36 of 44

Samsung will copy it and make defective duplicates which their customers will try to return to the Apple Store. Apple will sue for patent infringement and Samsung will claim that they actually invented the process. Samsung and Google will issue press releases saying that not allowing customers to choose between "Apple" and "Fake Apple" limits consumer choice and that not allowing Samsung to copy stuff "stifles innovation." Fan-boys on both sides will riot. Samsung and Google fan-boys will rage that they will NEVER buy an Apple product (as if we didn't already know that) and Apple fan-boys will defend Apple to the death. Meanwhile, Microsoft will actually innovate -- inventing a new process that will make "aesthetically unpleasant" parts from carbon fiber and other resins.

post #37 of 44

Saw this a few days ago...from Lenovo

 

http://youtu.be/g63VY670pvE

post #38 of 44
Originally Posted by HouseDivided View Post
Saw this a few days ago...from Lenovo

 

And?

Originally posted by Relic

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Originally posted by Relic

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post #39 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by HouseDivided View Post

Saw this a few days ago...from Lenovo

http://youtu.be/g63VY670pvE

That doesn't exclude this patent from covering something new, assuming it does, I don't know.

I wouldn't use this article's contents as something to critique the patent, because patent information is too easily misrepresented, and I doubt AI has any patent lawyers writing for them to know how to properly represent the essence of a patent's contents. Even then, the patent lawyer would have to collaborate with a mold engineer to get the skinny on what is already practiced vs. what is new.

I'm too busy to thoroughly scrutinize the patent document though. One thing I know I don't know about is the type of material used to coat the molds.
Edited by JeffDM - 9/4/12 at 2:17pm
post #40 of 44

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Edited by MacRulez - 1/21/13 at 3:02pm
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