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Apple granted patent for embedding sapphire displays in LiquidMetal iPhone chassis

post #1 of 34
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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday issued Apple a patent describing a process in which an iPhone's display glass -- including sapphire -- is integrally joined with a bezel made out of amorphous metal alloy, namely LiquidMetal.



Although the patent is over six years old, its granting comes on the heels of news that Apple has extended exclusive contract rights to use LiquidMetal in consumer electronics through 2015. Up to this point, the only known use for the exotic material, classified as a bulk amorphous alloy, has been a SIM card ejector tool.

Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,738,104 for "Methods and systems for integrally trapping a glass insert in a metal bezel" harkens back to the origins of LiquidMetal, which first saw limited use in 2003 in medical equipment, sporting goods and military applications.

At the time of the patent's earliest related property filing in 2007, the iPhone's display was attached to a then-plastic chassis using a shock-absorbing rubberized gasket. The construction method helped alleviate sudden impacts when a phone is dropped and has been used in subsequent iPhone models up to the current iPhone 5s.

Aside from providing damping, the rubber or synthetic gasket allows for a higher tolerance in terms of fit between the glass and surrounding chassis. Apple's recently granted patent provides a way to sidestep this process by integrally forming glass, including sapphire, into a metal member such as an iPhone's bezel.


Cross-section view of glass surrounded by liquid metal bezel. | Source: USPTO


The document notes that a number of methods can be employed to form a bezel around a glass insert with tolerances tight enough as to provide adequate system stability and protection. Specifically, metal injection molding (MIM) can be applied.

Instead of plastic, the material traditionally associated with injection molding, the patent uses metal in liquid form. Chief among alloy candidates is LiquidMetal, which behaves like a plastic and carries thermal properties advantageous to the MIM process. In some cases the thermal properties of select glass and metal materials can be matched to aid in production.



What Apple proposes is the injection of LiquidMetal around a glass or sapphire substrate. The liquid metal flows through a mold's cavity that contains the transparent material and hardens at a predetermined rate of contraction, "grabbing" the glass and eliminating tolerance issues. Glass edges can be beveled or contain channels to enhance the joining process.

The resulting structure is an integrally formed display assembly.

In another embodiment, a synthetic gasket like those used in current iPhone display structures can be employed to the edge of a glass member prior to LiquidMetal injection. In this case, the gasket can be any compliant material, including rubber and plastic synthetics.


Cross-section of gasket insertion between metal and glass.


The remainder of the document covers various mold types and alternative MIM procedures, as well as methods of finishing the integrated assembly via sandblasting or polishing. Both text and illustrations included in the property's description point to use in an iPhone, though the technology can feasibly be applied to a smaller product such as the much-rumored iWatch.

It is unclear if Apple plans to roll out an iPhone made with substantial amounts of LiquidMetal, though a near-future release is unlikely. The company is currently working to ramp up its supply of sapphire for what many believe will be an "iPhone 6" display. Rumors of mass LiquidMetal production, which would need to be significant for a product like the iPhone, have not been reported.

Apple's integrated LiquidMetal iPhone display assembly patent was first filed for in 2008 and credits Kyle H. Yeates as its inventor.
post #2 of 34
Why does this article assume it's for the iPhone and not for other products? Frankly I think the wrist-worn device using LiquidMetal and Sapphire seems like a much better fit than the iPhone for these technologies. Did this 2007 patent even mention sapphire?

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"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #3 of 34

Patent mentions iPhone by name and includes illustrations of iPhone/iPod devices. Filing is from 2008, so iWatch may have been only a blip on the radar at that point, but -- as with all patents -- Apple hedges its bets and notes the tech can be applied to other devices.

 

Added a sentence to clarify. 

post #4 of 34
Me thinks Apple still has many innovations in development to wow us with.

"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools." Douglas Adams

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"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools." Douglas Adams

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post #5 of 34
Quote:
Did this 2007 patent even mention sapphire?

 

It does mention sapphire by name(see quote below), but the context is to remove any distinction that the patent be limited to glass. That said it does give a certain priority to sapphire over plastic, despite plastic being more prevalent and a more obvious candidate for the application. (E.G. Apple's history in polycarbonate at the time.)

 

 

Quote:
Although an integral assembly typically includes glass, it should be appreciated that an integral assembly may instead include substantially any suitable transparent material. In general, a suitable transparent material may include any synthetic transparent material, as for example, synthetic sapphire. As previously mentioned, an integral assembly may also include a transparent material such as plastic.
post #6 of 34
>Me thinks Apple still has many innovations in development to wow us with.

@realistic%u2026according to the clueless analysts, you would be wrong and Apple is nothing but a slow growth, dried-up technology company that has closed its R&D department.

Like you, I believe otherwise and think Apple is about to embark on its next chapter.
post #7 of 34
I still think sapphire and lqmt are bound for the new iPod first (iWatch). My guess is the 6s gets sapphire and the iPhone 7 is finally amorphous metal, namely liquidmetal.
post #8 of 34
Hmm...this patent was filed in 2008.
post #9 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post

Hmm...this patent was filed in 2008.

 

I presume that was what they meant in the article when they said "Although the patent is over six years old" in paragraph 2 ;)

post #10 of 34

Reading this is a bit scary when thinking about user replacement of broken screens!!

 

So, how does one replace a broken screen when the screen is embedded in liquidmetal?  Maybe with a sapphire screen there will be less scratching and breakage, but still there will be cases when you need to replace it.

post #11 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by RonMG View Post

Reading this is a bit scary when thinking about user replacement of broken screens!!

So, how does one replace a broken screen when the screen is embedded in liquidmetal?  Maybe with a sapphire screen there will be less scratching and breakage, but still there will be cases when you need to replace it.

If that's your worry, buy insurance.
post #12 of 34
This is something I've been thinking about recently because the plastic around the display on the 5s and previous iPhones is the part that gets discolored and dented the most. I'm glad to see they are also thinking about it.
post #13 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryan96 View Post

This is something I've been thinking about recently because the plastic around the display on the 5s and previous iPhones is the part that gets discolored and dented the most. I'm glad to see they are also thinking about it.

Are you referring to the bezel, the little shiny edge around the screen? If you are, we have a surprise for you.
post #14 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by RonMG View Post
 

Reading this is a bit scary when thinking about user replacement of broken screens!!

 

So, how does one replace a broken screen when the screen is embedded in liquidmetal?  Maybe with a sapphire screen there will be less scratching and breakage, but still there will be cases when you need to replace it.

You don't. Just like you don't replace your iPhone 5s screen now. Apple does with special machines they have custom built in the back of the Apple store. Yes, some 3rd parties will come along and replicate that replacement process but you will pay near what Apple charges and void your warranty in the process. So nothing has or will change from the previous 3 generations of iPhone for consumers.

post #15 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flaneur View Post

Are you referring to the bezel, the little shiny edge around the screen? If you are, we have a surprise for you.
No I was talking about the "gasket" the plastic between the glass and the metal body of the phone.
post #16 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by RonMG View Post
 

Reading this is a bit scary when thinking about user replacement of broken screens!!

 

So, how does one replace a broken screen when the screen is embedded in liquidmetal?  Maybe with a sapphire screen there will be less scratching and breakage, but still there will be cases when you need to replace it.

Perhaps you'll be scared enough to start caring for your possessions better so as to prevent them getting damaged.

Daniel Swanson

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Daniel Swanson

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post #17 of 34

Thank you for being a complete and utter jerk, DanielSW.  For your information, I do care for my stuff very well.  I have yet to break an iPhone screen in all the years Verizon has carried the iPhone.  I was just asking a simple question.

post #18 of 34
Fascinating! So they are indeed looking to use liquidmetal with sapphire! Seamless too.
post #19 of 34

wigby, I understand Apple does that now, but I am curious how it would be done if the glass is 'grabbed' by the liquidmetal.  Perhaps Apple can work it so that the liquidmetal back/glass-sapphire front is one piece, and all the iPhone 'guts' are in an assembly that slides into the one-piece body.  Or maybe the grabbing can be released so that the new glass/sapphire screen can more easily slide into the body.  Who knows, but fun and interesting to think about it.  I've replaced an iPod touch screen a few generations back after my daughter broke hers, but given the current generations of iDevices, I probably won't be attempting that anymore.

post #20 of 34
The Galaxy S6 keeps sounding better and better.

Keep the patents coming Apple.

-Samsung
post #21 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanielSW View Post
 

Perhaps you'll be scared enough to start caring for your possessions better so as to prevent them getting damaged.

 

accidents happen, surely even to super-humans such as yourself. (for example, somebody punching you in the gut as youre gabbing on your phone in the elevator, causing you to drop it...a terrible, terrible accident.)

post #22 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by NolaMacGuy View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanielSW View Post
 

Perhaps you'll be scared enough to start caring for your possessions better so as to prevent them getting damaged.

 

accidents happen, surely even to super-humans such as yourself. (for example, somebody punching you in the gut as youre gabbing on your phone in the elevator, causing you to drop it...a terrible, terrible accident.)

Seriously, what do people who have had 'accidents' with Apple products do? What have they historically done? Are you worried that Apple will design something -- such as its design is -- differently with its rumored iWatch, than it has done in the past? If so, why?

 

I guess what I am failing to see is the need for this 'concern.'

post #23 of 34
It would not be a surprise if that was the iPhone 6.
post #24 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by RonMG View Post
 

Reading this is a bit scary when thinking about user replacement of broken screens!!

 

So, how does one replace a broken screen when the screen is embedded in liquidmetal?  Maybe with a sapphire screen there will be less scratching and breakage, but still there will be cases when you need to replace it.

The whole part would need to be replaced, not just the screen. In the same way, you can't replace a worn bushing in the alternator of many current autos; you just swap out the entire alternator.

 

In any case, Apple doesn't care about making the handset convenient for consumers to do their own repairs. Apple explicitly states that the iPhone does not have any user serviceable parts.

post #25 of 34
I find it fascinating that they were thinking of this less than a year after the original iPhone's introduction.
post #26 of 34
For those who never owned a watch with a sapphire crystal, it far more durable than any iphone display. I have owned 3 watches with sapphire crystals and would never own one again without one. I am not easy on my watched and wear mine non stop and have banged the crystal into walls and metal objects and never broke one.

I highly doubt we will see a sapphire crystal on an iphone, they have to be grown and it not a easy process. Which brings me to my next question which is I wonder if Apple held off on this patent becoming public knowledge, 6 years form patent submission to award is a long time even for the Patent office. I do not think apple wanted this known until that had a product to be released.

Most of the other patents Apple was granted happen after the product release or for Idea they obviously do not plan to productize in the near future.
post #27 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post

For those who never owned a watch with a sapphire crystal, it far more durable than any iphone display. I have owned 3 watches with sapphire crystals and would never own one again without one. I am not easy on my watched and wear mine non stop and have banged the crystal into walls and metal objects and never broke one.

Sure, but it's also smaller in size, probably thicker, surrounded by other materials differently, lighter, a different design, and used differently that may all allow breaking the display to be less likely than if that material were on entire front of a smartphone.
Quote:
Which brings me to my next question which is I wonder if Apple held off on this patent becoming public knowledge, 6 years form patent submission to award is a long time even for the Patent office. I do not think apple wanted this known until that had a product to be released.

They do own a sapphire "farm" and production facility in Arizona so I think it's clear they will release products with it in the not too distant future, but your comment about holding off on releasing the patent is intriguing. Can that be done? I've only ever heard about that with the FCC. If so, then I would move my 2 year timeframe to this year.

"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

Reply

"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

Reply
post #28 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post

For those who never owned a watch with a sapphire crystal, it far more durable than any iphone display. I have owned 3 watches with sapphire crystals and would never own one again without one. I am not easy on my watched and wear mine non stop and have banged the crystal into walls and metal objects and never broke one.

I highly doubt we will see a sapphire crystal on an iphone, they have to be grown and it not a easy process. Which brings me to my next question which is I wonder if Apple held off on this patent becoming public knowledge, 6 years form patent submission to award is a long time even for the Patent office. I do not think apple wanted this known until that had a product to be released.

Most of the other patents Apple was granted happen after the product release or for Idea they obviously do not plan to productize in the near future.

 

 

GTAT in Mesa, Arizona for sapphire boules, the so-called iWatch is years in the making at least half a decade minimum.

post #29 of 34
Personally, I think this is a possibility for the rumored iwatch, I don't think we'll see sapphire nor liquid metal in the next iPhone, but, perhaps the gasket idea will be used for a future iPhone, perhaps next year.
post #30 of 34
They'll keep on ripping off our software - let the WINNERS have a go at the hardware !

Fail !
Cheap ass copies is all that they'll come up with.
post #31 of 34

Probably they will use this technique on the production of the next iphone.

 

Below a video review of how the next iphone most likely be:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVpfhoi_uOM

post #32 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by RonMG View Post

wigby, I understand Apple does that now, but I am curious how it would be done if the glass is 'grabbed' by the liquidmetal.  Perhaps Apple can work it so that the liquidmetal back/glass-sapphire front is one piece, and all the iPhone 'guts' are in an assembly that slides into the one-piece body.  Or maybe the grabbing can be released so that the new glass/sapphire screen can more easily slide into the body.  Who knows, but fun and interesting to think about it.  I've replaced an iPod touch screen a few generations back after my daughter broke hers, but given the current generations of iDevices, I probably won't be attempting that anymore.

Sounds as though you have a careless daughter.
Post from mstone to Benjamin Frost - "Perhaps that explains your lack of mental capacity. If I was your brother, I probably would have repeatedly smashed the side of your head with a cricket bat."
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Post from mstone to Benjamin Frost - "Perhaps that explains your lack of mental capacity. If I was your brother, I probably would have repeatedly smashed the side of your head with a cricket bat."
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post #33 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post

For those who never owned a watch with a sapphire crystal, it far more durable than any iphone display. I have owned 3 watches with sapphire crystals and would never own one again without one. I am not easy on my watched and wear mine non stop and have banged the crystal into walls and metal objects and never broke one.

I highly doubt we will see a sapphire crystal on an iphone, they have to be grown and it not a easy process. Which brings me to my next question which is I wonder if Apple held off on this patent becoming public knowledge, 6 years form patent submission to award is a long time even for the Patent office. I do not think apple wanted this known until that had a product to be released.

Most of the other patents Apple was granted happen after the product release or for Idea they obviously do not plan to productize in the near future.

Why on earth do you go round flinging your watch into walls?
Post from mstone to Benjamin Frost - "Perhaps that explains your lack of mental capacity. If I was your brother, I probably would have repeatedly smashed the side of your head with a cricket bat."
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Post from mstone to Benjamin Frost - "Perhaps that explains your lack of mental capacity. If I was your brother, I probably would have repeatedly smashed the side of your head with a cricket bat."
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post #34 of 34
I feel everyone is thinking too hard about the worng side. I feel as if this focuses more on glass inserts, like on the back of the iPhone, then the front display. Thank about it!
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