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Apple invents method of hardening sapphire screens to reduce cracking

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday published an Apple patent describing a method of implanting ions in a sapphire display structure, strengthening the already hard material without using chemical treatments.


Source: USPTO


As noted in Apple's "Sapphire property modification through ion implantation" patent filing, traditional chemical strengthening techniques used on glass screens may not be effective when applied to other materials such as sapphire.

Thus, Apple proposes a new hardening method of impregnating the crystalline lattice structure of corundum, of which sapphire is a variety, with ions to create a compressive stress layer that enhances stability.

The invention points out that when a sapphire structure fails or breaks, it's usually the result of propagations of surface flaws when the component is put under stress. To prevent against cracks during a drop event, Apple's ion implantation method embeds ions within the sapphire substrate, either between existing crystal lattice sites or naturally occurring voids. In one embodiment, ions may be embedded so as to form an amorphous, or non-crystalline, section within the sapphire substructure.




A variety of technologies can be employed in the ion embedding procedure, including high energy implantation, ion accelerators, plasma immersion techniques, pumping systems and electrical deposition methods, among others. Also variable is the size of implanted ions, their depth and concentration.

In some cases, the strengthening procedure may result in localized tinting of the sapphire material. As coloration is undesirable for a device display, Apple proposes using ions like iron or titanium that would create a specific color, such as black, to intentionally create a masked area. For example, the blacked-out bezels seen on current iPhones would be achieved by embedding ions directly into the display glass instead of laying ink on the interior surface.




The filing goes into great detail on ion impregnation techniques, as well as the creation of selective compressive stress zones that help prevent cracks from propagating.

Apple's sapphire strengthening patent filing was first applied for in March 2013 and credits Dale N. Memering, Christopher D. Prest and Douglas Weber as its inventors.
post #2 of 27
By patenting the sapphire processes, it means that no one is simply going to make their own copy-cat screens the same way.

Of course, patents can be invalidated. Process patents are harder to fight in court since they are concrete and real, not like software patents that are very abstract.
post #3 of 27
This describes old techniques used in materials science and semi-conductor R&D to control material strenghts, zone shaping, electrical band-gaps etc etc. Gem colorization by atomic impurities even happen spontaneously in nature. One such ex is ruby, which consists of chromium doped corrundum. I think Apple needs to be much more specific in their claims than what this article describes (and possibly also the patent application). -Not saying this to diz them, but rather to serve them the morning coffee. It's not enough to get the patent approved. They need to be able to defend it too, especially when put against prior art.
post #4 of 27
Is there any prior art in its application to sapphire glass?
post #5 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by applesupertramp View Post

Is there any prior art in its application to sapphire glass?

There is no such thing as sapphire glass. Just sapphire.

post #6 of 27

i wonder if we will hear another statement about why Gorilla Glass is better from Corning concerning this

post #7 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by chabig View Post

There is no such thing as sapphire glass. Just sapphire.

It seems a reasonable descriptive term though to differentiate the sapphire usage. After all they do say Gorilla Glass to avoid confusion 1biggrin.gif
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From Apple ][ - to new Mac Pro I've used them all.
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post #8 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post
 

Source: USPTO

 

What is being called out with the 110 label?  Does the documentation say "110: everything that isn't part of the invention" or perhaps "ignore the small insect that flew into view just as we created this diagram."

post #9 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by revenant View Post
 

i wonder if we will hear another statement about why Gorilla Glass is better from Corning concerning this

Undoubtedly, but only after Apple makes an announcement about how they will be using it--especially if they do a head-to-head comparison (either a demo or a slide saying 'x% stronger than...').

post #10 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gilliam Bates View Post

This describes old techniques used in materials science and semi-conductor R&D to control material strenghts, zone shaping, electrical band-gaps etc etc. Gem colorization by atomic impurities even happen spontaneously in nature. One such ex is ruby, which consists of chromium doped corrundum. I think Apple needs to be much more specific in their claims than what this article describes (and possibly also the patent application). -Not saying this to diz them, but rather to serve them the morning coffee. It's not enough to get the patent approved. They need to be able to defend it too, especially when put against prior art.

 

you'd beed get ahold of apple's patent counsel, QUICK! he needs to hear this!

post #11 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by chabig View Post

There is no such thing as sapphire glass. Just sapphire.

I've been seeing people say "sapphire glass" without engaging with the terminology. I guess now it's time. (Not directed at you, obviously.)

Attention!: Sapphire is a crystalline substance, meaning its atoms are ordered in a regular lattice. Many crystalline substances are transparent, such as quartz, diamond and sapphire.

Glass can also be transparent, but the atoms are in no particular order. Glass is considered a liquid that is too cool to flow.

Therefore "sapphire glass" is impossible on an atomic level. We have to figure out another way to talk about it. Watchmakers have long used the word "crystal."

All this is off the top of my head, by the way. I'm sure the physicists in the field can improve on it.
Edited by Flaneur - 9/4/14 at 7:20am
post #12 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

It seems a reasonable descriptive term though to differentiate the sapphire usage. After all they do say Gorilla Glass to avoid confusion 1biggrin.gif

Gorillas aren't transparent, sorry. I've been meaning to write Corning about that.
post #13 of 27

"Ion Implantation" sounds a whole lot like "chemical treatment" to me.  If these ions aren't chemicals, then what are they? Psychic energy? 

post #14 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flaneur View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by chabig View Post

There is no such thing as sapphire glass. Just sapphire.

I've been seeing people say "sapphire glass" without engaging with the terminology. I guess now it's time. (Not directed at you, obviously.)

Attention!: Sapphire is a crystalline substance, meaning its atoms are ordered in a regular lattice. Many crystalline substances are transparent, such as quartz, diamond and sapphire.

Glass can also be transparent, but the atoms are in no particular order. Glass is considered a liquid that is too cool to flow.

Therefore "sapphire glass" is impossible on an atomic level. We have to figure out another way to talk about it. Watchmakers have long used the word "crystal."

All this is off the top of my head, by the way. I'm sure the physicists in the field can improve on it.

Although, as the article mentions, inject enough foreign atoms or ions and you lose the ordered crystalline structure. Whether the resulting material still qualifies to be called sapphire, or meets the full definition of glass, could be questionable though, so you are probably correct.
post #15 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by TeaEarleGreyHot View Post

"Ion Implantation" sounds a whole lot like "chemical treatment" to me.  If these ions aren't chemicals, then what are they? Psychic energy? 

It's not regarded as a chemical treatment because it does not involve a chemical reaction per se, just physical bombardment.
post #16 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by muppetry View Post

Although, as the article mentions, inject enough foreign atoms or ions and you lose the ordered crystalline structure. Whether the resulting material still qualifies to be called sapphire, or meets the full definition of glass, could be questionable though, so you are probably correct.

Or, the ions fill in openings in the top lattice layers, in effect making a glass-crystal hybrid near the surface? Maybe there's language in the patent filing.

By the way, is this still an application, or was there a patent granted?
post #17 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by muppetry View Post

It's not regarded as a chemical treatment because it does not involve a chemical reaction per se, just physical bombardment.

. . . bombardment and implantation? Ions of what? Did they say?

It's analogous to doping, which is not considered chemistry, is it? Seems we're in the realm of solid state physics, not chemistry. Fascinating stuff.
post #18 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by TeaEarleGreyHot View Post
 

"Ion Implantation" sounds a whole lot like "chemical treatment" to me.  If these ions aren't chemicals, then what are they? Psychic energy? 

 

Think acid washing versus sand blasting, they accomplish the same thing, one uses a chemical reaction to breakdown particulates from a surface, the other uses brute physical force.

Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
Reply
post #19 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flaneur View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by muppetry View Post

It's not regarded as a chemical treatment because it does not involve a chemical reaction per se, just physical bombardment.

. . . bombardment and implantation? Ions of what? Did they say?

They mention iron and titanium.
post #20 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flaneur View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by muppetry View Post

Although, as the article mentions, inject enough foreign atoms or ions and you lose the ordered crystalline structure. Whether the resulting material still qualifies to be called sapphire, or meets the full definition of glass, could be questionable though, so you are probably correct.

Or, the ions fill in openings in the top lattice layers, in effect making a glass-crystal hybrid near the surface? Maybe there's language in the patent filing.

By the way, is this still an application, or was there a patent granted?

The article says "published", which I took to mean it was granted.
post #21 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by muppetry View Post


It's not regarded as a chemical treatment because it does not involve a chemical reaction per se, just physical bombardment.

A chemical treatment does not require a reaction.  That would be a chemical modification.

post #22 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by TeaEarleGreyHot View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by muppetry View Post

It's not regarded as a chemical treatment because it does not involve a chemical reaction per se, just physical bombardment.
A chemical treatment does not require a reaction.  That would be a chemical modification.

The distinction is somewhat semantic. Chemical treatment usually implies reaction, since any material addition otherwise must count as a chemical treatment, but I'm not sure that there is an accepted, standard definition.
post #23 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by muppetry View Post


The article says "published", which I took to mean it was granted.

That's incorrect. The USPTO publishes patent applications publicly 18 months after they are filed. The article's author was a bit remiss when he wrote, "The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday published an Apple patent..." He should have said the Office published an Apple patent application...

post #24 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by chabig View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by muppetry View Post

The article says "published", which I took to mean it was granted.
That's incorrect. The USPTO publishes patent applications publicly 18 months after they are filed. The article's author was a bit remiss when he wrote, "The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday published an Apple patent..." He should have said the Office published an Apple patent application...

Thanks for the clarification.
post #25 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by chabig View Post

There is no such thing as sapphire glass. Just sapphire.
Supposedly if iPhone 6 is saphire it will be saphire glass as they invented method of hybrid technology that makes it mostly saphire but partly glass to cut cost.
post #26 of 27
This is compelling news. I predict the iWatch will use a Sapphire crystal cover, and possibly feature extensive use of Liquid Metal. Not so sure about the liquid metal being near production, but we have reports of Apple investing in collossal Sapphire production capacity, so if they've solved the brittleness problem, it's likely destined for more than camera lens covers and touch ID buttons.

An iWatch contructed with Liquid Metal and Sapphire will not only be indestructable, it will be impossible for Apple's rivals to copy for many years. Charge the battery wirelessly and the only problem left is how to replace the battery. Apple probably doesn't want the battery replaceable anyways, just make the watch disposable like some of the other iDevices with nearly impossible to service batteries, and the consumers are forced to upgrade on a subscription basis.

It's not a game I want to play, but I'm still fascinated by Apple's endlessly cunning devices.
post #27 of 27
Apple's R&D is so much more meticulous than everyone else's. Most other manufacturers simply source from suppliers and pick out their best products rather than engage in material science themselves
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