Apple granted patents for pioneering unibody MacBook design

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
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.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 30
    kiweekiwee Posts: 102member
    The most solid piece of machinery I ever owned.

    No one does hardware like Apple.
  • Reply 2 of 30
    aaarrrggghaaarrrgggh Posts: 1,561member
    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.
  • Reply 3 of 30
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member
    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.
  • Reply 4 of 30
    al_bundyal_bundy Posts: 1,525member
    hasn't dell had an aluminum unibody design for years? I've used Panasonic Toughbooks as well
  • Reply 5 of 30
    jetlawjetlaw Posts: 156member
    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.
  • Reply 6 of 30
    irnchrizirnchriz Posts: 1,560member
    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.
  • Reply 7 of 30
    aaarrrggghaaarrrgggh Posts: 1,561member
    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.
  • Reply 8 of 30
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    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.
  • Reply 9 of 30
    darkvaderdarkvader Posts: 320member
    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.
  • Reply 10 of 30
    tpf1952tpf1952 Posts: 55member
    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.
  • Reply 11 of 30
    finetunesfinetunes Posts: 2,065member
    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.
  • Reply 12 of 30
    ch2coch2co Posts: 41member
    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
  • Reply 13 of 30
    finetunesfinetunes Posts: 2,065member
    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."
  • Reply 14 of 30
    ilogicilogic Posts: 298member
    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.
  • Reply 15 of 30
    trboydentrboyden Posts: 165member
    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.
  • Reply 16 of 30
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    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.
  • Reply 17 of 30
    mbmcavoymbmcavoy Posts: 157member
    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.)
  • Reply 18 of 30
    trboydentrboyden Posts: 165member
    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."



  • Reply 19 of 30
    the hp envy looks very similar to a macbook pro, maybe this patent will be grounds for a possible lawsuit?
  • Reply 20 of 30
    tsatsa Posts: 129member
    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.
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