Apple's ceramic device housing could be used in low-cost iPhone

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Apple is again expressing interest in ceramic device enclosures, this time looking at a unibody type design fabricated from layers of the substrate in a technique somewhat akin to those used in laying up fiberglass, a material which one analyst believes will be used in a rumored low-cost iPhone.

Ceramic
Source: USPTO


Apple's patent filing for a "Multi-layered ceramic enclosure" is similar to a property the company applied for in 2006 regarding radio-transparent zirconia CE casings, but differs in that the older invention uses ceramic extrusion techniques while Thursday's calls for layering.

Noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reported earlier this month that Apple would be releasing a low-cost iPhone with a shell made of fiberglass which, while a completely different material than ceramics, is fabricated using techniques outlined in the most recent patent application.

The new filing is straightforward, describing the materials and processes required to manufacture a strong, lightweight housing built from laminated ceramics. As mentioned in the filing's abstract, the fabrication technique can be used for a "handheld computing device," which also extends to cellular phones like the iPhone.

Basically, the invention calls for an enclosure consisting of multi-layered ceramic material, such as zirconia and alumina in any combination, with one or more "windows" that provide access to electrical components. More specifically, the windows allow for the deployment of user interface elements like touchscreens.

By sandwiching together layers of ceramic materials with varying properties, tensile stress and RF transparency being just two, a structurally rigid and useful housing can be fabricated.

From the filing's description:
[?] the housing 52 can be formed of multi-layered (i.e., laminated) ceramic materials that are strong, stiff, and radio transparent and therefore a suitable material for an enclosure of an electronic device capable of wireless communications. The radio transparency is especially important for wireless hand held devices that include antennas internal to the enclosure.
Ceramic Sandwich
Cross section of layered housing.


Going further, the housing can be formed to have a seamless appearance, much like the iPhone 5's unibody enclosure, a design expected to be used in the rumored low-cost iPhone. In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, the design also prevents moisture and debris from getting into the device.

Although just speculation, Apple could conceivably employ a ceramic housing in a cheaper handset, though the company would first need to develop a cost-effective manufacturing method, as current products using the material are relatively expensive.

Apple's latest ceramic housing patent was filed for in 2011 and credits Douglas J. Weber as its inventor.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    tylerk36tylerk36 Posts: 1,037member


    For some reason I get the idea the material on this body concept is not recyclable.

  • Reply 2 of 19
    drblankdrblank Posts: 3,383member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by tylerk36 View Post


    For some reason I get the idea the material on this body concept is not recyclable.



    Fiberglass is recyclable, so can ceramic material.  I'm sure Apple has done that research, you know how much of a target they are.

  • Reply 3 of 19
    drblankdrblank Posts: 3,383member


    I'm wondering whatever happened to the Liquid Metal license they have and if they have figured out if that could be used for case design.  That looked promising.  Either way, Apple has plenty of different materials and fab techniques they've been working on.


     


    I'm wondering if they could 3D print the cases using polycarb or some other material that could be used for other than prototyping.

  • Reply 4 of 19
    chandra69chandra69 Posts: 638member


    Did Apple have any ceramic made devices till now?  I dont know. 

  • Reply 5 of 19
    danielswdanielsw Posts: 905member
    A ceramic case would make the products unique, like Apple always tries to do. Durability might be at least on the order of, if not better than, Corming's Corell. Moulability/shapeability would also allow for aesthetically pleasing designs. Not recyclable? So what? The material would at least be non chemically reactive, and therefore non-polluting. The cases could be crushed into sand-like powder.
  • Reply 6 of 19
    It looks like from the last figure they are using layers of different materials to drive the surface into compression. Ceramics love compression hate tension. This is the method used to make strengthened glass, although in that case the stress differential is applied by either changes in chemical composition or residual thermal stress. Glass is also a ceramic, so Apple has been using ceramics for a while now in its cases.
  • Reply 7 of 19
    msimpsonmsimpson Posts: 452member


    They will release a ceramic Apple TV first.   So they can test out the process on a lower volume "hobby" product.  

  • Reply 8 of 19
    First plastic, now ceramic... next you will "guess" for with fiberglass, or paper... can people stop with all this "guessing" BS.

    What is the big deal with "we got it right first" junk if they "guessed" correctly... do they win a Bozo Button? Oh wait, those are collector items... do they get a balloon? a trip to Disney World? What is the prize for "guessing" correctly... cause I'll start rambling off things out of the blue left field if it is a good prize.

    I think the "cheap iPhone" will be made from dead bunny bones... yea yea, that's the ticket.


    I say, let's wait until Apple actually announces something...
  • Reply 9 of 19
    welshdogwelshdog Posts: 1,658member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by HawkBlade View Post



    First plastic, now ceramic... next you will "guess" for with fiberglass, or paper... can people stop with all this "guessing" BS.



    What is the big deal with "we got it right first" junk if they "guessed" correctly... do they win a Bozo Button? Oh wait, those are collector items... do they get a balloon? a trip to Disney World? What is the prize for "guessing" correctly... cause I'll start rambling off things out of the blue left field if it is a good prize.



    I think the "cheap iPhone" will be made from dead bunny bones... yea yea, that's the ticket.





    I say, let's wait until Apple actually announces something...


    Curmudgeon much? 

  • Reply 10 of 19
    bdkennedy1bdkennedy1 Posts: 1,459member


    Just what I want. A terra-cotta iPhone.

  • Reply 11 of 19
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    … this time looking at a unibody type design fabricated from layers of the substrate in a technique somewhat akin to those used in laying up fiberglass


     


    "Unibody" design is incorrect word use here.  "Unibody" in the sense that Apple has used it specifically refers to carving the unit out of a single block of material.  If it's instead laid up in layers like fibreglass, then it's a constructed element, not an element carved out of a single block.  

  • Reply 12 of 19
    sockrolidsockrolid Posts: 2,788member


    Originally Posted by drblank View Post


    Fiberglass is recyclable, so can ceramic material.  I'm sure Apple has done that research, you know how much of a target they are.



     


    Agree.  If "fiberglass" or zirconium dioxide is recyclable, then Apple will use it or them.


     


    I think recyclability is one reason why we haven't seen any carbon fiber enclosures or structural components in Apple products yet.  I don't think it's recyclable, unless you spend an enormous amount of energy to re-form the fibers, or something.  (???)

  • Reply 13 of 19
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member


    Originally Posted by bdkennedy1 View Post

    Just what I want. A terra-cotta iPhone.


     


    Sold exclusively in China.

  • Reply 14 of 19

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by WelshDog View Post


    Curmudgeon much? 



     


    How do you figure?  I am asking a serious question... what in the world do you get for "guessing" this silly stuff?  I do not see people "guessing" what Google is going to do, or MS, or any of the other major company's dealing out tech as much and as fast as they are with Apple.


     


    I don't see people doing this with the PS4 (before it was officially announced), or even the new xbox.  Yes, article here or there, but not multiple per week for months on a non-existant product?  SO, please tell me, what do you get for "guessing" correctly on Apple products?


     


     


    You don't want to make me curmudgeon, you would not like me when I am curmudgeon.  I go all caps, bold, with a 72PT font and green lettering.  image

  • Reply 15 of 19

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by HawkBlade View Post


    You don't want to make me curmudgeon, you would not like me when I am curmudgeon.  I go all caps, bold, with a 72PT font and green lettering.  image



     


    OOOO, I think I found my new signature block... LOL

  • Reply 16 of 19
    jfc1138jfc1138 Posts: 3,090member


    Yeah but then it defaults to "Ariel" and all the impact get's defused......


     


    image

  • Reply 17 of 19
    fracfrac Posts: 480member
    tylerk36 wrote: »
    For some reason I get the idea the material on this body concept is not recyclable.

    If you can get enough eol cases, then yes, probably recyclable as a business case. Recycled ceramic material is used in pumped concrete, in sheet materials, paint and additives and I guess many other areas...it depends on the purity of the recycled material and how much you can get. I can't imagine ceramic brakes are much in demand even though thousands of tonnes could be sourced however.
    :\
  • Reply 18 of 19
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,205member
    Or this is something they are working with to make stronger phones for the same prices as the current ones

    As Phil said, Apple doesn't do cheap
  • Reply 19 of 19
    hydrhydr Posts: 146member
    You guys are missing the point about ceramic... This is the long awaited LiquidMetal we have been fantasying about. Part of the LiquidMetal process is exactly that of ceramic.

    To speculate about "low-cost" aspect at this point is pre-mature. Rather try to look at this as the next decade of "aluminum". A scratch resistant and waterproof enclosure that is nearly unbreakable.

    Expect to see this in all apple products in the next few years, including bracelet & TV.

    Cheers!
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