Apple patents tech for making curved touch surfaces, displays

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday awarded Apple a patent that describes a method for efficiently manufacturing curved touch surfaces, suggesting the company may be experimenting with curved iOS device displays.

Curved iPhone
Curved iPhone concept, via MyVoucherCodes.


Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,603,574 for a "Curved touch sensor" details a manufacturing technique that produces accurate, curved touch surfaces without deficiencies caused by substrate warping or deformation. The patent's claims specifically cover use of the technology in displays, touch pads and touch mice, among other devices.

Apple notes that current touch panel technologies, specifically stackups containing thin-film conductors, are difficult to work with due to a "desired thinness of the substrate and thin film." For example, when depositing thin films over a flexible substrates like plastic, the annealing, or heating, temperature must be kept relatively low to avoid structural damage. Manufacturers, however, may prefer to employ high annealing temperatures for added thin film resistiveness and enhanced optical properties.

Curve
Candidate devices for Apple's curved touch surface tech. | Source: USPTO


To avoid deformation due to the annealing process, the patent proposes a technique that deposits a conductive thin film over a flexible substrate while it is in a flat state. Once the electrodes are in place, the substrate package is joined to a curved "forming substrate" and subsequently heated. The process results in a non-deformed curved touch sensor stackup with a thin film that benefits from the high-temperature anneal.

As noted in the patent, some current applications do not have true curved touch surfaces. In the graphic above, the figure on the left represents a regular flat touch stackup, with cover glass on top and LCD display on the bottom.

Curve

The middle illustration represents a simplification of a structure that does not use Apple's curved touch panel technique. To give the appearance of a convex touch surface, the thin film (109) is deposited onto the substrate and capped off by a domed cover glass (104). While the setup may appear curved to a user, touch sensitivity may be degraded due to the distance between the surface of the glass and the drive and sense electrodes in the thin film.

On the right is a constant wall touch sensor panel that can not only reduce thickness (y) compared to the flat-substrate design, but will keep touch sensitivity at high levels since the distance between the cover glass and thin film is unchanged from a completely flat stackup. Apple's patent allows for this type of process without deformation of the substrate or damage to the drive lines.

The document also notes the technique can be used to form more than one curvature, such as a wave or other surface shape, by employing a second or third forming substrate.

Curve

It is unclear if Apple will use the above-described method in a consumer product, though curved displays seem to be en vogue at the moment. Rival smartphone maker Samsung has released a curved model called the Galaxy Round, while LG recently debuted the LG G Flex that boasts a concave flexible display.

Apple's curved touch surface manufacturing patent was first filed for in 2010 and credits Lili Huang, Seung Jae Hong and John Z. Zhong as its inventors.
«1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 34

    something tells me that when they do:

       they will by copying

       no matter the price-point they will be the most expensive

  • Reply 2 of 34
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by revenant View Post

     

    something tells me that when they do:

       they will by copying

       no matter the price-point they will be the most expensive


    Expensive yes.  Anything beyond that is up to the lawyers.  :P

  • Reply 3 of 34
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    Surely it must be for the wristwatch, would a curved phone screen be that desirable? It might brush against your face when talking.
  • Reply 4 of 34
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by ascii View Post



    Surely it must be for the wristwatch, would a curved phone screen be that desirable? It might brush against your face when talking.

    your phone currently touches your face when talking.  the display turns off so that there is no undesired touch.  that was worked out in 2007.

  • Reply 5 of 34
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    Wearable (watch/not-watch)? Maybe.

    I'm imagining a band of three square "widget" apps stacked together around your wrist, and you'd swipe to scroll through more. Tap any one to make it fill the 1x3 screen for actual interactive usage, and pinch the screen to minimize the current app to a widget again. I wouldn't mind having time, weather and map always visible, say. (Even dependent on an iPhone tether it would be still useful. Refresh when the wearable's internal M7 dictates.)

    For any device large enough for normal touch gesture usage (drawing, non-thumb typing, screen-swiping) a curve would just feel annoying, and look annoying too when not held straight on. Unless it's so slight they need not bother.

    Apple patents lots of stuff they invent, "just in case": so no competitor can later invent the same thing and block Apple from using it if an unexpected need arises.
  • Reply 6 of 34
    emesemes Posts: 239member
    I hate to imagine what the viewing angles on something like that would be. I tried it out last night with my iPod Nano and everything turned all blurry when viewed from the sides
  • Reply 7 of 34

    Every inch of glass in Apple Campus 2 will be a touchscreen. :p

  • Reply 8 of 34
    nagromme wrote: »
    Wearable (watch/not-watch)? Maybe.

    I'm imagining a band of three square "widget" apps stacked together around your wrist, and you'd swipe to scroll through more. Tap any one to make it fill the 1x3 screen for actual interactive usage, and pinch the screen to minimize the current app to a widget again. I wouldn't mind having time, weather and map always visible, say. (Even dependent on an iPhone tether it would be still useful. Refresh when the wearable's internal M7 dictates.)

    For any device large enough for normal touch gesture usage (drawing, non-thumb typing, screen-swiping) a curve would just feel annoying, and look annoying too when not held straight on. Unless it's so slight they need not bother.

    Apple patents lots of stuff they invent, "just in case": so no competitor can later invent the same thing and block Apple from using it if an unexpected need arises.

    Hmm... Maybe a variety of iBracelets that perform certain simple functions? Some medical, some informational, some for fun?
  • Reply 9 of 34
    feynmanfeynman Posts: 1,087member
    Every inch of glass in Apple Campus 2 will be a touchscreen. :p

    And curved!
  • Reply 10 of 34
    jakebjakeb Posts: 557member
    Sounds very watch-related. The OLED expert Apple hired awhile back (I'm forgetting his name) also had expertise in curved displays.
  • Reply 11 of 34
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Emes View Post



    I hate to imagine what the viewing angles on something like that would be. I tried it out last night with my iPod Nano and everything turned all blurry when viewed from the sides

    Well, that's the point of the curved glass, as you look from the side, you're still looking at it straight, so there is no viewing angle issue. The angle wouldn't be too extreme that you'd lose clarity on both inner/outer angles. 

  • Reply 12 of 34
    I agree that it is about iWatch. I don't think it will be useful, if not distracting, to put it into iPhone.
  • Reply 13 of 34
    You patent everything you invent. Not just the tech that makes it into future products.
  • Reply 14 of 34
    You patent everything you invent. Not just the tech that makes it into future products.

    True but I think the curved glass patent was issued years ago, so you you come up with a better way of making it then you patent the process and not the unpatentable product.
  • Reply 15 of 34
    How the hell did they get the rights to this when Samsung brought out a press conference about this tech nearly a year ago at the CES (http://www.cesweb.org/) last year. Here's their press conference
  • Reply 17 of 34
    Originally Posted by MentalImage View Post

    How the hell did they get the rights to this when Samsung brought out a press conference about this tech nearly a year ago

     

    Right, because there’s only ONE technology for displays that don’t cover a flat surface¡

     

    5 cents per post doesn’t net you much, Sammy.

  • Reply 18 of 34

    The idea i mean to get across is based on the curiosity of how Apple has the right to patent a Technology they were not first to develop. Who did they pay off?

  • Reply 19 of 34

    explain to me how these products differ between one another then. 

  • Reply 20 of 34
    Originally Posted by MentalImage View Post

    The idea i mean to get across is based on the curiosity of how Apple has the right to patent a Technology they were not first to develop.

     

    Right, because there’s only ONE technology for displays that don’t cover a flat surface¡



    ?No, that’s not an error. I literally just copied and pasted.

     

Sign In or Register to comment.