Trio of Apple sapphire-related inventions point to iOS device displays, illuminated buttons

Posted:
in General Discussion edited July 2014
Ahead of Apple's expected iPhone announcement this fall, the company has filed for three sapphire-related patents pointing to a handset with front cover and illuminated buttons crafted from the exotic material.


Source: USPTO


The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday published Apple patent applications covering a method of strengthening weak regions in sapphire display cover, illuminated sapphire physical controls and implanting of markings beneath a sapphire surface.

Perhaps most relatable to current rumor and speculation is Apple's invention for a "Sapphire component with residual compressive stress," which describes a method of shaping and selectively generating residual compressive stress in aluminum oxide ceramic (sapphire) material to strengthen specific regions prone to breakage.

Earlier this week, a video hit the Web showing a purported "iPhone 6" display cover glass supposedly made from manufactured sapphire. While the material is in question, the actual part showed resilience to both knife stabs, scratches and extreme bending, suggesting it may not be made of industry standard Gorilla Glass.

The properties outlined in the invention are very similar to those seen in the video. For example, the filing specifically points out that incorporating residual compressive stress to sapphire provides impact resistance, enhanced strain performance and overall durability. Regions with compressive stress are substantially more resilient than regions not treated by the procedure.


Illustration of regional residual compressive stress applcation.


As detailed, the invention applies to a device's cover glass components -- front, back or both -- formed from a sapphire crystal material. To improve shock and impact resistance, compressive residual stress regions can be formed on the inner or outer surface of the glass window.

Any suitable method can be used to create compressive residual stress, such as annealing, tempering, quenching or other such techniques. Laser heating or strengthening may also be used for more exact applications.

For example, in some embodiments, the depth of residual compressive stress regions can be varied to provide customized strengthened layers for high loading conditions. In cases where damage is unavoidable, a failure guide may be applied through the process to define a fracture pattern.

Depending on the type of device in which the sapphire is mounted, the residual compressive stress treatment may be applied on corners and edges, or the center portion of the glass.


Various treatment techniques including laser heating process (bottom).


Apple's second sapphire invention deals with ceramic inserts, or sapphire buttons and physical controls that can be integrated within a device housing. Titled "Ceramic insert control mechanism," the application outlines techniques by which physical control members like home buttons and volume rockers can be made of sapphire material.

Like current iPhone controls, the patent filing describes sapphire parts that operate actuators by pressing, sliding or toggling the component manually. These controls can be mounted within a device housing or inserted into a sapphire display, like the iPhone's home button.


Illustration of button actuator (top) and sliding switch.


To prevent damage, bearings, insulators or shims may be positioned around the sapphire part. These parts can be opaque or made of a material that shares the same index of refraction as the sapphire, forming a matching structure.

Apple has already introduced a variation of this patent in the current Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which uses a sapphire cover glass to protect the sensitive circuitry embedded in the component.




The filing also mentions the use of LED lighting to illuminate the sapphire part, either by being located near the mechanism's opening or channeled there through a light guide.

Finally, the third patent application deals with the more mundane task of creating markings like serial numbers and trademarks that are visible through a sapphire glass structure.

As described in Apple's "Ion implant indicia for cover glass or display component" invention, a subsurface pattern or marking is embedded into either the face or back of a sapphire glass pane.




Using ion implantation, the method alters an optical or chromatic property of the sapphire material at a subsurface layer, leaving a mark that is both easily readable and protected from the elements. Possible ions to be used with the process include chromium, titanium, or iron, which are then accelerated in an electric field and implanted in the sapphire component. Different ions can be used to create different indicia colors, while certain applications may just slightly change the perceived optical qualities in the glass.

The indicia can show a device's make and model number, or other pertinent information. In other embodiments, ion implantation can be used as labels for switches and other operational components.

All three Apple patent applications were filed for in January 2013 and credit Kelvin Kwong as an inventor. The ceramic insert property also cites Benjamin J. Pope and Nicholas G. Merz as inventors.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 63
    michael scripmichael scrip Posts: 1,915member
    It would be nice if the home button could serve as a notification light.
  • Reply 2 of 63
    Sounds like the back of a future iPhone could be made of sapphire as well. Probably not the 6 due to production constraints.
    The Apple logo could be etched in from behind and illuminated by an LED. The regulatory details could also be etched into the sapphire from behind.
    We could be seeing an iPhone that is 100% Sapphire on the exterior in a year or two.
  • Reply 3 of 63
    iqatedoiqatedo Posts: 1,723member

    Annealing, tempering and quenching are techniques 'honed' over 100's of years or more... ion implantation however, now that's recent (last century) and very exciting. Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, pauses for breath, Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, (said with a Steve Balmer like, breathless, expression hahahaha).

  • Reply 4 of 63
    iqatedoiqatedo Posts: 1,723member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Michael Scrip View Post



    It would be nice if the home button could serve as a notification light.

    Cheaper (energy wise) than bringing the display up. :rolleyes:

  • Reply 5 of 63
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 5,005member

    I think the process for strengthen spots in Sapphire is due to the fact the cut home in the display for the home button and the speaker. It probably creates stress points that nee to be relieved.

     

    If in fact the iphone 6 will have some kind of sapphire display no competitor can follow quickly since Apple has exclusive rights to the technologies as well as their own patents. I yeah I forgot that never stopped Samsung.

  • Reply 6 of 63
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,379member
    Sounds like the back of a future iPhone could be made of sapphire as well. Probably not the 6 due to production constraints.
    The Apple logo could be etched in from behind and illuminated by an LED. The regulatory details could also be etched into the sapphire from behind.
    We could be seeing an iPhone that is 100% Sapphire on the exterior in a year or two.

    That would a real gem of a phone ;)
  • Reply 7 of 63
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,379member
    iqatedo wrote: »
    Annealing, tempering and quenching are techniques 'honed' over 100's of years or more... ion implantation however, now that's recent (last century) and very exciting. Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, pauses for breath, Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, (said with a Steve Balmer like, breathless, expression hahahaha).

    You forgot the ... 'and sweating profusely '. :D
  • Reply 8 of 63
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    It would be nice if the home button could serve as a notification light.

    Why specifically the Home button? What is wrong with the LED light on the back being used for notifications?
  • Reply 9 of 63
    clemynxclemynx Posts: 1,510member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by IQatEdo View Post

     

    Cheaper (energy wise) than bringing the display up. :rolleyes:




    The screen would still light up actually. The notification light is if you missed the screen notification.

  • Reply 10 of 63
    rolyroly Posts: 72member
    "Why specifically the Home button? What is wrong with the LED light on the back being used for notifications?".

    I don't know about you but my phone is in a case and I keep the screen facing upwards. An indicator on the back of the phone wouldn't be any good for me.
  • Reply 11 of 63
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,609member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post



    Why specifically the Home button? What is wrong with the LED light on the back being used for notifications?

    Kinda hard to see the LED on the back when the phone is lying screen side up. Besides, the LED flash light is rather bright and piercing. Sometimes, I want to put my phone down in a way where I know it will not be disruptive (like during a meeting or having lunch with a friend). Using the back LED essentially renders your phone an attention hog regardless of the way you set down the phone.

     

    Anyhow, the home button as a notification light is a no-go with the Touch ID sensor array underneath.

     

    A single, multi-colored LED somewhere in the front bezel would be an interesting idea, with the notion that different colors would indicate different notifications (white for mail, green for voice/text messages, etc.).

  • Reply 12 of 63
    (Tongue in cheek) Proposed new names:

    iPhire
    sapPhone
    'saFone
    TryNCopyThisUBastardsPhone

    The possibilities are endless! :)
  • Reply 13 of 63
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    That would a real gem of a phone ;)

    You said it. Like a large diamond!
  • Reply 14 of 63
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    Originally Posted by Roly View Post

    I don't know about you but my phone is in a case and I keep the screen facing upwards. An indicator on the back of the phone wouldn't be any good for me.



    Then it’s out on a table somewhere and the point becomes moot.

  • Reply 15 of 63
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    roly wrote: »
    "Why specifically the Home button? What is wrong with the LED light on the back being used for notifications?".

    I don't know about you but my phone is in a case and I keep the screen facing upwards. An indicator on the back of the phone wouldn't be any good for me.

    What about if the phone "knew" which side was showing and it flashed a light there?
  • Reply 16 of 63
    richard getzrichard getz Posts: 1,142member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    Why specifically the Home button? What is wrong with the LED light on the back being used for notifications?

     

    Because it faces down and/or away from the user

  • Reply 17 of 63
    richard getzrichard getz Posts: 1,142member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

     



    Then it’s out on a table somewhere and the point becomes moot.


     

    In what scenario would you have the back of your phone facing you? 

  • Reply 18 of 63
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    Originally Posted by Richard Getz View Post

    In what scenario would you have the back of your phone facing you? 




    You’d be surprised how many people put their phones on the table face down. It’s insane.

     

    But that’s not the point; it’s more “light in a purse” notification.

  • Reply 19 of 63
    richard getzrichard getz Posts: 1,142member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

     



    You’d be surprised how many people put their phones on the table face down. It’s insane.

     

    But that’s not the point; it’s more “light in a purse” notification.


     

    I'd agree it would be insane

     

    Yes, if you don't think the illumination from a home button would be sufficient, then a much brighter back light would be. But isn't that what the iWatch is for? ;) 

  • Reply 20 of 63
    19831983 Posts: 1,224member

    Patent 2 reminds me of the Contax T2 camera from the 90s which incorporated a synthetic sapphire shutter release button.

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