Apple patent reveals method of attaching sapphire cover glass to iPhone

Posted:
in General Discussion edited November 2014
While rumors that Apple would incorporate sapphire into its latest iPhone 6 flagship handset failed to materialize, the company is continuing work on such a solution, according to a patent application uncovered on Thursday.




As detailed in Apple's patent filing for a "Ceramic cover for electronic device housing," published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Cupertino tech giant is sinking assets into a sapphire display cover for its flagship smartphone line.

The invention mentions use of either sapphire or zirconia, both in crystalline form to achieve suitable transparency levels, though Apple is more likely to use sapphire considering it already bet on the material with a failed $578 million investment in GT Advanced.

Unlike past Apple inventions dealing with sapphire, which usually deal with material production, the ceramic cover housing patent describes in detail the method of fitting the part onto a handset. Specifically, instead of using adhesives that add extra thickness to the overall build, Apple proposes an attachment member, much like mortise and tenon joints.




In one embodiment, a laser ablation technique is used to carve out recesses in a sapphire sheet specified at between 0.3 millimeters and 1.0 millimeter in thickness. A jet of fluid helps to cool the material and carry away ablated ceramic that might resettle into a freshly cut recess.

Attaching the sapphire to a device housing involves Apple's usual shock-resistant thermoplastic peripheral side members, the thin black buffer zone seen on all iPhone and iPad models. Certain embodiments call for the peripheral material to support the housing, a design seen with the iPhone 6, while others look to cover areas that would otherwise remain exposed, much like the iPhone 4 and 4S.

Dovetail recesses are ablated into the sapphire cover, while corresponding angled tenons are integrated with the peripheral side member. When joined, or in some cases molded together, the components create a mechanical interlock to provide substantially gap-free construction.




Apple also provides for the peripheral member to be made of a ceramic-strengthened composite, possibly using ceramic fibers or particles mixed with polymers. These peripheral bodies may be disposed in on or two layers, as seen in the illustration above.

The patent goes into further detail regarding alternative processes for achieving largely the same design, as well as molding techniques, secondary designs and exemplary implementations.

Apple's sapphire iPhone cover patent application was first filed for in May 2013 and credits Kelvin Kwong as its inventor.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    tulkastulkas Posts: 3,742member
    Wasn't this reported like a year ago?
  • Reply 2 of 15
    Who says its for a smartphone and not for the AppleWatch?
  • Reply 3 of 15
    droidftwdroidftw Posts: 1,009member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by TheWhiteFalcon View Post



    Who says its for a smartphone and not for the AppleWatch?

     

    Mikey Campbell says its for a smartphone.  I'm not sure anyone said its not for the AppleWatch.

  • Reply 4 of 15
    That seems like a very detailed solution.
  • Reply 5 of 15
    netroxnetrox Posts: 716member
    Why is Apple so focused on sapphire glass? The current Gorilla glass is way much more practical and economical. And it should be users responsibility to cover the screen with protection.
  • Reply 6 of 15
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,278member
    netrox wrote: »
    Why is Apple so focused on sapphire glass? The current Gorilla glass is way much more practical and economical. And it should be users responsibility to cover the screen with protection.

    They may not be any longer. Despite the article's claim that this patent app is proof Apple is still dumping money into it, a patent filed back in 2013 isn't evidence they're still actively pursuing sapphire for smartphone screens at the end of 2014.
  • Reply 7 of 15
    jfc1138jfc1138 Posts: 3,090member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by netrox View Post



    Why is Apple so focused on sapphire glass? The current Gorilla glass is way much more practical and economical. And it should be users responsibility to cover the screen with protection.



    It's a huge company. they're no doubt "focused" on a lot of options for materials going forward. Items not quite optimal today can become so with a bit of effort. Sitting on "current" as good enough get's overcome by competitors.

  • Reply 8 of 15
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DroidFTW View Post

     

     

    Mikey Campbell says its for a smartphone.  I'm not sure anyone said its not for the AppleWatch.


    Who the hell is Mikey Campell.

     

    This is the problem that most people have when looking at Apple Patents especially ones granted prior to the product coming out, they see the patent and it makes it look like an already existing product and people assume it for the current products. They just showing an example, this could be used for any number of current or future products. for all we know they may want to use this on solar panels since glass degrades over time and solar plane efficiencies go down then.

  • Reply 9 of 15
    Isn't it possible to use sapphire vapor deposition on glass?
  • Reply 10 of 15
    maestro64 wrote: »
    Who the hell is Mikey Campell.

    I don't know, but I associate him with those carnival barker, passive-verb headlines like "Apple said to focus on sapphire as Samsung surges ahead"
  • Reply 11 of 15
    maestro64 wrote: »
    Who the hell is Mikey Campell.

    Look at the by-line for the story.
    I don't know, but I associate him with those carnival barker, passive-verb headlines like "Apple said to focus on sapphire as Samsung surges ahead"

    Suddenly Newton got it...
  • Reply 12 of 15
    malaxmalax Posts: 1,598member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    While rumors that Apple would incorporate sapphire into its latest iPhone 6 flagship handset failed to materialize, the company is continuing work on such a solution, according to a patent application uncovered on Thursday.

     

    False and maybe.

     

    The rumors that Apple would use sapphire for the iPhone 6 materialized perfectly.  They just turned out to be false.

     

    As to whether Apple is still working on such a solution, patent filings can't tell you that either.

  • Reply 13 of 15
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,719member
    netrox wrote: »
    Why is Apple so focused on sapphire glass?
    It works well with aluminum?

    Here is another thought, the iPhone becomes a stressed skin slab where the "glass" actually adds strength to the device.
    The current Gorilla glass is way much more practical and economical. And it should be users responsibility to cover the screen with protection.
    Actually no it isn't entirely the user responsibility. Using that rational Apple could use a soft transparent plastic panel. A quality device should implement the best of what is possible.
  • Reply 14 of 15

    Apple should refer to Sapphire as 'transparent aluminium', sounds more futuristic.

  • Reply 15 of 15
    droidftwdroidftw Posts: 1,009member
    analogjack wrote: »
    Apple should refer to Sapphire as 'transparent aluminium', sounds more futuristic.
    Is iGlass already taken?
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