Photo of supposed 'iPad Pro' mold prompts questionable speculation, lacks answers

Posted:
in iPad edited January 2015
An image circling the Web on Thursday purports to show a piece of production tooling for Apple's rumored "iPad Pro," though there is scant evidence to back up the assertions. In fact, the part depicted appears more likely to be designed for Apple's Smart Cover than a forthcoming iPad.




The shot depicts a machined slab of metal, featuring a large recessed area in the middle along with protruding bits on each corner and various holes on the top and sides. It was initially shared to Chinese microblogging site Weibo and first noticed by Czech Apple blog Letem svetem Applem.

Aside from being rectangular and sporting rounded corners, the mold does not bear any hallmarks of an iPad. Commenters on Weibo are split on what its purpose could be, with some claiming that it looks like a standard plastic injection mold, and others suggesting that it could be a fixture used to hold pieces for assembly or finishing.

If the mold is a mold and does belong to Apple, it could be used for pressing together the two sides of the company's Smart Covers, given the shape of the area on the mold's left edge. The chassis of a MacBook also bears a similar shape, with an area cut out to accept the display hinge.

Alternatively, it could simply be a mold for a lunch tray, given the fact that the account which posted the photo boasts only 21,000 fans --?Weibo has more than 75 million active users each day --?and has no record of leaking such information in the past.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 34
    iLunchTray
  • Reply 2 of 34
    hngfrhngfr Posts: 72member
    if iPad Pro 12" = Macbook Air 12" then the mold makes more sense.
  • Reply 3 of 34
    solipsismysolipsismy Posts: 5,099member
    The left side of the mold looks more like the hinge section of a notebook, but I don't know shit about molds and can't even figure out an accurate size based on the image, much less that's it's in anyway an Apple mold.
  • Reply 4 of 34
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,454member
    They don't use molds for iPads as I understand it. It's all machined metal.
  • Reply 5 of 34
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post



    iLunchTray



    The iCook, perhaps? Apple's new home product like? They already have iTrashCan and iCoaster. <img class=" src="http://forums-files.appleinsider.com/images/smilies//lol.gif" />

  • Reply 6 of 34
    neilmneilm Posts: 900member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Mac_128 View Post



    They don't use molds for iPads as I understand it. It's all machined metal.



    Exactly.

     

    That looks like one half of a mould for die-casting. The other half would be indexed to it by the tapered pins we can see. There are two reasons neither laptops nor tablets use cast aluminum cases. One is that the grades of aluminum usable for casting are too soft for thin and lightweight pieces, and the other is that you can't cast aluminum to the thin wall dimensions required. Aluminum cases either have to be stamped, if they're simple forms like a lid, or machined from solid for more complex forms. Apple machines both its tablets and unibody laptops.

     

    The brightness of the metal suggests the mould may be aluminum, in which case it can't ever be used for casting aluminum. It could be for plastic, especially if the volume isn't too high. Aluminum tends to erode with use, so it's used either for prototype or low to medium volume production plastic moulding. However the tool could be steel that hasn't yet had time to develop surface oxidation. You can't really tell from this low quality photo.

     

    To me the hinge-like detail on the left side of the mould cavity suggests a screen cover, but it's hard to say for sure. And as SolipsismY points out above, there's no way to get more than an approximate sense of scale.

  • Reply 7 of 34

    Could be for a plastic MacBook, I suppose...hard to believe they'd go back, but you never know.

  • Reply 8 of 34
    hngfrhngfr Posts: 72member



    Consider new alloys formulated to be amorphous when quick chilled in molds.

    Not saying that the above mold is used for such, but that it is possible to mold with aluminium ... and make it 60% stronger too.

  • Reply 9 of 34
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,609member

    I don't think this has anything to do with Apple, just some random person on the Internet arriving at a completely baseless conclusion.

     

    This looks like the top half/lid to the object on the cart in the background, perhaps the bottom half of the mold. The other half of the mold looks to be quite deep, much deeper than a notebook computer case or tablet.

     

    As mentioned above, Apple machines iPad and MacBook chassis from solid blocks of aluminum, this appears to be for injection molding (i.e., plastic).

     

    Thus, this is likely for a completely different item, not related to any of Apple's product families.

  • Reply 10 of 34
    shogunshogun Posts: 362member
    Is that an embossed Apple logo in the middle of the plate?
  • Reply 11 of 34
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by hngfr View Post

     



    Consider new alloys formulated to be amorphous when quick chilled in molds.

    Not saying that the above mold is used for such, but that it is possible to mold with aluminium ... and make it 60% stronger too.


    Liquidmetal, perhaps?

     

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Shogun View Post



    Is that an embossed Apple logo in the middle of the plate?



    Looks like it.

  • Reply 12 of 34
    Looks like a big lunchbox
  • Reply 13 of 34
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    mac_128 wrote: »
    They don't use molds for iPads as I understand it. It's all machined metal.

    Actually that has never been 100% clear in my mind. For example the Mac Mini was claimed to be CNC machined even though it looks die cast. However CNC machined can mean lots of things.
  • Reply 14 of 34
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,609member
    Well, that's what Apple claims on the Mac mini website.

     

    "Mac mini features a 1.4-inch-thin seamless unibody enclosure carved from a single, solid block of aluminum. It’s created using computer numerical control, or CNC, machines — the same kind used by the aerospace industry to build mission-critical spacecraft components."

  • Reply 15 of 34
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by NeilM View Post



    Exactly.

     

    That looks like one half of a mould for die-casting. 


     

    It's not a "mold". All of the rumor sites should find some editors who know something about manufacturing. It's a milling fixture. Aluminum is perfectly suitable for it. All it does is hold down the workpiece while it's being CNC milled. More attachments go on the top. The machine to the left is very likely a CNC mill (a.k.a vertical machining center) based on the controller that is visible: it has a hand wheel (jog dial) for manual precision motion, something not necessary for molding. On top of the green table is a assortment of tool holders, as used in a mill. There's nothing in this picture to suggest any molding or stamping process.

  • Reply 16 of 34
    All this random speculation, and probably all wrong. Just call it the iDon't Know Pro!
  • Reply 17 of 34
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    neilm wrote: »

    Exactly.
    Well maybe not. There certainly could be some CNC machining going on with a die cast blank.

    That looks like one half of a mould for die-casting.
    Actually I've worked in die casting for a few years and then even longer with plastics. While the photos are terrible it just doesn't look right as far as a diva sting die goes. In the back ground there is a hunk of metal that could be the mating half which doesn't look right at all if this is a mold for a die casted tablet housing.
    The other half would be indexed to it by the tapered pins we can see. There are two reasons neither laptops nor tablets use cast aluminum cases. One is that the grades of aluminum usable for casting are too soft for thin and lightweight pieces,
    There are a lot of alloys out there as such it is possible that something exists that would be suitable.
    and the other is that you can't cast aluminum to the thin wall dimensions required.
    This is perhaps the most important issue, at least in the past aluminum has never been suitable for thin walled sections. I worked for a plant that die casted zinc and actually got awards for one of its thin wall zinc die castings. That was 30 years ago and it would have been next to impossible to do a thin walled aluminum housing like an iPad in a die casting machine.
    Aluminum cases either have to be stamped, if they're simple forms like a lid, or machined from solid for more complex forms. Apple machines both its tablets and unibody laptops.

    The brightness of the metal suggests the mould may be aluminum, in which case it can't ever be used for casting aluminum.
    It is hard to tell. I work in the optics industry and we keep all of our tooling bright.

    It could be for plastic, especially if the volume isn't too high. Aluminum tends to erode with use, so it's used either for prototype or low to medium volume production plastic moulding. However the tool could be steel that hasn't yet had time to develop surface oxidation. You can't really tell from this low quality photo.
    Yeah the photo sucks so bad you have to wonder if Apple planted it to draw interest in the blog go sphere.
    To me the hinge-like detail on the left side of the mould cavity suggests a screen cover, but it's hard to say for sure. And as SolipsismY points out above, there's no way to get more than an approximate sense of scale.
    Frankly the detail is so bad I'm not sure what I'm seeing.

    One possibility that I've yet to seen mention is a mold for a carbon fiber chassis. One big issue Apple will have with a with higher performance tablets or even laptops is heat removal. Carbon fiber might be able to address that.
  • Reply 18 of 34
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    mpantone wrote: »
    Well, that's what Apple claims on the Mac mini website.

    "Mac mini features a 1.4-inch-thin seamless unibody enclosure carved from a single, solid block of aluminum. It’s created using computer numerical control, or CNC, machines — the same kind used by the aerospace industry to build mission-critical spacecraft components."

    Yep and I don't believe it. At least not based on photos I've seen so far, I've yet to take one apart. The problem is the deep narrow internal dimensions. This isn't easy to do with an end mill. I can see the box being machined out of a die casted blank though. We really need to get ahold of one of these Mini's to take a closer look inside.

    By the way modern mold machines are often driven by CNC controllers so technically even if the box is die cast it still was done on a CNC machine.
  • Reply 19 of 34
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 5,005member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Mac_128 View Post



    They don't use molds for iPads as I understand it. It's all machined metal.

    not machined but punch press or formed sheet metal, and it not a die-cast since apple does not make  things out of casting, it the mold for injection mode plastic, and I would even go as far to say that it is not for Apple products. Most likely any prototyping work would be done in the US not in Asia, and that part does not look to be for production either. I is probably a injection mold die for some other plastic me too tablet.

  • Reply 20 of 34
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 5,005member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post





    Well maybe not. There certainly could be some CNC machining going on with a die cast blank.

    Actually I've worked in die casting for a few years and then even longer with plastics. While the photos are terrible it just doesn't look right as far as a diva sting die goes. In the back ground there is a hunk of metal that could be the mating half which doesn't look right at all if this is a mold for a die casted tablet housing.

    There are a lot of alloys out there as such it is possible that something exists that would be suitable.

    This is perhaps the most important issue, at least in the past aluminum has never been suitable for thin walled sections. I worked for a plant that die casted zinc and actually got awards for one of its thin wall zinc die castings. That was 30 years ago and it would have been next to impossible to do a thin walled aluminum housing like an iPad in a die casting machine.

    It is hard to tell. I work in the optics industry and we keep all of our tooling bright.

    Yeah the photo sucks so bad you have to wonder if Apple planted it to draw interest in the blog go sphere.

    Frankly the detail is so bad I'm not sure what I'm seeing.



    One possibility that I've yet to seen mention is a mold for a carbon fiber chassis. One big issue Apple will have with a with higher performance tablets or even laptops is heat removal. Carbon fiber might be able to address that.

     nope carbon fiber is not a great conductor or radiator of heat, it is good at insulating, you can buy carbon fiber heat shields these days.

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