Apple seeks patent on radio-transparent zirconia CE casings

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Apple Computer in a new patent filing discloses that it has been experimenting with consumer electronics casing designs comprised of radio-transparent ceramic materials such as zirconia, which would allow wireless signals to pass through the enclosure and potentially enhance transmissions.



In the August 7, 2006 filing, published Thursday by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the iPod maker said zirconia -- often used to replicate diamonds for costume jewelry -- offers advantages over other materials, such as aluminum, in that it is structurally strong, stiff and radio transparent.



"This is especially important for wireless hand held devices that include antennas internal to the enclosure," Apple said. "Radio transparency allows the wireless signals to pass through the enclosure and in some cases enhances these transmissions." Cermaics would also allow for a "a smaller and cheaper antenna may be used" which could be "integrated with other components and placed at almost any location within the enclosure," making devices smaller and reducing manufacturing costs.



Other reasons for using ceramics cited in the filing are that they are highly scratch resistant, have color embedded in it (no paint or coatings), can be made into a wide variety of colors, and provide a variety of surface finishes including smooth and rough. Additionally, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company said the density of ceramics is typically higher than other materials, which would make for heavier electronics devices that feel more robust and exude greater quality.



In the filing, Apple noted that ceramics have been used in a wide variety of products, including electronic devices such as watches, phones, and medical instruments.







"In all of these cases, however, the ceramic material have not been used as structural components. In most of these cases they have been used as cosmetic accoutrements," the company said. "It is believed up till now ceramic materials have never been used as a structural element including structural frames, walls or main body of a consumer electronic device, and more particularly an enclosure of a portable electronic device such as a media player or cell phone."



Apple added that zirconia casing can be applied to a handheld computing device, cell phone, or iPod digital music player, and could come in a variety of colors including white, black, navy blue, ivory, brown, dark blue, light blue, platinum, and gold. "The colors may for example be created by adding doping materials to the ceramic material," it wrote. "Other materials may also be added including Yttrium, which helps keep the crystalline structure intact across all temperatures especially for maintaining strength as the part cools down."







In some cases, Apple said it may be necessary to applying a protective coating or protective features to the outside of the ceramic enclosure. "The coatings or features may for example be formed from deformable materials such as silicon, foam or rubber materials," the company said. "The coatings or protective features are typically positioned on the exterior surface to prevent cracking and protect the ceramic shell from undesirable forces as for example when the ceramic shell is dropped."



Also covered by the filing are methods of manufacturing a consumer electronics device with the said enclosures. One method "may include extruding a tube, cutting the tube to a desired length, forming one or more access openings in the face of the tube, inserting a user interface assembly into the tube, and thereafter locating and supporting the user interface assembly behind the access openings."







"The ceramic material may be in a form ready for forming or it may be in a raw state," Apple said. "If in a raw state, raw material processing is typically performed to ready it for forming. For example, a co-precipitation method may be performed in order to produce Y2O3 stabilized zirconia."



Although not shown in the filing, the iPod maker said internal components of some of the described devices could include support for FM, RF, Bluetooth, and 802.11 wireless frequencies.



"In one embodiment, the device is or includes functionality for supporting cellular or mobile phone usage," the company said. "In this embodiment, the device includes processors, transmitters, receivers, and antennas for supporting RF, and more particularly GSM, DCS and/or PCS wireless communications in the range of about 850 to about 1900 MHz."



The filing is credited to Apple employees Stephen Zadesky and Stephen Lynch.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 100
  • Reply 2 of 100
    This is just more proof that an iphone os some other consumer electronicts is in the works. the matereial sounds cool though notice that the two people who this patent is credited to both have a first name of steve. think they are on to something
  • Reply 3 of 100
    tednditedndi Posts: 1,921member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by natan


    notice that the two people who this patent is credited to both have a first name of steve. think they are on to something



    Or, Apple is only hiring people named Steve. Or, MAKING THEM change their names TO Steve!



    \
  • Reply 4 of 100
    kolchakkolchak Posts: 1,398member
    I don't get it. As Apple itself noted, ceramics are fairly brittle, so they need protective coatings or bumpers in the structural applications Apple envisions. They may be stiffer than plastic, which is also radio transparent, but also a heck of a lot more expensive.



    And before anybody gets all excited about a blingy new iPod, that would take cubic zirconia, the crystalline version that they use in jewelry. Apple's talking about the ceramic substance.
  • Reply 5 of 100
    Wireless transmission as in bluetooth is something the iPod has so far only had as an add on (mostly to connect wireless earphones). This technology could be used in a phone, but it's more important for wirelessly adding music to the iPod from your computer's iTunes library. Which is what many people believed the Zune was offering.



    Plus zirconia means they can sell them on QVC!
  • Reply 6 of 100
    What do you say we start showing off some mock ups of future products with ceramics? Anyone? Come on....
  • Reply 7 of 100
    I think they're leaking these patent applications to mess with the heads of their phone competition.
  • Reply 8 of 100
    Aw...

    OK! The iMug:

  • Reply 9 of 100
    ... which also serves as an Airport Extreme Base Station!!
  • Reply 10 of 100
    "Zirconia has the highest strength and toughness at room temperature of all the advanced ceramic materials. The fine grain size allows for extremely smooth surfaces and sharp edges."

    Source: Zirconia Ceramic - Ortech Ceramics



    It's possible that ceramic zirconia may be part of an environmentally oriented product line.



    more info on zirconium here
  • Reply 11 of 100
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich


    I think they're leaking these patent applications to mess with the heads of their phone competition.



    I think patent apps just automatically become public information, at least after a short period after the app is filed.
  • Reply 12 of 100
    palegolaspalegolas Posts: 1,334member
    They wanna patent using ceramics enclosing electronics? How bizarre it would be to get granted such a patent. It sounds like patent using wood for building a house. It's too general. Or is it only this Zirconia? (sounds like a video game term). And then:

    ... which would make for heavier electronics devices that feel more robust and exude greater quality. The art of making bad things sound good. I want a light weight laptop, not a heavy weight laptop goddamnit.
  • Reply 13 of 100
    wtfkwtfk Posts: 47member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Kolchak


    I don't get it. As Apple itself noted, ceramics are fairly brittle, so they need protective coatings or bumpers in the structural applications Apple envisions. They may be stiffer than plastic, which is also radio transparent, but also a heck of a lot more expensive.



    And before anybody gets all excited about a blingy new iPod, that would take cubic zirconia, the crystalline version that they use in jewelry. Apple's talking about the ceramic substance.



    Ceramics may be brittle, but they're usually damned hard. Coors makes ceramic HAMMERS in their porcelain business (which they started because their beer vats are lined with porcelain, or so I'm told.)



    That said...ceramics have another serious problem which puts this story in a little doubt (not that the patent filing exists, but that it amounts to anything.) Ceramics have virtually NO tensile strength. This is why concrete often cracks when used as a structural material, and why "re-bar" (steel rod) is used in it. Counterintuitively, it is torsion (twisting) that causes the cracking, because torsion has an element of compression and an element of tension. Ceramics have extremely high compression strength (hence, roads are made of them) but extremely low tensile strength (hence the ground moves underneath concrete roads and they crack--even though they have re-bar, which really just keeps them from flexing under the load of traffic.)



    As an experiment, twist a piece of chalk until it breaks. Instead of breaking in a plane parallel to the force applied, you'll see that a ceramic breaks at 45 degrees. This is because the failure is caused by internal tension forces, whereas the compression forces are resisted. Other materials fail in different ways.



    If they tried to construct an iPod out of an entirely ceramic case, and you forgot it in your pocket and sat on it--you'd probably destroy it. You do that with the current iPod, it might not be pretty afterward, but it probably wouldn't be destroyed (the screen--made of ceramics, of course--would likely fail if it got the brunt of the force.)



    IF anyone wanted to use ceramics as structural materials, they'd have to put some kind of a mesh (maybe like a fiberglass matrix) in it. A metal mesh--of course--would defeat the purpose of the material choice. Naturally, it wouldn't then be classified as ceramic--it would be classified as a composite. Speaking of composites--there are MANY, MANY composite structural materials--the most popular one is probably resin-impregnated fiberglass, but there are many others.



    Boy am I glad I finally found a good application of the YEAR of materials science classes they made me take in engineering school!
  • Reply 14 of 100
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,426member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by bdj21ya


    I think patent apps just automatically become public information, at least after a short period after the app is filed.



    Yes, exactly, MS's R&D department does nothing but read them for ideas. Hence Apple keep throwing in red herrings.
  • Reply 15 of 100
    buckbuck Posts: 293member
    Quote:

    ...could come in a variety of colors including white, black, navy blue, ivory, brown...



    OMG brown!! Like poo!
  • Reply 16 of 100
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,426member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Buck


    OMG brown!! Like poo!





    Sums MS up well I think
  • Reply 17 of 100
    -df-df Posts: 136member
    With a phone made of crystal he patrolled the land.

    With his mason ring and schnauzer and his perfect hands.

    Here comes Jobs, in control.

    Women dug his snuff and his gallant stroll.
  • Reply 18 of 100
    -df-df Posts: 136member
    He ate opponents' brains!

    And invented cocaine.



    HE'S COMING! HE'S COMING!
  • Reply 19 of 100
    Nalgene?
  • Reply 20 of 100
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by -dF


    He ate opponents' brains!

    And invented cocaine.



    HE'S COMING! HE'S COMING!



    Steve Jobs once held an opponent's wife's hand... in a jar of acid... at a party.
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