It was reported yesterday that GT Advanced, Apple's manufacturing partner for its new sapphire glass plant in Mesa, Arizona, began advertising job openings at the new plant that will produce sapphire materials that will cover iDevice cameras and Apple's Touch ID Home Button feature. In March we were first to note that Apple may shift to sapphire crystal for future iDevice display covers. Then in September 2013 we posted a report about a new fusion process for adding a sapphire laminate layer to future iDevice cover glass as well as wearables. In December 2013 Apple revealed future iDevices could use flexible sapphire displays created with a sophisticated liquid-metal process. In today's published patent application, Apple once again confirms that iDevices will use sapphire for future iPhone displays and beyond.
Apple's Patent Background
Certain materials may present interesting issues when attempting to mechanically couple the material with another material. For example, when attaching two different materials together, there is a risk that the attachment technique may not be effective. This may be especially true when the two materials have different characteristics such as thermal coefficients of expansion, stiffness and so forth. Sapphire, for example, may be particularly difficult to mechanically couple with other materials. Specifically, machining sapphire may be difficult due to its crystalline structure, hardness and strength. Further, sapphire may have a high level of stiffness relative to other materials, as well as a relatively low level of thermal expansion. As such, conventional adhesive attachment techniques may not be effective or lasting. That is, mechanical strain on the adhesive bond resulting from the difference in the thermal expansion and stiffness of the materials eventually causes failure of the bond.
Apple Invents Attachment Techniques for Sapphire
Apple's invention generally relates to attachment techniques and more particularly to attachment techniques for sapphire.
One embodiment may take the form of an attachment method including creating an aperture within a sapphire substrate and filling the aperture with an attachment material. The method also includes mechanically coupling a member to the sapphire substrate using the attachment material.
Another embodiment may take the form of a method including creating an attachment feature in a sapphire substrate and coupling the sapphire substrate into a mold. The method also includes forming a structure within the mold and removing the mold.
Yet another embodiment may take the form of an extrusion method for providing attachment features for a sapphire member. The method includes coupling metal about the sapphire member to form a rough member and extruding the rough member through a die to form an extruded member having the sapphire member mechanically bonded to the metal.
Still another embodiment may take the form of a device comprising a mechanical coupling between two materials. The device includes a first member having one or more attachment features. The attachment features are filled with one of a plastic or a metal. Additionally, the device includes a second member coupled to the first member by the plastic or metal.
In Apple's patent FIGS. 1A and 1B we're able to see examples of an iPhone integrating transparent sapphire covers for both the face display and the backside camera.
In some embodiments, the transparent cover 104 may take the form of a sapphire sheet, a sapphire sheet with a glass laminate layer, a plastic, or other suitable material, through which a visual output of the device is output. Additionally, the cover may be configured to receive input from users via a capacitive sensor, for example.
Apple's patent FIG. 3 noted below is a flowchart illustrating a method of attachment for the sapphire cover of FIG. 1A; patent FIG. 4 illustrates an example coupling between a first member and second member; and finally in patent FIG. 6 we see yet another flowchart illustrating an example method for attachment of the sapphire cover of FIG. 1B.
Apple credits Christopher Prest, Dale Memering, David Pakula, Fletcher Rothkopf, Matthew Hill, Stephen Lynch and Tang Tan as the inventors of this patent application 20140023430 which was originally filed in Q3 2012.
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