The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 59 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we focus on a single patent relating to trapping a glass insert into a metal bezel using liquid metal. The original iPhone wasn't even out a year when one of Apple's engineers began his work on sealing the iPhone's cover glass with liquid metal. The patent describes the use of insertion molding. In 2013, this process was advanced in another patent that included Apple's metal frame that doubles as an antenna and it was at this point where we wondered aloud if Apple's iPhone wasn't already using liquid metal. Today's granted patent illustrates that the research that Apple's engineer did on this project in 2008 predated their first agreement with Liquidmetal Technologies in 2010. Last week Apple Extended their Master Agreement with Liquidmetal Technologies.
Apple Granted Patent for integrally trapping a glass insert in a metal bezel using Liquid Metal
Apple has been granted a patent today for their invention relating to the use of liquid metal in the assembly of iDevices.
Apple's granted patent pertains to techniques that enable an assembly that includes a transparent member that is integrally formed with a metal member.
Apple's granted patent may be implemented in numerous ways, including, but not limited to, as a method, system, device, or apparatus. Example embodiments of the present invention are discussed below.
According to one aspect of Apple's granted patent, a method includes positioning a transparent member in a mold configured for insertion molding, and providing a liquid metal into the mold. The method also includes hardening the liquid metal in the mold. Hardening the liquid metal includes binding the metal to the transparent member to create the integral assembly.
In accordance with another aspect of Apple's granted patent, a method for forming an integral assembly includes positioning a transparent member in a mold and using a metal injection molding (MIM) process to provide metal around the transparent member. The method also includes shrinking the metal at least partially around the transparent member to bind the metal to the transparent member to create the integral assembly. In one embodiment, shrinking the metal includes shrinking the metal by between approximately twenty percent and approximately thirty percent.
Apple's granted patent FIG. 1 is a process flow diagram which illustrates a method of creating an integral assembly that includes a metal member and a transparent member, e.g., glass, using an insertion molding process; FIG. 10C is a diagrammatic representation of a third example of an electronic device that includes an assembly that includes a transparent member and a metal member; FIG. 11 is a diagrammatic perspective representation of an electronic device that includes a housing that includes an integrally formed glass and metal part.
Apple's patent FIG. 7A noted above is a diagrammatic cross-sectional side-view representation of a transparent member (synthetic sapphire) and a metal member prior to a baking or shrinkage step of a MIM process in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. In patent FIG. 7B we're able to see a diagrammatic cross-sectional side-view representation of a transparent member (synthetic sapphire) and a metal member, e.g., transparent member and metal member 708 of FIG. 7A after a baking or shrinkage step of a MIM process.
Apple's engineer was way ahead of the curve with this invention that not only covered the use of liquid metal in future iPhones but also the use of sapphire glass. Apple notes in this patent that "Although an integral assembly typically includes glass, it should be appreciated that an integral assembly may instead include substantially any suitable transparent material. In general, a suitable transparent material may include any synthetic transparent material, as for example, synthetic sapphire.
Apple credits Kyle Yeates as the sole inventor of granted patent 8,738,104 which was originally filed in Q3 2008 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office. To review today's granted patent claims and details, see Apple's patent. To review Apple's other work related to Liquid Metal, see our Archives.
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