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Apple's Magnificent New Round of Manufacturing Process Patents

1A - Cover - Apple's Magnificent New Round of Manufacturing Process Patents
Anyone who loves Apple's products knows that all of Apple and especially Jony Ive and his band of merry men go to extraordinary lengths to design products with precision and attention to detail far beyond your typical technology company. Apple fans around the world always enjoy Jony Ive and his team putting together short videos that showcase various manufacturing processes involved in making insanely beautiful products such as the current iPhone 5C or 5S. We even get a kick out of Ive's meticulous mannerisms and vocabulary for describing new Apple products. This week the US Patent Office published a series of new patent applications from Apple that allow us to dip into Ive's pool of delights. Apple's latest manufacturing process patents allows us to take a peek behind the magic that goes into Apple's cool products. They reveal Apple's fanaticism and attention to unthinkable detail. In Apple's new round of magnificent inventions we see Apple working on new materials, advanced adhesives that you'd never imagine and much, much more. If you're one that appreciates Apple's detail and have a fascination for manufacturing processes, then you're in for a real treat.

Texturing an LED Opening in a Connector Body


Apple's Patent Abstract: the invention relates to connector inserts and receptacles that may have indicators that are easy to manufacture, may have an attractive appearance, reduce reflections, and may provide a consistent indication independent of viewing angle.


2. Apple invents texturing an LED Opening in a Connector Body

One example may provide a connector insert having an opening to provide light from an LED. The opening may be filled with an adhesive or other material. A surface of the adhesive may be textured, for example by chemical etch, laser, sand or glass bead blasting, through the use of texture tape or other stamp, or in other ways. An entire connector or just the indication itself may be etched. Masking may be used to protect a connector body during texturing.


Apple's patent FIG. 3 illustrates another connector insert that may be improved by the incorporation of an LED opening; patent FIG. 5 illustrates an enlarged view of the initial opening in a housing of a connector. To protect debris from entering the opening, it may be filled with a transparent or translucent material; patent FIG. 6 illustrates a textured surface of an adhesive filling the opening in the connector housing; and in FIG. 7 we see a textured surface of an adhesive filling the opening.


The invention may apply to Thunderbolt, MagSafe, or DisplayPort connector receptacles and inserts. In other embodiments of the present invention, other types of connector receptacles and inserts may be improved by the incorporation of LED openings. These may include the various USB standards, as well as High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI), Digital Visual Interface (DVI), power, Ethernet, and other types of interfaces and


For more details, review Apple's patent pending invention.


Surface Finish for Composite Structure


Apple's patent generally relates to a method is provided for fabricating a composite panel with a surface finish. The method includes securing a polymer film within a first portion of a mold and securing a composite panel within a second portion of the mold. The method also includes holding the first portion of the mold against the second portion of the mold to form a mold cavity between composite panel and the polymer film. The method further includes heating the mold to an elevated temperature, injecting a polymer resin into the mold cavity, and curing the polymer resin to form an integrated structure having a polymer resin layer between the composite panel and the polymer film.


3. Apple Invents Surface Finish for Composite Structure 

Apple's patent FIG. 1A depicts an iPad having an enclosure formed of a composite material with a surface finish as described in this patent filing. However, Apple notes that the composite material may be used in other devices notably an iPhone, iPod touch, iPod or even a MacBook.


The composite material identified in this current patent filing as "prepreg" was noted in another Apple patent filing in June that we covered under the title of "Apple Invents a New Tablet Cover that may be aimed at iBooks." Apple's initial patent on this kind of composite material was granted in September 2010. We covered that in our report titled "Apple Wins Mystery Patent for Improved Composite Laminate." Apple actually filed for the patent in Q4 2007. So Apple has been working on this for many years.


Apple's patent FIG. 1B illustrates a stack of prepreg with a co-molded polymer film, prior to curing. The stack, noted as patent point #100 in this patent figure, includes a polymer film #104 on top of four layers of prepreg (#102). Each layer of the prepreg may have a different orientation from its adjacent layers to meet the design requirements for strength, stiffness and the like. The stack is cured to form a single structure in a compression mold. It will be appreciated by those in the art that number of layers of prepreg may vary between embodiments. The number of layers of prepreg generally affects the thickness of the finished product.


Apple's patent FIG. 7 is a flow chart illustrating the operations for fabricating a composite panel with a surface finish from the fiber/epoxy prepreg in an embodiment; patent FIG. 8 is a flow chart illustrating the operations for fabricating a composite panel with a surface finish from the panel/antenna window structure in an embodiment.


Apple notes elsewhere in their filing that "the polyurethane coating, in combination with the glass beads, provides excellent resistance to stains, fingerprints, chemicals, scratches, and abrasions for the composite panel."


For more details, review Apple's patent pending invention.


Optimizing and Combining Adhesive Parameters


Apple states that different kinds of adhesives are often useful for bonding to different substrates, or are optimized for specialized purposes. For example, it is difficult to bond to silicone rubber, and as a result, specialized silicone adhesives have been developed.


Unfortunately, however, the specialized silicone adhesives do not adhere well to other substrates. Similarly, while acrylic adhesives bond well to stainless steel, for example, they don't bond well to silicones.


An industry standard revolves around layering the adhesives with a liner in between: silicone adhesive on one side, acrylic adhesive on the other, and a plastic film in between the layers. While an improvement over using only an acrylic or only a silicone adhesive, the multi-layer solution can be suboptimal for several reasons including delamination between layers and especially overall thickness (due to the non-functional plastic film layer).


Therefore, what is desired is a practical way to combine a number of types of adhesives into a robust adhesive construct, having a reduced thickness as compared to currently available adhesive constructs.


Creating more "Pocketable, Seek Electronic Device Housings


The reason that any of this talk about customizing adhesives matters is that the reduction in thickness of a composite adhesive layer can beneficially reduce the height of electronic device housing thereby producing a more "pocketable," sleek electronic device – according to Apple.


Furthermore, when a composite adhesive layer includes a silicone based adhesive, the silicone based adhesive can provide increased shock protection as silicone is good at absorbing and dissipating energy. This can be especially beneficial when mounting a fragile electrical component such as a camera module, a microphone or even an LCD.


In general, Apple's patent relates to the field of adhesives. More specifically the described embodiment allows a thin adhesive layer to have additional properties not otherwise available in a homogenous adhesive layer.


By combining a variety of adhesive material types into a thin interlocked adhesive layer, properties such as multi-surface adhesion, electrical conductivity, and thermal conductivity can be achieved in a robust adhesive layer.


Apple's patent FIGS. 10A and 10B illustrate scenarios in which three adhesive types can be useful in forming a composite adhesive layer.


Apple's patent FIG. 10A shows us a composite adhesive layer (#1000) arranged in a woven pattern, thereby resulting in interlocking between the adhesive strips forming the weave. In this embodiment a third adhesive is introduced into the weave by adhesive strips #1002 and #1004. In one the embodiment adhesive strips (1002 and 1004) can be made of the same adhesive type as adhesive strip 1006 with the addition of conductive particles resulting in increased conductivity and decreased adhesion strength.


4. Apple's invention relates to Optimizing & Combining Adhesive Parameters, figs 10a,b

Conduction can be especially effective in the region noted in FIG. 10A as #1008 where adhesive strips 1002 and 1004 overlap and form a conductive pathway extending straight from one surface of the composite adhesive layer to the other. This configuration of the composite adhesive layer can be useful when, for example, a specific portion of an upper or lower substrate layer requires electrical grounding or increased thermal conductivity. Region 1008 can then be arranged underneath that portion of the substrate layer.


Apple's patent FIG. 10B illustrates a woven composite adhesive layer made of three different adhesive types allowing three substrates having different material properties to be bonded together.


For more details, review Apple's patent pending invention.


Display having a Flexured Element


In many liquid crystal displays, a backlight is used to provide light that may be gated or transmitted by the liquid crystals. In some cases, however, light from the backlight may leak to the front of the display, even when such light is not desired. This may cause visible illumination at the front of the display at undesirable times. Light leakage may distort text, images and the like, or render them visually unappealing. Accordingly, there is a need in the art to reduce or minimize light leakage in many displays.


One embodiment described herein takes the form of a display for an electronic device, having: a liquid crystal module; a cover glass; a display stack affixing the liquid crystal module to the cover glass; and a flexure bearing formed on a first side of the cover glass.


Another embodiment described herein may take the form of an electronic device, comprising: an enclosure; a display affixed to the enclosure at at least one mounting point; and a processor within the enclosure and operative to at least partially control the display; wherein the display includes at least one flexure bearing, the flexure bearing separating a first portion of the display from a second portion of the display, the second portion of the display affixed to the at least one mounting point.


Yet another embodiment may take the form of a method for manufacturing a display, including the operations of: forming at least one flexure bearing on a cover glass, the flexure bearing defining a first segment and a second segment of the cover glass; affixing a liquid crystal module to the cover glass; and affixing the cover glass to a mounting point of a structure within the first segment, such that the first segment may bend relative to the second segment.


5. Apple patent - displays having a flexured element

Apple's patent FIG. 4 noted above is a cross-sectional view of an iPad with flexure bearings 405 which are formed in the cover glass proximate the mounting points. The flexure bearings generally are placed between the liquid crystal module (LCM) #115 and the mounting point #150, and need not be proximate the mounting points.


The flexure bearings permit the cover glass #110 to flex at the flexure bearing. Since the cover glass may flex, relatively little stress is transmitted from the mounting point(s) to the center of the cover glass. Accordingly, the center remains relatively flat.


In turn, the LCM Also may remain flat. This may reduce the likelihood of the LCM pulling away from or improperly sealing to the backlight layer. This arrangement also may reduce the misalignment of liquid crystals in the LCM due to stress on the crystals. The reduction in stress on the LCM may reduce light leakage to the visible side of the LCM.


Accordingly, the use of one or more flexure bearings formed in the cover glass may reduce light leakage in the display. Cover glass having such flexure bearings, also referred to as "flexure glass," may advantageously reduce stress on the LCM and minimize, eliminate or reduce light leakage.


Apple's patent FIG. 8 is a front view of a sample electronic device, showing the relationship between the black mask and the flexure bearings in the cover glass; patent FIG. 9 is a flowchart setting forth sample operations that may be performed as part of a larger process for manufacturing a display for an electronic device.


For more details, review Apple's patent pending invention.


Between the Apple inventions that we've outlined in this report and the one related to a new manufacturing process for Apple's ultrathin iMac, it's been quite the day for Apple's many teams and engineers who work tirelessly to find new ways to advance products and create new ones for us to enjoy.


I say it a few times a year and I'll say it again today: Cheers to the Crazy Ones in Cupertino.


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