On May 7, 2015, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals methods for reducing the weight of a device housing without adversely affecting its structural integrity. We've all recently seen the new bend testing equipment from Square Trade used in testing smartphones from Apple, Samsung and others. As devices become thinner over time, it's necessary that they retain their structural integrity and Apple's invention demonstrates that they're ahead of the curve on this front. Whether this was used in any of the new Apple products such as the iPhone 6 and MacBook, or is something to be implanted in the future is unknown at this time.
Apple's Patent Background
As makers of electronic devices attempt to continually make devices increasingly smaller, innovative ways of reducing the weight of devices has become progressively more difficult to achieve. For example, while the overall weight of a device enclosure can be reduced by commensurably reducing the thickness of device enclosure walls, the reduction in wall thickness can reduce the ability of the enclosure to withstand normal handling. Accordingly, the walls will require a certain minimum wall thickness or rigidity to maintain a minimum structural integrity of the enclosure.
Apple's invention generally relates to reducing a weight of a device housing without adversely affecting its structural integrity. More specifically a method for embedding a stiffening layer within a metal substrate is disclosed.
In one embodiment, an apparatus is set forth as having a metal substrate and a stiffener layer made of carbon fiber that abuts the metal substrate. Additionally, the apparatus includes a cold sprayed layer, wherein the cold sprayed layer and metal substrate encapsulate the stiffener layer.
In another embodiment, a computing device housing is set forth. The computing device housing can include an aluminum substrate comprising a recess. Further, the computing device housing can include a stiffener layer made of carbon fiber residing within the recess of the aluminum substrate.
Additionally, the computing device housing can include a cold sprayed layer residing within the recess of the aluminum substrate, wherein the aluminum substrate and cold sprayed layer completely encapsulate the stiffener layer.
In yet another embodiment, a method is set forth for encapsulating a stiffener layer within an aluminum substrate of a device housing to improve rigidity of the device housing.
The method can include a step of applying the stiffener layer against a first surface of the aluminum substrate. The method can further include a step of depositing a layer of material over the stiffener layer such that the aluminum substrate and the layer of material cooperate to encapsulate the stiffener layer. Additionally, the method can include machining material away from a second surface of the aluminum substrate that opposes the first surface of the aluminum substrate. In this way, the stiffener layer can reinforce the second surface of the aluminum substrate during the machining operation.
Apple's patent FIG. 4A-4B presented below show various embodiments of housings having a number of pockets machined from an inside surface of the housing. FIG. 4A shows a triangular pattern of pockets etched from an inside surface of housing #400. By etching the triangular pattern, an overall weight of the housing can be reduced while structural integrity of the housing can be substantially maintained.
In Apple's patent FIG. 4B above we're able to see a rectangular pattern of pockets etched from housing #410. The rectangular pattern can also be operable to reduce a weight while maintaining structural integrity of the housing. In other embodiments, a number of circular patterns could be etched in an exemplary housing to achieve a similar weight reduction purpose. In some embodiments, the pattern of pockets can be etched by way of a chemical etching process.
In Apple's patent FIGS. 5A-5B we're able to see another embodiment in which the pocket patterns in FIGS. 4A-4B are overlaid by a stiffener layer. In some embodiments, the stiffener layer can be laminated to an inside surface of the housings, such that it overlays the pockets and improves an overall structural integrity of the housing.
Apple credits Collin Chan, Matthew Crowley and Jude Runge as the inventors of patent application 20150125636 titled "Encapsulation of a Stiffener Layer in Aluminum," which was originally filed in Q2 2014.
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