With Rumors of the iPhone 14 adopting Titanium swirling around, a new patent Surfaces on forming Titanium Parts
There have been a series of rumors floating around that the iPhone 14 will integrate a titanium band. Of course, Apple never releases anything to market without first being patented so as to stave off lawsuits. In respect to the use of Titanium in Apple devices, we first covered a patent back in 2017 in a report titled "Apple explores the use of Titanium, Titanium Alloys and Hybrid Plastics for Future Devices." Since then we posted an additional six patent reports (01, 02, 03, 04, 05 & 06).
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published yet another patent application from Apple titled "Titanium Part having an Anodized Layer." The invention covers techniques for forming a titanium part. More particularly, the described embodiments relate to systems and methods for forming an anodized layer within a textured surface of the titanium part.
While the patent points to a MacBook, iPad, Apple Watch and iPhone being products that could one day use titanium, Apple's Justin Memar-Makhsous is an iPhone Product Design Engineer and the only hardware engineer listed on the patent. That kind of shows where the priority of using titanium rests.
According to Apple's invention, portable electronic devices such as an iPhone can include various operational components (e.g., display, processor, antenna, etc.). Enclosures of these portable electronic devices are capable of protecting these operational components from physical damage, such as during a drop event. The enclosures can be formed of various metals, such as titanium or a titanium alloy. Additionally, titanium alloys can be colored using an anodization process in order to impart the titanium alloys with a color through interference coloring. In particular, the interference color imparts the titanium alloys with a color that is distinct from the natural color of titanium and dependent upon a thickness of the anodized layer.
Although the anodized layer can impart the titanium alloy with a different color, the surface of the anodized layer is particularly vulnerable to abrasion and mechanical stresses. The abrasion and mechanical stresses can wear against the surface of the anodized layer; thereby, prematurely removing the color of the anodized layer.
According to some embodiments, the durability of the color of the anodized layer can be improved by forming the anodized layer only within grooves or valleys of the external surface of the titanium alloy. In particular, the anodized layer can be recessed relative to the external surface of the titanium alloy. Beneficially, the anodized layer is generally protected from the same abrasion forces that the external surface is exposed to.
Apple's patent filing describes techniques for texturizing the surface of a titanium alloy by exposing the titanium alloy to a selective etching process in order to selectively form microstructural peaks and valleys along the external surface of the titanium alloy. Thereafter, an anodized layer is formed to overlay the external surface of the titanium alloy. Subsequently, portions of the anodized layer are removed from the peaks by using a mechanical finishing process (e.g., blasting, etc.). As a result, the anodized layer generally overlays more of the valleys than the peaks so that the anodized layer is generally protected from abrasion forces. Beneficially, the durability of the color of the anodized layer is improved.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below illustrates the spectrum of devices that may use a titanium finish in the future. FIG. 9 illustrates an exemplary diagram of a metal part having an anodized coating.
Apple's patent FIGS. 11A-11B below illustrate exemplary electron microscope images of top views of a metal part having grain structures; FIGS. 12A-12C illustrate exemplary optical microscope images of top views of a metal part having grain structures.
Apple's patent FIG. 13C above illustrates a method 1330 for forming a metal part having an anodized coating.
Apple's patent application number 20210348294 is deeply detailed and you can review the specifics here. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
Justin Memar-Makhsous: iPhone Product Design Engineer
James Curran: Wireless Sensing Engineer
Todd Mintz: Materials Engineer
Zack Feinberg: Manager | Product Design