Apple Invents an advanced Matte Finish Process for future iDevices and Macs using a Zirconia-Based Ceramic
In September 2019 Patently Apple posted a report titled "A new Apple patent suggests that they may have used a Metallic Glass for the iPhone 11 Pro's Textured Surface." The patent never identified the specific type of "metal glass" it was using.
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to future Apple devices (Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, Macs, speaker devices and more) having a matte texture to the body or glass using an advanced Zirconia-based ceramic material.
According to Apple's patent filing, the textured zirconia-based component is typically included in the enclosure of the electronic device. In some cases, the electronic device is a wearable electronic device, such as an electronic watch.
In some cases, a textured exterior surface of the zirconia-based component gives a matte appearance to an exterior surface of the enclosure. The textured exterior surface of the zirconia-based component may be configured to provide one or more properties in addition to an optical property.
For example, the textured exterior surface may be configured to limit scratching or abrasion of softer objects, such as metal objects. In additional examples, the textured exterior surface may be configured to provide a particular "feel" to the electronic device, to be readily cleaned, or both. In further examples, the textured exterior surface may be configured so that the zirconia-based component substantially retains its strength and impact resistance. The zirconia-based component may be formed of a ceramic such as a partially stabilized zirconia ceramic or an alumina toughened zirconia ceramic.
In some cases, the textured zirconia-based component is an enclosure component that defines a side surface of the electronic device. In additional cases, the textured zirconia-based component is an enclosure component, such as a rear cover member, that at least partially defines a rear surface of the electronic device. In some examples, one or more textured zirconia-based components give a matte appearance to both the side surface and a region of the rear surface of the electronic device.
Apple's patent FIG. 1A below shows a front view of an example of an electronic device (Apple Watch #100) having an enclosure #105 including a textured zirconia-based component; FIG. 7 shows a flow chart of an example process for forming a textured zirconia-based enclosure component.
Apple's patent FIG. 4 above shows a rear view of an iPhone including a textured zirconia-based component on the rear surface (#404 & 434).
More specifically, Apple states that the zirconia-based component may be formed of a zirconia-based ceramic. For example, the zirconia-based ceramic may be a partially stabilized zirconia that predominantly includes zirconia (zirconium oxide) crystals stabilized with an oxide such as yttrium oxide. As another example, the zirconia-based ceramic may be an alumina toughened zirconia ceramic that predominantly includes zirconia but that also includes fine particles of alumina (aluminum oxide). The zirconia-based ceramic material may also include other components such as coloring agents and/or processing agents
For more details, review Apple's patent application number 20220256720.