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Apple's new MacBook uses a Patent Pending Metal and Polymer Color-Matching System

30A - Patent Application


Love it or hate it, the new MacBook packs a design punch that can't be ignored. Apple reinvented the keyboard using a new butterfly mechanism; they added new precision backlighting; they included a new Retina display with a resolution of 2304 x 1440; they added a new trackpad that includes new Force Touch capabilities that uses Apple's new Taptic Engine; Apple even reinvented how batteries could be layered into the MacBook to jam in more power for mobile users. And lastly, they offered the new MacBooks in three colors like the gold as noted in our cover graphic. And while we never thought about it before, did you notice the perfect color matching between the aluminum and the capacitive glass surfaced trackpad? Well, that didn't come about by accident. It's a patent-pending color matching system Apple invented and today, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published Apple's patent application revealing all the magic behind their elaborate color matching system.


Apple's Patent Background


Many computing devices have enclosures and coverings that include metallic surfaces that give the devices an aesthetically pleasing and durable look and feel. The metallic surfaces typically have a thin passivation layer that increases the corrosion resistance and wear resistance of the metal. This thin passivation layer is generally formed using an electrolytic process called anodizing, whereby the metal part acts as an anode. During anodizing, a portion of the exposed metal is converted to a metal oxide layer, sometimes referred to as an anodic film or layer. The anodic layer can be dyed to give the metal surfaces any of a number of different colors.


Often, the enclosures for computing devices include non-metallic portions. For example, touch pad covers and radio frequency antenna windows are required to be made of non-metallic materials in order to allow proper operation of underlying touch pads and radio frequency antennas, respectively. These non-metallic portions can be made of non-capacitive and/or radio frequency transparent materials such as plastic or glass. One design challenge associated with including non-metallic portions within metal enclosures is maintaining a sleek and consistent overall metallic-looking enclosure. The non-metallic portions can be dyed to match the color of adjacent dyed anodized metal surfaces. However, it can be difficult to get an exact color match between non-metallic portions and metallic portions. This is because the non-metallic portions and the anodic layers of the metallic portions generally accept different types of dyes. The result is the dyed non-metallic portions have a slightly different color than the dyed anodized metallic surfaces, which can detract from the consistent color and continuous look of the enclosures.


Apple's Invention: Color-Matched Polymer Materials and Method for Forming the Same


Apple's invention relates to color-matched polymer materials and methods for forming the same. Apple's has invented a method of incorporating a water-soluble dye within a water-insoluble polymer material. The method includes forming a fluid dye-polymer mixture by dissolving the polymer material and the water-soluble dye within at least one solvent. The method also includes dispensing the fluid dye-polymer mixture onto a surface of a carrier. The method further includes forming a dyed polymer layer by removing the solvent from the fluid dye-polymer mixture.


According to an additional embodiment, a method of forming a composite layer having a dyed anodized metal appearance is described. The method includes forming a dyed polymer layer by solidifying a dye-polymer mixture on a carrier structure. The dyed polymer layer is translucent and has a water-soluble dye infused therein. The water-soluble dye imparting a color to the dyed polymer layer matching a color of an anodic layer having the water-soluble dye infused therein.


The dyed polymer layer has a first reflection/transmission curve and the anodic layer has a second reflection/transmission curve. The first reflection/transmission curve is substantially the same as the second reflection/transmission curve. The method also includes forming a composite layer by applying an optically reflective coating on a first surface of the dyed polymer layer. The optically reflective layer has multiple visible light reflective surfaces such that the optically reflective layer appears as a metal substrate underlying the dyed polymer layer.


Apple's patent FIG. 1 illustrated below shows us a perspective view of MacBook which includes non-metallic portions that can be colorized to match dyed anodized metal portions using methods described in this patent filing.



For those interested in exploring all of the finer details behind this invention simply click here.The color matching system also applies to the iPhone.




Apple's Jony Ive is a legendary details man and today's invention is reflective of his and his team's fanatical passion to create the tiniest of details that make the new MacBook so seemingly beautiful to hold and work on.


Patent Credits


Apple credits Brian Demers, Peteris Augenbergs, Brandon Farmer, Garrett Poe and Joni Kay as the inventors of this patent application which was originally filed in Q3 2014. This is another patent fulfilled.


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