A new Apple patent suggests that they may have used a Metallic Glass for the iPhone 11 Pro's Textured Surface
Apple's Dan Riccio, SVP Hardware engineering provided an overview of the new iPhone 11 Pro in the video below. In and around the 30 second mark he describes the new iPhone having the toughest glass in a smartphone.
Today, the U.S. Patent Office published a patent application from Apple titled "Thermoplastic forming Metal Glass Textures from Glass Molds."
Metal Glass is one of the toughest forms of glass and it's very possible that Apple may have used the method outlined in this latest patent application for the iPhone 11 Pro to give it a texture. In fact the inventors of this invention are responsible for metal alloys that went into iPhone X and XR and so it would seem that the new metal glass would fit their past and current work.
Apple's invention covers a thermoplastic forming method to replicate fine texture from a silicate glass mold. The method may include placing a metallic glass in a glass mold having a portion of a surface with a fine surface texture.
The method may also include heating the glass mold to a processing temperature above the glass transition temperature of the metallic glass. The method may further include applying a pressure to the silicate glass mold.
The method may also include cooling the glass mold to form a metallic glass article replicating the fine surface texture from the portion of the glass mold.
The patent covers materials and methods for thermoplastic forming of metallic glass replicating the fine surface texture from a textured glass mold.
Apple's patent FIG. 3 below illustrates a schematic of thermoplastic forming a metallic glass sheet into an article having a textured surface; FIG. 5 is a flow chart illustrating thermoplastic forming a metallic glass with a fine texture replicating the surface texture of a silicate glass mold.
At one point in Apple's patent application it describes the base glass and two dimensional roughness being added based on surface area measurements. Whether that accounts for a 3 dimensional glass back as Riccio mentions in the video at the top of our report is unknown at this time.
Finally, Apple patent application states that the disclosed metallic glasses and methods can be used in the fabrication of electronic devices. An electronic device herein can refer to any electronic device known in the art. For example, such devices can include wearable devices such as a watch (e.g., an Apple Watch). Devices can also be a telephone such a mobile phone (e.g., an iPhone) a land-line phone, or any communication device (e.g., an electronic email sending/receiving device).
The metallic glasses can also be a part of a display, such as a digital display, a TV monitor, an electronic-book reader, a portable web-browser (e.g., iPad), and a computer monitor. Metallic glasses can also be an entertainment device, including a portable DVD player, conventional DVD player, Blue-Ray disk player, video game console, music player, such as a portable music player (e.g., iPod), etc.
Metallic glasses can also be a part of a device that provides control, such as controlling the streaming of images, videos, sounds (e.g., Apple TV.), or can be a remote control for an electronic device. Metallic glasses can be a part of a computer or its accessories, such as the hard drive tower housing or casing.
Apple's patent application 20190292643 that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was filed back in Q1 2019.
Zack Feinberg: Manager | Product Design
Zach is a Manager on the product design alloy engineering team responsible for the alloy design and implementation of metal materials for the iPhone and Apple Watch. Worked to design, develop, and deliver: -Aerospace grade 7000 series aluminum alloy on iPhone 10XR and iPhone 8; Surgical-grade Apple-design stainless steel on iPhone X.
Jim Yurko: Director, Materials Engineering