Apple Invents iPhone Glass that retains Internal Encoded Markings for Purposes of Repair & Perhaps as an Anti- Counterfeit Measure
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to a unique system that places a special coding under the cover glass prior to the glass being put into an ion batch for strengthen the glass. The encoding is primarily placed under the corners of the glass that could be read by a special analytical tool that will be available to Apple Store repair facilities where they could identify which plant and country the glass was made and assembled etc. Although Apple never says it, it could also act as a method that would assist Apple to know if the iPhone is a counterfeit considering that there are un-specific identifiers recorded in the coding.
Apple's patent covers a new system that comprises of a chemically strengthened glass member and, more importantly, a new encoding process under the cover glass. The encoded marking may include an array of marks, each mark of the array of marks having a dimension between about 3 microns and about 10 microns and set apart from an adjacent mark by an unmarked area of the chemically strengthened glass member. Each mark may represent a bit of information in a binary number system. The encoded marking may be readable, by an optical magnification apparatus, through the upper surface.
The encoded information could include information about the glass member, including information about manufacturing steps, conditions, or operations to which the glass was subjected, lot numbers, manufacturing dates, actual processing parameters to which that particular glass member was subjected (e.g., an actual process temperature, time, composition, etc.), an identifier of a mother sheet from which the glass member was singulated, and the like, may be associated with the identifier that is represented by the encoded marking.
Such information may be maintained in one or more databases, and additional information may be associated with the identifier as additional operations are performed on or with the glass member. In some cases, any of the foregoing types of information may be encoded directly by the encoded marking.
Apple further notes that by positioning the encoded markings within the glass, rather than on a surface of the glass, the markings may remain undamaged or unchanged even through polishing, grinding, or other manufacturing operations that affect the surface of a glass member.
The encoded markings may also be configured so that they are still visible (e.g., with a magnification apparatus) even after strengthening operations such as chemical strengthening. For example, encoded markings may be formed within glass members before the glass members are subjected to a chemical strengthening operation. Chemical strengthening operations result in heating of the glass, which may affect the presence or visibility of laser-formed markings within the glass.
In particular, the heating of the glass during chemical strengthening may result in the markings disappearing, shrinking, or otherwise becoming less visually distinctive or identifiable. Accordingly, the particular techniques for forming the encoded markings, as well as the physical parameters of the encoded markings, may be selected so that the encoded markings survive through strengthening processes or other operations that result in heating of the glass.
Apple's patent FIG. 5 below depicts a front view of an example glass member with an encoded marking separated into multiple segments; FIG. 2B depicts a detail side view of a glass member with an example encoded marking that could either be 2D or 3D in nature; FIG. 9 is a flow chart of an example method of forming a strengthened glass member with an encoded marking.
Apple's patent FIGS. 8A and 8B above are illustrative examples of Apple's optical analysis system.
More specifically, in respect to Apple's patent FIGS. 8A-8B Apple states that optical analysis of an encoded glass member may be used to validate the presence and readability of the encoded marking after laser marking, strengthening, and/or polishing operations.
Optical analysis may also be performed on complete devices that include marked glass members. For example, if a device is returned to the manufacturer for repair, the manufacturer may optically analyze the encoded marking to determine information about the glass member or the overall device.
In some cases, the information represented by the encoded marking acts as a unique identifier of an entire device, and information about many aspects of the device may have been associated with the unique identifier.
Although the device in the patent figures show an iPhone, the new glass encoding system could be applied to Apple Watch, iPads, MacBooks and more.
Apple's patent application number 20200361817 that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was filed back Q3 2019. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.