Apple patent describes a new Glass Ceramic area built into the camera area of iPhones and MacBook Pro that enhances sensor performance
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to devices like iPhones and MacBook Pro with a new glass ceramic region built into the camera region which can positively affect transmission of light to or from optical components within the enclosure such as for Face ID and LiDAR that could be used for AR and VR applications.
In Apple's patent background they note that many modern day portable electronic devices include cameras and various optical sensors that are integrated into the device. Typically, cameras or other optical sensors are positioned below a sheet of cover glass or plastic component of the enclosure. This current patent application is directed to electronic device enclosures that include glass ceramic materials and may have advantages as compared to some traditional electronic device enclosures.
The electronic device enclosures include a glass ceramic region in the vicinity of an optical sensor or optical component, which may be specially adapted to enhance sensor performance and/or a visual appearance of the device.
Apple's invention includes a cover member and the glass ceramic region may be formed in the cover member. The glass ceramic region may have different optical or other properties as compared to another region of the cover member.
For example, the other region of the cover member may be a glass region or a glass ceramic region comprising a different glass ceramic material. The glass ceramic region may also have an optical property or optical characteristic which differs from that of the other region. For example, the glass ceramic region may have a transmittance or a refractive index different from that of the other region.
The optical component may be configured to emit or detect light in a specified wavelength range. In some cases, the glass ceramic region may be configured to have a lower transmittance for light in the specified wavelength range than another region of the cover member.
For example, the glass ceramic region may be configured to scatter light over the specified wavelength range. In additional cases, the glass ceramic region may be configured to have a higher transmittance for light in the specified wavelength range than for light in another wavelength range. When the optical component is a sensor, the specified wavelength range may be a sensor wavelength range.
If the optical component is a receiver module the first region may be a receiver region and if the optical component is an emitter module the first region may be an emitter region. If the optical component is a receiver module, the glass ceramic region may improve directional sensitivity of the optical detection.
Using a glass ceramic region will improve sensitivity of the biometric and health sensors.
As an additional example, the sensor area may include a sensor assembly that measures distance to a target, such as a LiDAR sensor assembly which is configured to illuminate an object with light and then determine the distance to the object from the reflected light (e.g., a time of flight (TOF) sensor). Such a sensor assembly may include a light emitting module (e.g., a laser) and a receiver module and may be used in combination with a camera module. A LIDAR sensor can provide a digital three-dimensional representation of the object, which can be used for multiple applications, including augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
Apple patent FIGS. 1A and 10 represent an iPhone and MacBook Pro like the latest M1 Pro/Max model; FIG. 3A shows a top view of an electronic device comprising an enclosure having a glass ceramic region; FIG. 3C is a cross-section view of the electronic device of FIG. 3A which schematically shows operation of an emitter module and a receiver module.
For more details, review Apple's patent application number 20210361233. With patent figure 10 illustrating an M1 MacBook Pro-like device, it's unknown at this time if Apple has actually used ceramic glass in their new MacBooks. It's not an attribute that iFixit was able to detect in their teardown. So, whether this invention has been implemented on the new M1 MacBooks or not is unknown at this time.