Apple Learns To Bend Glass, Patents It
December 27, 2012

Curved Glass Display Patent Granted To Apple

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

It isn't quite the rounded corners and flat pane of glass patents which ruffled so many feathers this summer during the Apple v Samsung trial, but Apple's been granted a new patent which details how Apple makes these glass devices. More specifically, Apple's been granted rights to a patent which describes the way to make glass devices with curved displays. Apple has this knack of building out devices in their own particular way, eschewing other manufacturing processes when they believe they can do it better. This is just one of the many ways in which Apple's tight control from beginning to end results in a better finished and better "feeling" product.

Of course, Apple doesn't currently make any products with a curved glass display, so this patent could either be a signal that they'll one day make such a device or that they simply believe in this process and hope that another company may one day wish to adopt it as well. In order to do so, they'll have to put a few dollars in Apple's pocket, of course.

Companies like Samsung currently use a traditional method to curve their glass devices, such as the slight curved glass of their Galaxy S and Galaxy Nexus devices.

This process, called the "dropout" or "vacuum" method, involves heating up the piece of glass and then forming it around a mold. While this process is entirely functional, there are some drawbacks to this method. For instance, according to Apple's patent filing, glass formed in this way can leave the mold with extra bits of dangling glass which must later be filed away. Additionally, the iPhone maker claims forming glass in one of these two methods has a tendency to produce a low-quality product with a low yield rate. The ever environmentally conscious Apple is also concerned with the types of chemicals and gasses used to form glass displays in this way.

In many dropout processes, the glass piece must be heated rather quickly, and while this process works fine for thicker pieces of glass, (in excess of half an inch) it can lead to a sub-par product when working with the thin pieces of glass Apple prefers. For all these reasons and more, Apple believes this process requires extra materials and time in order to reach the final result.

According to AppleInsider, Apple's newly patented process involves heating the glass display and then slowly moving the mold away from the glass as it cools down, thereby removing the need to hold the glass in place with supports as with the current dropout methods. In creating the glass this way, Apple claims they can achieve the same results with higher yield rates and a better finished product with a smaller operating cost. For a company so transfixed on using glass in their products as often as they can, spending some time developing a new method to shape their glass products only makes sense.

The patent is titled "Glass alignment for high temperature processes," meaning Apple could likely use this process in other aspects, not just devices. For instance, the exterior of Apple's Spaceship Campus is expected to make use of nothing but curved glass. It seems likely Apple may have simply developed this process when looking to build out these large glass windows and discovered it could also be used to make their mobile devices as well.