A newly-published patent suggests Apple is serious about bling. Not for diamond-encrusted gadgets, but iDevices made of sapphire, the second-hardest material on earth. The iPhone maker envisions smartphone screens able to resist scratches and breakage with bodies tough enough to withstand drops and spills.
Although up till now sapphire has been used for smaller items, such as the Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5s, the patent application outlines much wider application, according to a Thursday report…
The patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office titled ‘Sapphire Laminates’ indicates Apple “is actively working on processes that can make the expensive gemstone a viable option for the mass production of consumer electronics,” writes AppleInsider.
While incredible strong (sapphire – or corundum – includes titanium), the same properties make the material expensive and difficult to machine. Because of this, Apple’s invention outlines way to build laminates of sapphire mixed with glass or steel.
As noted in the patent language, the cost of sapphire is only part of the problem. The same properties that make corundum an asset also make it difficult to prepare.
Apple gives the example of cutting and polishing the material, which is more time consuming when applying traditional techniques.
In addition, the machines are rapidly worn down due to the stone’s hardness.
Apple’s patent application specifically describes the lamination of sapphire sheets, as well as sapphire-on-sapphire or sapphire-on-glass applications.
The crystalline nature of sapphire lends itself to dual layers, permitting one 0.55mm sheet to protect against a screen getting scratched while a second layer protects against screen breakage.
A final sapphire laminate is just 1mm thick.
Aside from guarding against damaged screens, sapphire laminates could also work alongside steel to protect iPhone bodies, such as the glass backplate of the iPhone 4S.