A newly published Apple patent details methods of mounting sapphire on a mobile device, suggesting the path the company will walk together with GT Advanced. Entitled “Attachment Techniques” and discovered by AppleInsider, the patent application details a solution for securely fastening sapphire onto a mobile device and having it act as a cover glass for the display.
When Apple inked the deal with GT Advanced, people began to talk about the possible use of sapphire as the cover glass. Under current circumstances this would be a very costly process, but this Apple patent aims to bring a solution that, although we don’t exactly know how this system affects the total bill of materials, could pave the way for future use of sapphire glass as rumoured.
The patent points out how difficult it is to attach sapphire to existing materials, and points to the current use of sapphire as a cover for the iPhone’s rear camera.
A solution to current difficulties would involve an aperture formed in the sapphire substrate, then a heated second material with a lower melting point – metal or plastic – poured into the aperture. The next step would be to use the hardened and cooled material’s metallic portion as an attachment point to which other materials could be coupled.
A second embodiment details a molding technique that can be used to attach a member or secondary material to the sapphire substrate. As with the first method, the sapphire incorporates notches, steps or other securing features along its periphery, effectively making the substrate part of the mold. When a process like injection molding applies a second material to the sapphire, it will form an integral mold with these securing features.
When inserting the finished sapphire cover or part into the electronic device structure, a number of methods may be used to ensure it stays securely in place. For example, a device’s support structure may attach to the narrow tapered edge of the sapphire part, thus ensuring a secure coupling.
Currently, Apple uses sapphire to protect the iPhone’s cameras and the home button of the iPhone 5s, which features a fingerprint sensor.
Apple’s sapphire coupling patent application credits Christopher D. Prest, Dale N. Memering, David A. Pakula, Fletcher Rothkopf, Matthew D. Hill, Stephen B. Lynch and Tang Yew Tan as its inventors and was first filed for in 2012.