Apple probing ways to make iPhone display glass thinner and stronger

Using a special glass support frame around the edge of an iPhone or iPad, Apple could make the glass on the front of the device even stronger and thinner.

Glass panels are used in front of the camera on smartphones such as the iPhone and other handheld devices. Its primary function is to shield the fragile screen from impacts and scratches while also contributing to the device's overall design.

With the continued development of device design, which increasingly relies on curved glass for the front panel, new design problems emerge that are difficult to overcome using current techniques.

Curved glass plates, for example, cannot be made as thin and light as a completely flat glass sheet or implement additional techniques to reinforce it while preserving its thickness.

Curved glass can end up being very thick in key places, such as the sides, due to its design, which may not have the desired effect for production purposes.

In a patent issued on Tuesday by the United States Patent and Trademark Office titled "Insert molding around glass members for portable electronic devices," Apple claims that you can have a glass cover that sticks out from the rest of the enclosure like curved glass while keeping the main glass parts around the screen thin.

Apple's approach is to have a glass structure around the perimeter of the glass cover. Between the main enclosure and the thin glass cover, this glass section serves as an intermediary.

A lip toward the outside edge of the glass structure could surround the area where the glass cover would be mounted. The glass cover would adhere to the lip. Then the adhesive would be applied.

In effect, Apple's glass structure forms the proud section of the entire glass cover, complete with the requisite strength and thickness. Meanwhile, to improve its own strength and thinness, the glass cover may be made from a different glass material with varying properties.

Apple, for example, might use a Ceramic Shield glass coating to harden the main glass cover while keeping it thin, but use a different glass for the edging.

Apple suggests that the glass structure may be molded next to the glass cover to create a "gapless interface" to sell the illusion that it's one piece of glass. There should be no clear joint between the cover and the structure if it is done correctly.

According to the proposal, additional molded members may be inserted into the support system to help suit the glass cover perfectly.

A variant may allow for the inclusion of additional elements within the support.

David Pakula, Stephen Brian Lynch, Richard Hung Minh Dinh, Tang Yew Tan, and Lee Hua Tan are identified as the patent's inventors. On January 13, 2020, it was first filed.

Apple submits several patent applications every week, but while the presence of a patent suggests areas of interest for Apple's research and development activities, it does not guarantee that the invention will be implemented in a potential product or service.