Apple Seeks Euro Patent on Fused Glass Enclosures - Another Sign of the Fabled iWatch?

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Last week, Apple filed an application for a European patent that targets methods for fusing glass pieces together to create various types of glass enclosures for a number of products. Applicable products include smartphones, smartwatches, iPads, laptops and TVs. We ourselves are very interested in this, specifically as it relates to iPhones and possible iWatches.

There are several interesting things at play here. On July 25, 2013 the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued its own patent to Apple (or rather in this case to the inventors who work for Apple) on exactly this technology and methods. It is in fact even more interesting to us because of another Apple patent the company happens to have in hand for delivering curved glass mobile device designs. One very intriguing thing to note here is that Jony Ive (Apple's SVP in charge of software and industrial design) is named as one of the inventors on the patent, along with Apple designers Peter Russell-Clarke and Mike Pilliod.

We've covered this particular Apple curved glass design patent application in depth, and one of the things that we didn't quite see in a host of possible new designs for curved glass enclosures were any ways Apple could properly close off either the top or bottom of these devices. So when we come across Apple filing for a European patent on technology it has already received a patent for in the US, it leaves us a bit excited about what Apple might have up its sleeve. A number of patent drawings show how glass fusing would work and be applicable to the curved glass enclosures we previously covered. It's very interesting technology.

The USTPO patent we noted above provides an extensive collection of drawings related to the patent and we refer to that for interested readers. For the new European application, we've provided a diagram in our story that we'll get to in a moment. If you scope out our earlier article on curved glass iPhones this diagram will make a great deal of sense.

Here is the requisite patent jargon language for several key methods (among many others):

  • An electronic device, comprising: a display; and a housing in which the display is mounted, wherein the housing includes glass structures that have a recess that receives at least part of the display, wherein the glass housing structures include a planar glass member fused with a peripheral glass member that extends around at least some peripheral edge portions of the planar glass member to form the recess.
  • An electronic device, comprising: an electronic device housing formed from fused glass members including at least first and second opposing planar glass members that are separated by a gap; and display structures inserted into the gap.
  • A method of forming an electronic device, comprising: polishing a planar glass member; fusing a peripheral glass member to at least part of an edge portion of the planar glass member to thicken the planar glass member at the edge portion; and attaching the planar glass member and fused peripheral glass member to a housing structure.
  • The example below demonstrates an extruded glass enclosure that is closed off with fused end caps. The diagram shown below is utterly simplistic, but we refer back to our earlier curved glass article to see how it would work in possible future Apple curved glass designs.

 


As intriguing as all of this is, the most interesting things to think about are the possibilities that emerge not for iPhones and other such devices, but rather for how a smartwatch from Apple might take shape. Beautifully fused all-glass enclosures are not necessarily the right approaches for smartphones - how exactly would one be able to refurbish or repair such things? Bring a hammer may be the right joke response to apply here, but even if only one end were beautifully fused it would be different than what is now available.

An elegantly designed smartwatch on the other hand - or at least a high-end version designed to appeal as a luxury item would be exceedingly well-served by the fused glass process. It is all speculation of course, but we continue to anticipate Apple delivering some sort of WOW factor in its upcoming announcements. Perhaps such an iWatch or iPhone will be among them.




Edited by Ryan Sartor

TechZone360 Senior Editor

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