Apple’s New Patent Hints Carbon Fiber Housing for MacBook

Source: MacBook Air | Apple

Apple was granted a patent last Tuesday for a carbon fiber molding process. This process could be used in producing parts such as laptop casings or mobile device chassis.

Titled as “Carbon Composite Mold Design,” the U.S. Patent No. 8,257,075 describes the systems and methods needed to create “aesthetically pleasing” parts from carbon fiber and other resin-based composites. As stated on the patent’s background:

As but one example, it would be particularly helpful if portable electronic device housings and components could be stronger and more durable than what it now typically provided in plastic parts that are formed via ordinary plastic injection molding processes. In particular, it would be beneficial if laptops, notebook computers, and other relatively large and heavy portable computing devices could have outer housings that are better able to protect the entire device from drops and other mechanical shocks.

Creating Carbon Fiber Cases for Apple Devices

Although there are many applications for carbon composite material, Apple specifically notes that it can be used to “form outer housings for a laptop computer or other similar device.”

The process of molding carbon fiber casing can be useful, since there is an increasing demand for slim and sleek portable devices with relatively large screens in the industry. For example, the weight of the next-generation iPhone with larger 4-inch screen can be offset by a carbon fiber monocoque.

Furthermore, it appears that the carbon fiber casing is designed for larger devices like Apple’s MacBook. This is much like the Sony Vaio Z’s thin-and-light series.

How the Invention Will Work

As stated on the patent, the “traditional resin-based composites are made by layering resin-impregnated sheets of into or over a mold.” The mold will then cure it under increased heat and pressure. However, removing the resin from the mold can be a hassle, as it sometimes sticks to the mold surface. This often requires manual prying and peeling, which could cause blemishes and other defects.

That’s why Apple proposed a streamlined method that would allow the mass-production of carbon fiber parts with consistent visual appearance. The company’s invention calls for a two-part mold, a cavity, and another one that is “adapted to mate with the first.” This allows composite parts to be formed in between. After curing, the ejection pins located on one or both molds will be used to separate the material from the mold body. In addition, the mold can have one or more internal fluid lines to help with the cooling, as well as guide pins that will align the fiber sheets accurately.

Although Apple didn’t show any indications that it will be using the invention in its future devices, it will only be matter of time for the company to employ it.

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