updated 11:15 am EDT, Thu May 17, 2007
Apple Notebook Bond Patent
Apple may have developed a solution to the increasingly confined spaces of thin and light notebooks, according to one of its new patents. Though titled only a "Computer Enclosure," the technique -- filed as a continuation patent in December and granted today -- hopes to overcome the structural limits of most of today's notebooks. Most are usually either thin and light but susceptible to bending, Apple said, or else are thick and depend heavily on screws or other fasteners to keep the body intact, cutting down on available space for hardware inside.
The solution proposed by the company would essentially turn entire edges into fastening surfaces. In its most basic form, the edges of different casing elements would be forced together through structural glue, forming a single piece without the clasps or other joins common in other systems.
The housing would also use electricity to form a bond between the outer shell and the metallic plates inside needed to shield electronics, Apple says. Using a conductive nickel layer as well as conductive paste and an electrical bonding process, the company's engineers say they have found a way to attach an exceptionally thin and light plastic or fiber case to a strong inner plating material such as titanium while still avoiding obvious fastening points.
Significantly, the patent notes that the process could be applied using carbon fiber for both the top and bottom halves of the chassis. While the company has used carbon fiber selectively in its portables starting with the titanium PowerBook G4, the new patent will let Apple use the lightweight housing as the core of its designs, fitting the same components inside without leading to an overly bendable or fragile body.
Analysts have previously suggested that Apple is developing a subnotebook for later in 2007 that may use the technology, though the diagrams included with the patent point primarily to larger systems similar to its existing MacBook Pro.