updated 10:27 am EST, Tue December 10, 2013
Patent hints at curved device development
The US Patent and Trademark Office has granted Apple patent protection for a manufacturing process that focuses on curved touchscreens. Patent No. 8,603,574, spotted by AppleInsider, describes a fabrication method that attempts to minimize a curved touchscreen's substrate and film thickness without distorting or damaging the integrated components.
"For example, when flexible substrates are processed by depositing the thin film, the transition temperature, at which point the substrate can warp or deform, may be relatively low," the authors note. "However, annealing the thin film at a high temperature (above 150.degree. C.) is often desired, since it can improve the thin film's resistivity and optical properties."
The inventors describe several methods for joining or depositing the thin patterning film onto the flexible substrate, then annealing and molding the bonded layers together into a curved shape. The approach is said to benefit from a proper annealing temperature, with improved strength, conductivity and optical properties.
Apple has yet to introduce a mobile device with a curved display, despite holding several patents on the necessary production techniques. Rumors surrounding such devices have persisted for years, and the company is known to have considered a curved display for the original iPhone. Other reports claim a wearable 'iWatch' is headed to the market with a small curved touchscreen.