Apple finds a way of making sapphire screens even tougher

Gene Munster says not to expect sapphire screens except on the 64GB iPhone 6.

Apple’s new patent application shows how Apple might further strengthen its sapphire crystal using an “ion implanting” method.

Whether or not the upcoming iPhone 6 will sport a sapphire crystal display or not is something we’ll have to wait to find out for sure, but the ultra-strong material used by many high end watch manufacturers is certainly something Apple has spent a lot of time investigating.

Some of those investigations have led to a new patent application published today, revealing how Apple plans a technique for strengthening glass by using an “ion implanting” method as opposed to the kind of chemical coatings used for, say, Corning’s Gorilla Glass.

According to the application, the reason for this is that the kind of traditional chemical strengthening techniques used on glass screens might not be effective when used on materials like sapphire.

(Picture: U.S. Trademark and Patent Office)

One possible means of strengthened sapphire crystal. (Picture: U.S. Trademark and Patent Office)

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 13.48.42The technique described in the application is reportedly similar to the method currently used by Apple to color the black bezels on iPhones, and works by directly implanting ions into the glass itself. Since the method results in the tinting of glass, it makes most sense to use it in non-transparent areas to provide additional resistance to crack damage.

Prior to this, Apple patented a method for producing a hybrid sapphire laminate, which may be necessarily to use since a pure sapphire display could prove prohibitively costly and without the necessary flexibility for a smartphone screen.

Earlier this year, Apple opened its own sapphire manufacturing plant in Arizona, to manufacture what was described in paperwork as  “a critical new sub-component” for an unnamed future Apple product.

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About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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