Apple Gets Curvaceous with New Patent for Curved Touch-screen Design

Apple Inc. could be one step closer to significant design changes as the tech giant recently won a patent for curved touchscreen design granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday.

The brand new patent outlines a technical process to achieve higher-quality curved displays. Currently, most sensor displays are so thin that their components can be damaged during the fabrication process. But, Apple has created a way around that.

This new patent suggests placing a thin film over a flexible substrate while the substrate is flat, then the pattern is joined to a flexible substrate. A high level of heat is applied, allowing the substrate to be manipulated into a curved state without warping. The resulting sensor display can be thinner than the traditional flat-substrate design and offer a higher degree of sensitivity. The technology would fit most naturally into a smartphone, but Apple also sees its use in touchpads, and other devices.

Here's a description of the display manufacturing from Apple's patent:

A method of forming a curved touch surface is disclosed. The method can include depositing and patterning a conductive thin film on a flexible substrate to form at least one touch sensor pattern, while the flexible substrate is in a flat state. According to certain embodiments, the method can include supporting the flexible substrate in the flat state on at least one curved forming substrate having a predetermined curvature; and performing an anneal process, or an anneal-like high-heat process, on the conductive thin film, wherein the anneal process can cause the flexible substrate to conform to the predetermined curvature of the at least one curved forming substrate. According to an embodiment, the curved forming substrate can include a first forming substrate having a first predetermined curvature and a second forming substrate having a second predetermined curvature complementing the first predetermined curvature.

It’s not yet known if this will be featured in a consumer product like a smartphone or tablet computer. But, it would be interesting if Apple decided to use these curved panels on their devices, considering their rivals LG and Samsung already have. Samsung and LG have both already dipped their toes into the market for phones with curved displays. Samsung's Galaxy Round bows horizontally, while the LG G Flex is curved vertically and includes a self-healing feature that reportedly can fix scratches in seconds.



About the Author: Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist of the Marketing Division at IIR USA, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. Amanda is the Editor at Large for several of IIR’s blogs including Next Big DesignCustomers 1st, and ProjectWorld and World Congress for Business Analysts, and a regular contributor to Front End of Innovation and The Market Research Event,. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the technology industry. She can be reached at aciccatelli@iirusa.com. Follow her at @AmandaCicc.
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