The US Patent & Trademark Office today published a new Apple patent application (via PatentlyApple) that details a flexible material that could be used as a hinge to create a seamless enclosure for devices like the MacBook, for example. Apple details a technical process of using specialized machinery to laser cut “flex apertures” and interlocking features in a rigid material to allow it to bend and function as a hinge. On top of creating a seamless enclosure, Apple claims the process would allow it to reduce the size of devices that are often increased due to traditional hinge solutions. Imagine if the enclosure of a MacBook didn’t include that black plastic hinge and instead appeared to be a seamless piece of aluminium connecting the display to the bottom half of the unibody.

While MacBooks might seem like the obvious application for Apple’s invention, it also notes the usual list of devices that could potentially use the technology including everything from smartphones to televisions and game consoles. The patent also shows the material being used on headphone cables to allow a flexible connection from the cable to the earbud to prevent damage, and on what appears to be an iPad Smart Cover-like accessory:

It isn’t the first time Apple has detailed its plans to create more flexible components that could reduce the size of devices and potentially be suitable for a flexible product like a wristwatch. We’ve seen patents for flexible displays, flexible batteries, flexible TRS connectors, and we reported back in April that Apple was looking to hire a display specialist to investigate flexible displays and other emerging display technologies.

Today’s patent application was originally filed in Q1 2013.

Apple also filed another patent today describing methods of providing an online status for iPhone users so you know if a contact is available to message or call.

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7 Responses to “Apple invents a flexible material to create truly seamless enclosures for MacBooks & other products”

  1. RP says:

    Hmm fascinating. I wonder how long such a hinge would last before stress/fatigue cracks appear.

  2. Sounds like Apple is attempting to make their devices completely irreparable when they break and force you to buy a whole new device.

    • That’s doubtful since Apple techs need to be able to go in and either repair them or customize BTO systems. Just because iFixit or the like declares something unrepairable, their word isn’t gospel. I just had my rMBP’s display replaced and it took a very short time. Most modern cars are unrepairable by the standards of the ’60s and I don’t hear that many people complaining. Progress.

  3. jbas7 says:

    Very interesting. This to me, looks like a design for a not only a traditional hinge, but also a continuous display that can fold and unfold like a map or a checkerboard.

    If a clamshell device’s bridging material can serve as a flexible hinge, as well as a rigid binding that has no seam as books do or like a current laptop has, it can maybe serve as a continuous display for more workable real-estate. If this is true, then an future iphone design could also possibly unfold to the size of a larger tablet, like a map does.

    The flexible hinge also has little triangular structures inside. So when fully unfolded into a flat surface, the triangular pieces bridging the inside may serve as a prism that fills in the gaps in picture that you would normally have when dealing with a hinged surface. Sort of like a Pepper’s Ghost technique with mirrors to create the illusion of something there, when the image is actually a projection that is tucked in perpendicular to it.

    But with that said, who knows if this patent will go anywhere…?

    This leads me to wonder though – if there are any other devices out there in the world right now that have the cross-section of a circle sliced into wedges, so that when fully folded it is a solid complete cylinder, and when unfolded is a series of wedges laid out as a series of triangles stuck to a flexible sheet? Is there something in nature like this?

  4. Please put this on the charger cable for all laptops NOW!

  5. Here’s a mockup of a Macbook Air with a seamless enclosure:
    http://iosguides.net/apple-patents-flexible-material-create-seamless-devices/

    It’s a mindblowing patent, takes unibody devices to a whole new level!