A new Apple patent application filed last year and published by the United States Patent & Trademark Office today adds more proof that Apple is preparing to use sapphire displays in upcoming devices (via AI). There has been no shortage of proof that Apple is preparing to do something— most likely next-generation iPhone screens— with the large Sapphire plant it recently picked up in Arizona. We already know that the sapphire material could make iPhone displays, for example, stronger and more scratch resistant, but today’s patent details a method Apple will use to also make sure the sapphire repels fingerprints as well or better than the glass used on previous generation iPhones.
The patent details various methods of applying an oleophobic coating on sapphire material, “particularly where information is also displayed on the touch-sensitive surface (e.g., on a touch-sensitive display).” There’s also mentions of using a hydrophobic coating for waterproofing properties in the patent. While Apple’s patent shows the method of application of these coatings has to change when applied to sapphire, Apple has long used both oleophobic and hydrophobic coatings on its touch displays.
Analyst Matt Margolis pointed out some details on the new process of applying the coatings to sapphire as described in the patent:
What is interesting is that this patent allows for the oleophobic coating to be applied to a brick of sapphire and not having to apply it to each cut screen individually i.e. the patent allows for batch processing. The process used to coat sapphire screens is different from traditional glass screens. The patent mentions PVD and sintering as options. Apple and GT may be leveraging GT’s SPS technology for sintering to get this job done in the most efficient way possible Spark Plasma Sintering (SPS)
The patent is rather new having been first filed in September of last year, but it’s worth keeping in mind that Apple already uses sapphire on the iPhone camera lens and home button, both components that would typically get oleophobic and hydrophobic coatings. The patent does, however, seem to hint at using the coatings on larger touchscreen-sized areas.
Apple and its partners have already revealed that a new manufacturing facility in Mesa, Arizona will go towards producing sapphire. In February, we reported that Apple and its partners at the new plant had procured enough sapphire crystal furnaces to make approximately 100-200M 5-inch iPhone displays.