Apple Patent Application Describes Use of Oleophobic Coatings on Sapphire Displays

Tim Cook confirmed in a recent interview with ABC News' David Muir that Apple was manufacturing sapphire in its Arizona plant, but deflected any questions about how the company planned to use the material. Recent reports suggest the sapphire could land in the iPhone 6 or the iWatch as a display substrate, and a recent patent application lends some credibility to these rumors.

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As noted by AppleInsider, the United States Patent and Trademark Office published an Apple patent application titled "Oleophobic coating on sapphire" that describes a method of applying an oil-repelling coating to a sapphire display for use in a mobile or portable electronic device.

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The patent details a multi-layer display material with a base sapphire layer, a transition layer that serves to bond the surface layer to the base layer and finally a surface layer with an oleophobic coating.

Various embodiments described herein encompass a component with a substrate having an alumina base layer, a transition layer comprising alumina and silica, and a surface coating that preferentially bonds to the silica. The base layer may comprise a single-crystal sapphire. The transition layer may transition substantially continuously from about 100% alumina at the base layer to include substantial silica content at the surface coating, or to about 100% silica or silica glass at the surface coating.

A surface layer may be formed on the transition layer, with a substantially silica content, for example substantially 100% silica or silica glass, and the surface coating may be oleophobic. A portable electronic device may comprise the coated component, the portable device may include a window, the oleophobic coating may be provided on an exterior surface of the window, and the window may also include a touch screen.

Apple first used an oleophobic coating when it introduced the fingerprint-resistant material with the iPhone 3GS. The material has been used in subsequent products, including the current iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPod touch, iPad Air and Retina iPad mini.

Apple last year signed a $578 million deal with materials manufacturer GT Advanced to produce sapphire in a new Mesa, Arizona plant currently under construction. Recent photos of the facility reveal significant building progress as the company moves closer to the plant's target full operational date of June 2014.

Top Rated Comments

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85 months ago
Ah, so they make the first incision at 110 and then pour the oleophobia inside… I see…

Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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85 months ago
Anyone is familiar with this type of coating? I am all for the scratch resistant Sapphire, but if it is coated with something that can be scratched off, it might defeat the purpose. I'd rather have fingerprints than scratches.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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85 months ago
Isn't it the oleophobic coating that scratches easily? Doesn't this defeat the purpose of the ultra scratch resistant display?

Edit: Oops, someone beat me to it.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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85 months ago
As already stated, this is Dumb. Every iphone I have ever had got scratches on the coating. What a waste that would be of sapphire
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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85 months ago

As already stated, this is Dumb. Every iphone I have ever had got scratches on the coating. What a waste that would be of sapphire


I don't think you understood what you read. You seem to be combining complaints about scratch resistance with the fingerprint resistance of the oleophobic coating. Two different things.
The oleophobic coating isn't, pedantically speaking, fingerprint resistant. It repellent to the oils in your skin. Apple and other vendors have been using it for years. Heck, if the coating on your phone has diminished, you can buy a coating kit on Amazon. It's nothing new and totally separate from the sapphire aspect.

The scratch resistance is the cool part of the piece. But it's also the most confusing part of the piece. Sapphire is supposed to be the key to higher scratch resistance, but if I read the piece correctly, the sapphire won't be able to affect scratches because it will be layered under a progressively thickening glass layer. Thickening is relative since we are dealing with extremely small thicknesses. 100% sapphire base blended to a top layer of 100% glass. Where does the benefit of sapphire appear when the top layer is basically what we've always had?

Either I read the article incorrectly (it's possible, I'm out of k-cups) or something is wrong with what I read.:confused:
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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85 months ago

Because Oleophobic coatings on glass is a completely different idea?

I have used phones before with oleophobic claims and the bottom line is they do not prevent fingerprints on screens. The reality is that fingerprints are only an issue when the screen is off because it makes the glass look dirty, but when the screen is on, and unless you have been inhaling Cheetos for a few hours while using your tablet or phone, you are never going to notice fingerprints.

If Apple is patenting how to apply this coating on sapphire then they have a claim, but to claim the "novel" idea of simply using this coating on another type of display surface I do not think will be granted.

Oleophobic is just a marketing gimmick that tries to make people believe that a device with it is better then a device without it, just like sapphire. Apple is the king of patenting marketing myths.


I thought patent applications were about implementation not necessarily invention.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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