A newly-published patent filing has revealed that Apple is developing a protective layer to resist cracking on foldable displays, as well as improve scratch resistance and durability (via Patently Apple).
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office filing, titled "Hybrid coverlay/window structure for flexible display applications," outlines how curved, flexible, or foldable display modules could use a protective hardcoat layer to circumvent cracking. Apple appears to be seeking to remedy display cracking issues that have afflicted some Samsung devices.
The patent notes that "typically, glass fracture initiates from the presence of micro-cracks." Apple's hardcoat layer would fill pre-existing micro-cracks and therefore make it harder for a serious crack to develop.
The additional protective layer would be placed directly on top of the display. It would be "engineered to have a sufficiently high hardness and tensile strength to function as an exterior protective coating for the electronic device... Thus, the hardcoat layer is sufficiently durable for high puncture and scratch resistance."
Images attached to the patent included simple illustrations of foldable devices, with both inwardly and outwardly-foldable displays.
Although a foldable device from Apple does not seem to be on the horizon any time soon, the company has been heavily researching and developing the technology. In September, Apple reportedly ordered a "large number" of Samsung foldable display samples.
In 2019, Apple strengthened the glass on iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, and this year with the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, the company introduced Ceramic Shield. Ceramic Shield is a strengthened glass that reportedly improves drop performance by up to four times.
The patent therefore seems to show the intersection between Apple's separate research on glass durability and foldable displays.