Apple has been granted a patent (number 10,532,428) for “interlocking flexible segments formed from a rigid material” that hints at upcoming Mac laptops (and other Apple devices) with innovation unibody designs designed to reduce weight and manufacturing costs.
Many electronic devices, peripheral components or devices (such as speakers, headphones, keyboards, etc.) may include housings or enclosures made of a relatively rigid material, such as plastic or metal. In the patent filing, Apple notes that these types of enclosures are typically at least somewhat rigid in order to provide protection for internal components housed within the enclosures.
However, due to the rigidity of the material, in order for these type of enclosures or housings to bend or flex, a separate element, such as a hinge, may need to be connected to the rigid material. For example, laptop enclosures may include two separate rigid components interconnected together by one or more hinges that allow the two components to move relative to each other.
Apple says that these additional components, such as hinges, may increase the size of the enclosures and thus the size of the electronic devices or peripheral devices, as well as increase manufacturing costs as additional components may need to be assembled together. The tech giant thinks it has a better idea.
Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “A method for creating a flexible portion or bending portion within a rigid structure. The method can also be used for creating a flexible structure from a rigid material. The method includes providing a substantially rigid material, such as, but not limited to, metals, alloys, hard plastics, and the like, and selectively removing portions of the rigid material defining a geometric pattern in the rigid material. A bending radius of the flexible portion is defined by the geometric pattern. The rigid structure may be used to create an enclosure, a cover for an electronic device, one or more hinges, or the like.”