back to article Apple files patent for iPad weight loss

Apple has applied for a patent that appears to be a tacit admission of a common complaint about its magical and revolutionary iPad: the Cupertinian slablet is just too damn heavy. Apple's solution: a light-but-rigid body made not of aluminium, but of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP). The patent application, "Reinforced …


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  1. slooth

    A patent?

    So Apple have filed a patent for an upside down tea tray. WOW! What next!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      That'll be iUpsideDownTeaTray to you.

      1. slooth
        Thumb Up


        Sorry, my bad. I should have spotted the obvious.

  2. Anton Ivanov

    Why has this been granted in the first place?

    So what is novel and innovative here? The particular layout of fiber is pretty much what anyone who has worked with composite plastics would recommend for a shell of this shape. The criss-cross fibre layout is old as the world. It has been done with glass fiber for 30+ years now and with carbon fiber for 15+. Just show this to a boat builder, they will ROFL that this has been patented.

    1. Return To Sender

      You did read the first paragraph?

      It hasn't been patented. Apple have *applied* for the patent. Hopefully even the US patent office will be bright enough to tell Steve's boys to go laminate themselves...

      1. Code Monkey
        Thumb Up

        US patent office

        "Hopefully even the US patent office will be bright enough to tell Steve's boys to go laminate themselves..."

        +1 (Funny)

      2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        US Patents

        I have to agree with the original post and RTS. But, from what I have seen of the US patent system, patent application ≡ patent granted. It seems that it is the courts job to decide if a patent should have been granted or not.

        If this is not the case, I really have to see some of the patents that were rejected (although obviosuly not with any coffee near a keyboard!)

  3. jerry 4
    Thumb Down

    Apple patenting unibody, monocoque construction, plywood?

    Seriously, they can patent this?

    How long have unibody, monocoque construction techniques been around? What is the innovation here over plywood or typical carbon fiber construction?

    How is this not obvious?

    1. crowley
      Thumb Down

      Yep, idea's been around for a while...

      "...Henry Ford unveiled his biological car. Seventy percent of the body of the cream-colored automobile consisted of a mat of long and short fibers from field straw, cotton linters, hemp, flax, ramie and slash pine. The other 30 percent consisted of a filler of soymeal and a liquid bioresin."

      "To prove the vehicle’s superiority, Ford demonstrated the strength of the car body by smashing an ax against the trunk, only to have it bounce off. For some it remains a landmark event."

      And there's a photo of that!

      1. Oninoshiko


        actually, there's one better then a photo. there is actually a video!

  4. RegisterThis

    Now what will be said about build quality?

    Personally, I am surprised that they care so much about the weight issue, as the solid body has alwasy been touted as USP for Apple and it seems strange they are dumping it becasue some consumers say it is too heavy.

    Very few reviews of apple products go by without reference to the metallic bodies being superior to the 'plastic' competition? What will be said now that it will be plastic like most others (albeit carbon fiber reinforced)? (Refer to the numerous reviews of the Samsung Tab criticising it for being 'plasitcy' compared to the iPad)

    Bet this patent filing is just the marketing department already starting the PR to be able to say that this is not just 'any' plastic, but 'special unique Apple plastic - carbon fiber reinforced to be precise'. Personally given that I have never experienced other 'plastic' mobile devices breaking (as say my kids plastic toys break), I would have thought 'special' and 'reinforced' plastics were the order of the day to start with ... but where would this leave the Apple retreat from superior aluminium constuction?

    ... maybe they will coat the back glass :-)

    1. James Hughes 1


      a CFC case would be stronger and lighter than the current case - and not plasticy at all. Do F1 cars look plasticy?

      1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        F1 cars

        "Do F1 cars look plasticy?"

        Yes, very. (If you can see beneath all the decals :)

      2. JaimieV

        Yes, they do

        And they give a tacky 'clack' noise when you tap them with a fingernail. As does my very expensive CFC bicycle. CFCs give no 'reassuringly expensive clunk' sort of effect at all, due to their lightness and stiffness they return a very high-pitched noise.

  5. Flybert

    really ?

    composite CFRP / plastic / other cover


  6. JaitcH

    More prior art being ripped off by Jobs.

    Many fibrous materials / laminates are laid counter-grain/ply to add rigidity or strength from my inflatable boat, through fibreglass constructions to carbon fibre constructions used by the aircraft industry.

    This confirms the US Patent Office is dumb. Of course, it could some crafty lawyer who is making himself a job for life filing dumb patents which he can defend later.

    1. Andy 43

      Read the article

      It says "applied for" NOT "granted".

      1. Bod

        Re: Read the article

        "It says "applied for" NOT "granted"."

        One and the same in the US. Once applied for, they can take anyone to court and if the court rules in favour the patent is effectively granted.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      title this

      personally I find it extraordinary that Apple have yet to file a patent on the human finger

      1. Marky W


        the iProd?

        1. Anonymous Coward

          A title is required...

          Shouldn't that be the iPoke?

          Grenade because someone is sure to throw one.

      2. Zippy the Pinhead


        Don't get Jobs another idea to steal and claim as theirs!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Why has nobody else in the history of the world ever thought of using lightweight composite materials overlaid with fibres crossing at angles up to and including perpendicular to reduce weight without sacrificing strength?

    It could revolutionise sports where weight is important, imagine if you could build race cars or boats or bicycles or (ad nauseum) from these materials for instance..

    God bless you St Steve and all those who line your pockets.

    *Note, may be sarcasm...

    Can't wait for the first lawsuit over clone carbon fibre upgrades to the iPad

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Rupert Stubbs

    Light + Rigid = Tricky

    This is always going to be a problem if you have an outer shell.

    A more Apple-like solution would be to make the case out of the battery - since it's not removable, what's the downside? This would require some techniques worth patenting, however...

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      More likely...

      ...that they would make the back out of glass. After all, there is no display and nothing that you need transparency for, but yet it makes the thing look awful when cracked (Just ask the guy at work with a new iPohne!) The stainless back on my iPod has taken a real beating, but a few scratches and dents aside is fine.

      As for using the battery cells as the case; the outside of the cells is a pouch. In the business it's known as a coffee pack (it is exactly like the pack your ground coffee comes in). Inside the pouch are very thin layers of aluminium, copper, carbon and insulation. Very easy to pierce the insulation even without piercing the outside. Can you say iPad inferno?

      1. Ian Stephenson

        Re: Can you say iPad inferno?

        Oooooh- where can I buy one?

  10. Anonymous Coward

    what a trivia paten appl.

    it is amazing that USPO will grant such a trivial invention if you can call it that

    fiber body construction have being around for donkey years

    if they register it as a design, i can agree with that !

    well they do allow gene patten..

  11. Rob Crawford

    And now for the traditional

    /me shouts prior art

    Where is the prior art icon/avatar/graphic/waste of space

  12. Nya
    Thumb Down

    Shows how fudged the US Patent system is

    This just shows how nuts the US Patent system is. It's a blinking material which has been used by many for years. Heck, Sony already make there lil mini Vaio's out of CFRP already. That's not just prior art, thats computing products for many years already doing this. Then again, Apple might get around this by the fact the iPhad isn't actually anything but a fashion item anyhow.

  13. JDX Gold badge

    Patent a case?

    Have they patented a solid metal case too?

    On the style issue... I definitely think the aluminium body is way more stylish than plastic. BUT exotic materials can be quite cool too, if presented right.

    Carbon-fibre can be way lighter/stronger than regular plastic, it's what they build racing yachts (and racing cars) out of.

    You could make an ultra-lightweight metal body using titanium or magnesium I suppose, but it would be VERY expensive.

    1. Marty
      Jobs Horns

      damn, i forgot a title .... again...

      "You could make an ultra-lightweight metal body using titanium or magnesium I suppose, but it would be VERY expensive."

      at least if the pricing remained the same it would bea little closer to value for money...

    2. nation of stupid

      titanium case, sounds familiar

      "You could make an ultra-lightweight metal body using titanium or magnesium I suppose, but it would be VERY expensive."

      The original G4 Powerbook was known as the TiBook because the case was made of titanium, mounted around a carbon fibre chassis. Tough and light, but unfortunately titanium seriously affects your wifi signal - the titanium lid would shield the aerial from your router if it was pointing in the wrong direction.

      Probably not a good idea to use titanium on something that's designed to work mainly over a wifi connection.

  14. Ivor
    Jobs Horns

    what the f*ck

    That's how you make cfrp laminate. That's how everyone does it. That's how I made one last week. How the hell can this be patentable, there's nothing novel or unique in the application.

  15. Colin Guthrie

    How much...

    ...would ir reduce the weight of an iPad, in grammes and %age?

    I would have through the real weight in the device was not the case, but rather the screen and battery...

    1. cliff 2

      Big Battery

      As I understand it, most of the inside of the iPad is taken up by the battery, so there's not a lot of weight reduction possible unless you do something about the battery.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Checks Kit car.

    GRP (can't afford a Westfield FW400).

    Yup a laminate made of criss crossed reinforcing hairs. Oh and it light. Lift a bonnet with a couple of fingers.

  17. Trollslayer
    Thumb Down

    I've emailed the USPO

    Let's see if they even bother to reply about how they can justify this patent.


  18. Franklin
    Thumb Down

    God bless Internet forum posters

    It would seem from reading the comments so far that not one person has bothered to read the patent application, even though it's linked to in the article. Not surprising, I guess, since half the commentors apparently didn't make it all the way through the article's title, which mentions that this is a patent application, not a patent.

    For the benefit of folks too lazy to click on the link: Apple is not attempting to patent the idea of a laminate using different layers of carbon fiber going in different directions. The patent is actually extremely narrow and specific, and covers a very specific shape of a device housing made with a very specific tapered design using a very specific set of manufacturing steps, of which the orientation of the carbon fiber layers happens to be only one. The patent application is SO specific that making a case that didn't taper at the edge probably wouldn't violate it.

    1. Michael Chester


      The exact specification of materials is making this more restrictive if anything, and the diagram of the layering is for the fact that they are exposed at the corners (not read it in detail, but would presume something to do with how it wraps around/is attached at the corners of the case).

      It's like complaining that with a new motherboard design someone was trying to patent copper tracks, just because the materials are specified, doesn't mean apple will own the rights to the materials, for fairly obvious reasons.

      In fact, you could make something the exact same shape and method, from a non-layered material, and this patent wouldn't cover it, or you could still use the same materials apple are proposing, but make the frame out of something else* (though it could in theory cover papier maché given the wording of claim 1, but only if you make a frame and it's cover separately, then glue them together (e.g., not if you build the layers up on the frame itself, or if the frame is made from anything other than more papier maché))

      *which they presumably can't patent since this is how most of the other stuff made of this kind of material works.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tea Tray the best use of an illpayanythingtomakepeoplethinkimcoolpad.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    User Error

    The magical iPad is not heavy it's the human wrist that is badly designed. If you learn to hold the magical iPad properly then you won't have a problem.

  21. famousringo

    Hard to blame Apple

    Or any other company who files patents that seem obvious. It's quite clear at this point that any company which doesn't try to patent an idea, no matter how face-palmingly obvious it may seem, is just leaving themselves open to a future attack by some patent troll holding company in the future.

    No matter how stupid the patent seems, these companies have to grab them first, because every idea you don't have a patent on is a billion dollar legal torpedo that somebody else can use to sink your product.

  22. This post has been deleted by its author

  23. Carl Deaker

    Not so Heavy Metal

    As Apple has purchased worldwide exclusive rights to use materials developed by LiquidMetal they may decide not to go down the carbon fiber route and substitute carbon fiber with metal. At the very end of the patent application it says:

    [0052]The foregoing has been generally described with respect to particular embodiments and methods of manufacture. It will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art that certain modifications may be made without departing from the spirit or scope of this disclosure. For example, a fiber other than carbon may be used as a strengthening or stiffening element. As one example, certain metals may be used instead, or another type of plastic may be used. Accordingly, the proper scope of this disclosure is set forth in the following claims.

    Still, if you want to see some seriously strong and thin carbon fiber then have a look at this

  24. Anonymous Coward

    how in the name of???

    hwo the hell can this even be contemplated as patentable. cross-meshing of composites in this manner is standard best practice...its a known technique and used everywhere.

    oh well, at least it might improve the wireless and 3G signal in this device.... i guess they'll try to patent that as well.... 'we hereby present a novel way of getting better wireless signal in a portable device by removing materials such as metal' FFS !

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