Apple is looking for high-end titanium MacBook cases with unique textured finishes

According to a recently released patent application, Apple is investigating the use of machined titanium with unique properties for future MacBooks, iPads and iPhones.

In a deposit entitled “Titanium parts with a sandblasted surface structure, “Licensed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office and identified by Patently Apple, Apple explains how various devices could adopt titanium casings with a distinctive textured finish.

The patent explains that anodized aluminum, used on current MacBooks and iPads, is not as hard or durable as titanium. However, the hardness of titanium makes it “very difficult to engrave”, which means it can be “aesthetically unappealing”. The patent tries to present a solution to this problem by outlining a sandblasting, etching and chemical process to give a titanium case a more attractive appearance.

Apple describes the textured surface by including “valley-separated peaks”, with specific micrometer measurements and units of gloss. The process involves various techniques to give “the sandblasted and etched titanium part a roughness on a fine scale”, which allows it to maintain “a glossy surface finish”.

The “distinctive surface finish” is described as “reflecting both diffuse and specular visible light” and is said to be structurally and aesthetically different to any other conventional titanium part.

The patent also notes that this textured titanium casing would be appropriate for MacBook, iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch. Apple has used titanium cases for a limited number of products, such as the PowerBook G4 available from 2001 to 2003. Apple’s first foray into titanium casings was hampered by problems such as brittleness resulting in cracks, as well as paint that would flakes easily.

Today, the only Apple product to use a titanium casing is the Apple Watch Edition, which appears to be much closer to the unique finish described by the patent than the titanium PowerBook G4.

Titanium-cased devices would be significantly more durable, but potentially even lighter if the weight of the metal could be offset by producing stronger, thinner parts.

Last month, Apple was granted a patent for a matte black finish for the MacBook Pro, as the company continues to look for ways to go beyond standard anodized aluminum casings.

Patent applications cannot be taken as proof of what Apple intends to bring to market, and many patented concepts never reach consumer products. However, they provide an interesting insight into what Apple is researching and developing behind the scenes and suggest what we may see in the future.


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