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  • Apple May Bring Carbon Fiber to the iPad



    If you though the iPad was sleek and light as a feather, just wait until you get a load of the second-generation iPad. If reports published today prove accurate, the next iPad to reach consumers could be pretty incredible. In fact, traders and financial analysts on Wall Street are already reacting to the news that Apple is said to be considering the use of carbon fiber to produce the housing for its popular line of iDevices, but most likely for the iPad.

    To be clear, this isn't a rumor or an un-sourced speculation. The suggestion comes directly from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Freshly published images indicate Apple's model for an iPad shell composed of "layered fiber-in-matrix type material, such as CFRP," which, in reality, is carbon fiber-reinforced polymer. The most noticeable consequence of making the move to carbon fiber, of course, would be an even lighter iPad, as the presently utilized aluminum encasing would be gone.

    Are there disadvantages to a carbon fiber encasement? Yes. The iPad could possibly be much more prone to cracking or damage given the less sturdy foundation of the device's housing. But if the patent is being studied correctly by outside parties, it would appear that Apple has solved for much of these concerns by having the fibers run in opposite directions, lending as much sturdiness as possible to this incredibly lightweight model.

    It isn't yet clear when a second generation iPad will be introduced, but many believe Spring 2011 would be the absolute soonest.


    Apple Insider
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Apple May Bring Carbon Fiber to the iPad started by Michael Essany View original post
    Comments 32 Comments
    1. pulloa's Avatar
      pulloa -
      Quote Originally Posted by Michael Essany View Post



      Are there disadvantages to a carbon fiber encasement? Yes. The iPad could possibly be much more prone to cracking or damage given the less sturdy foundation of the device's housing.


      Apple Insider
      carbon fiber is considerably 2-3x stronger than steel. this is such a typical misconception of carbon fiber. since the application process is similar to fiberglass the misconception is that carbon fiber has the same structural properties but it doesnt. also this would almost eliminate the heat from frequent use. also why would big exotic automotive companies (from ferrari to F1) would use this stuff? for looks? no but for functionality, for strength and for its light weight. sorry to sound a little bit like a **** but im a little bit enthusiastic of carbon fiber. hope this will shine some light on this misconception
    1. DevouredDreams's Avatar
      DevouredDreams -
      carbongate? lol
    1. dale2's Avatar
      dale2 -
      I have never heard of carbon fiber being weak
      but to all the nay-sayers, this is apple we are talking about
      build quality and looks are everything to them
    1. mortopher's Avatar
      mortopher -
      Quote Originally Posted by pulloa View Post
      carbon fiber is considerably 2-3x stronger than steel. this is such a typical misconception of carbon fiber. since the application process is similar to fiberglass the misconception is that carbon fiber has the same structural properties but it doesnt. also this would almost eliminate the heat from frequent use. also why would big exotic automotive companies (from ferrari to F1) would use this stuff? for looks? no but for functionality, for strength and for its light weight. sorry to sound a little bit like a **** but im a little bit enthusiastic of carbon fiber. hope this will shine some light on this misconception
      And for rigidity, CFRP is absolutely wonderful. The huge problem with it in cases such as casings, is that it's a very brittle material and is not very impact resistant. For the exotic cars and race cars, the material is absolutely wonderful because of both it's rigidity and it's brittleness. The car is built with the expectations of NOT being wrecked or in collisions. However, CFRP does help in situations such as that as it's lightweight significantly reduces the momentum of the vehicle, and the brittleness helps to dissipate the massive amounts of energy one encounters in a high speed crash. Those F1 wrecks where the cars are torn to absolute shreds are not as horrific as they look (of course any high-speed wreck is serious business...), the cars are designed for everything to break off of the cockpit with relatively little force.

      I just dont' see this being a practical option for the iPad.
    1. sucram6791's Avatar
      sucram6791 -
      carbon fiber would look and feel much better then what is used now, i hope this happens
    1. spamsalad's Avatar
      spamsalad -
      A futile development for a ridiculous device.
    1. zim_from_IPH's Avatar
      zim_from_IPH -
      I want to see this in the new macbooks not the iPad look at the shape it matches
    1. pulloa's Avatar
      pulloa -
      @ mortopher: if ur talking about brittleness, may i ask u one thing; wat do u plan on doing if the ipad is made of CF? i mean really it takes a lot of pressure and force to crack or break. i have a cpl CF cases for my iphone and other things and i admit it im not perfect; i have (do i dare say it) dropped my iphone with the case on a cpl times but u know wat aside from a few scratches here and there its still like new (the case not the phone). but u have ur opinion and we all have ours. u either like it or u dont or u either hate it or u dont. everyone is different
    1. Rokesomesmeefer's Avatar
      Rokesomesmeefer -
      Carbon fiber is very resilient against stretching or bending, but it cannot stand up to shock. Anyone that watches F1 racing knows this. When an F1 car crashes, the bulk of the debris is carbon fiber shards.

      Consider the application. Carbon fiber used on a F1 car is thick, especially in the frame. When made into thin sheets, carbon fiber flexes very easily and provides no protection against shock and little protection against minor bumps. It is not possible for Apple to make it rigid enough to use as a case while also maintaining visual aesthetics.

      If Apple were to use carbon fiber, the two possible outcomes would be a durable but bulky design or a visually pleasing but weak design. History proves that Apple will go for aesthetics, and the final result will be a device that is thin, lightweight, and sexy yet much more fragile and significantly more expensive than its predecessor.
    1. KartRacer's Avatar
      KartRacer -
      Quote Originally Posted by mortopher View Post
      The huge problem with it in cases such as casings, is that it's a very brittle material and is not very impact resistant. For the exotic cars and race cars, the material is absolutely wonderful because of both it's rigidity and it's brittleness. The car is built with the expectations of NOT being wrecked or in collisions. However, CFRP does help in situations such as that as it's lightweight significantly reduces the momentum of the vehicle, and the brittleness helps to dissipate the massive amounts of energy one encounters in a high speed crash. Those F1 wrecks where the cars are torn to absolute shreds are not as horrific as they look (of course any high-speed wreck is serious business...), the cars are designed for everything to break off of the cockpit with relatively little force.
      Actually Formula 1 wrecks are like that because the cars are designed to take a load in certain directions, and are designed to fail in certain directions in case of a crash. EVERY racecar IS designed to be wrecked, have been for at least 30 years. Momentum, as you say, has nothing to do with it's crash properties. It's used because it's extremely strong and lightweight, and not because it's lighter thereby causing less damage in a crash. A 1300 pound car made primarily of CF has the same inertia as 1300 pounds of feathers when both are going 180 mph. It's how the material reacts to the impact load and how it's both laid and designed that determine how well it holds up. F1 car parts are designed to withstand a certain load with CF, that isn't a property of the composite that they rely on in a crash, they are designed that way because it's both lightweight and extremely strong and are designed to prevent the transfer of energy in a crash to the driver. Meaning they are specifically designed to fail in certain directions to shed parts to take that energy transfer away from the driver.

      They could very easily design uprights and other suspension components to take a fairly large whack without breaking. Yes, carbon fiber is brittle if cheaply made (look at the import 'tuner' crowd for those parts) and if it's designed to take a load in another direction that the force that is applied without care for anything else. If Apple designed the case to be strong around the corners and strong in a certain impact direction, say directly towards the front if it were to be dropped flat on it's back, then they wouldn't have too much trouble.

      The wings on those cars resist tons, literally, of force in a vertical direction to withstand that force to create downforce. If they wanted they could design them to take a direct load from the front as well. The reason they don't is weight, not because it's a brittle material. Weight has more importance to them performance wise than safety wise, they use they least amount they can to pass mandated crash testing and not an ounce more because that kills the performance. With a minimum weight of 1300ish pounds they build the cars at around 1100 pounds and use the rest of that minimum limit to place ballast. The amount epoxy used to bond carbon fiber sheets together directly affects it's strength as well, after all it is a woven thread. If you look at the TF110 Toyota Formula 1 car in bare form you can see that the weave is different depending on it's location and load applied to it. If carbon fiber cracks it's because it cheaply made, not because of the properties of the composite or it's not designed properly for the loads that are placed on it.

      I work on aircraft that have panels and structures made of carbon fiber composites and I know for a fact you can whack them really hard with a hammer without damage. They are thick panels so they are strong, but even the thin composite (some parts as thin as a quarter inch), is amazingly strong considering it's weight. The ejection seats have backrests that are made of thinly laid carbon fiber composite and I've dropped them from almost ten feet in the air directly on a corner and it didn't even scratch it. Cheaply made CF composite cracks. If it's strong enough to withstand almost 1000C as a Formula 1 brake disc, and those take 6 months each to make(!), it can withstand a five foot drop if made properly and withstand the heat produced by an iPad, which isn't alot by any stretch. They could manufacture one easily in fact. Only problem is it's not cheap and easy to obtain, wouldn't really be cost effective for something that doesn't really need the strength and weight properties of CF.
    1. mortopher's Avatar
      mortopher -
      Quote Originally Posted by KartRacer View Post
      Actually Formula 1 wrecks are like that because the cars are designed to take a load in certain directions, and are designed to fail in certain directions in case of a crash. EVERY racecar IS designed to be wrecked, have been for at least 30 years. Momentum, as you say, has nothing to do with it's crash properties. It's used because it's extremely strong and lightweight, and not because it's lighter thereby causing less damage in a crash. A 1300 pound car made primarily of CF has the same inertia as 1300 pounds of feathers when both are going 180 mph. It's how the material reacts to the impact load and how it's both laid and designed that determine how well it holds up. F1 car parts are designed to withstand a certain load with CF, that isn't a property of the composite that they rely on in a crash, they are designed that way because it's both lightweight and extremely strong and are designed to prevent the transfer of energy in a crash to the driver. Meaning they are specifically designed to fail in certain directions to shed parts to take that energy transfer away from the driver.

      They could very easily design uprights and other suspension components to take a fairly large whack without breaking. Yes, carbon fiber is brittle if cheaply made (look at the import 'tuner' crowd for those parts) and if it's designed to take a load in another direction that the force that is applied without care for anything else. If Apple designed the case to be strong around the corners and strong in a certain impact direction, say directly towards the front if it were to be dropped flat on it's back, then they wouldn't have too much trouble.

      The wings on those cars resist tons, literally, of force in a vertical direction to withstand that force to create downforce. If they wanted they could design them to take a direct load from the front as well. The reason they don't is weight, not because it's a brittle material. Weight has more importance to them performance wise than safety wise, they use they least amount they can to pass mandated crash testing and not an ounce more because that kills the performance. With a minimum weight of 1300ish pounds they build the cars at around 1100 pounds and use the rest of that minimum limit to place ballast. The amount epoxy used to bond carbon fiber sheets together directly affects it's strength as well, after all it is a woven thread. If you look at the TF110 Toyota Formula 1 car in bare form you can see that the weave is different depending on it's location and load applied to it. If carbon fiber cracks it's because it cheaply made, not because of the properties of the composite or it's not designed properly for the loads that are placed on it.

      I work on aircraft that have panels and structures made of carbon fiber composites and I know for a fact you can whack them really hard with a hammer without damage. They are thick panels so they are strong, but even the thin composite (some parts as thin as a quarter inch), is amazingly strong considering it's weight. The ejection seats have backrests that are made of thinly laid carbon fiber composite and I've dropped them from almost ten feet in the air directly on a corner and it didn't even scratch it. Cheaply made CF composite cracks. If it's strong enough to withstand almost 1000C as a Formula 1 brake disc, and those take 6 months each to make(!), it can withstand a five foot drop if made properly and withstand the heat produced by an iPad, which isn't alot by any stretch. They could manufacture one easily in fact. Only problem is it's not cheap and easy to obtain, wouldn't really be cost effective for something that doesn't really need the strength and weight properties of CF.

      My mistake, I should not have meant it's brittleness... I had been up for 30+ hours so I wasn't thinking too clearly. Thank you for correcting me.

      Regardless, I don't see them being able to make an iPad back panel out of it without having increase the price of the device significantly. The back only weighs 0.3 lbs, nowhere near enough to go to an extreme material such as carbon fiber in order to save weight. As someone else mentioned, I'm wondering where their acquisition of LiquidMetal will come into play with this.
    1. KartRacer's Avatar
      KartRacer -
      I agree, cost is the problem. Aluminum is cheap and recyclable, CF composite is neither. Just as you said, there's no advantage because the thing doesn't weigh very much to begin with. I believe this is just another one of Apples placeholder patents. I'd love to have a very beautifully laid CF composite backed iPad, but wouldn't want to pay the price.