Apple Patent Describes How to Create Seamless All-Glass Devices

Imagine a phone or tablet encased in one solid, seamless, curved slab of glass: hell to repair, but heaven, surely, in the hand. Well, a new patent obtained by Apple describes how it might manufacture such a thing, if it were ever to choose to.

The patent No. 8,773,848—or "Fused glass device housings" to its buddies—was granted Monday. In fact, it describes how glass structures could be fused to encapsulate a variety of devices, from smartphones and tablets to TVs and monitors, tucking all their electronics insides smooth and sleek glassy exterior.

Because glass can be so heavy, the manufacturing technique in the patent describes how the edges of planar and peripheral glass members could be fused together to form a basic structure that could then be machined down to a desired shape. Extra features—raised sections or internal ribs—could also be used to provide extra support at weak or flexible points around the structure, and holes left for physical buttons and the like.

The patent also explains how the casing could either be left transparent, exposing the guts within, or tinted to hide them, depending on the required looks of the final product. And, actually, the document goes on to describe that part of the device wouldn't be shrouded in glass—in order that the internal circuitry could be inserted and removed. Not easily, one suspects, but that's better than nothing.

Rumors have swirled in the past months about an iPhone with a curved glass screen. While the accuracy of that report is certainly up for debate, this patent suggests Apple is at least thinking about more interesting uses of glass. But while an R&D lab within Apple is certainly playing around with such ambitious manufacturing techniques, it could be years before we see anything like this—if we ever do. [USPTO via Apple Insider]