The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office have granted Apple on Tuesday with a utility patent related to the glass-on-metal trackpad seen a within Apple’s MacBook. The award came four months after the design rights were granted for the same invention.
The patent No. 8,441,450 for the “Movable track pad with added functionality” covers a number of design variations for the MacBook Air and Pro. Related to the same problems, Apple won in January t a design patent for the glass-n-metal trackpad used on the first unibody MacBook.
As it was stated in the patent application, the idea of this concept is pretty simple. In order to dispose a trackpad onto a surface fixed at one end, the invention needs to allow the unit to move from a neutral position to an active one, and back. In fact, the glass trackpad becomes a big cantilevered button with multiple functions.
The glass material allows users to have a high level of control during the manufacturing process. With its non-conductive nature and its unique properties, in one embodiment, the glass surface will display many more options and features. The patent language shows a multi-touch enabled trackpad with one end attached to a hinge mechanism to a laptop chassis. When users applied a certain force to the unit, it moves to register an input signal through an integrated circuit board. Once the user stops applying the already-mentioned force, the flexure hinge gives the trackpad its resting position.
However, as Apple has pointed out, this design “could not be implemented prior to modern miniaturization techniques as the required springs and integrated circuitry would be too large to fit into the small space required by a thin laptop”.
The glass was chose to represent the utility patent design for the MacBook’s trackpad because it offers a stable and highly customizable choice while displaying a capacitive touch feature from a non-conductive material. The traditional glass offers a high friction coefficient, which resists slipping making it less than suitable candidate for trackpad use. In the same time, glass can develop a low friction coefficient by etching sand blasting, honing or other methods.
In what concerns Apple’s glass trackpad for MacBook, the multi-step process of seeding the surface through mechanical or chemical etching, followed by a wet polishing with acid is meant to achieve a proper finish.
At the end, Apple mentioned the fact that the capacitive trackpad can be used in a high number of devices including some peripherals, smartphones or tablets. The idea of including a display with a glass layer was a long time rumored to be included in a future MacBook, more precisely since Apple first introduced its glass trackpad in 2008.