If you look at Apple’s hardware portfolio, it becomes pretty evident that anodized aluminum has been a favorite of the company for a long spell of time, with surgical-grade steel only recently making its way to the iPhone. While aluminum has its own set of advantages, Apple might be looking to diversify the choice of material on the table, and one of the options it is currently experimenting with is titanium. Now, titanium is stronger than aluminum, but it comes with its own set of manufacturing challenges that make it more expensive to work with.
Coming back to Apple, the company is trying out titanium for making enclosures of devices ranging from iPads and iPhones to Macs after giving the metallic sheet (or unibody block) a textured finish using a mix of blasting and etching. In Apple’s case, the company also seeks to give it a unique glossy finish, as per a patent filed before the USPTO that was first spotted by the folks over at PatentlyApple.
Titanium is stronger and can also hide weld lines better than aluminum
“According to some examples, it may be preferable to utilize a combination of an etching and blasting process while anodizing the titanium part. In particular, the anodized layer of an etched and blasted titanium part may be protected from chemical (e.g., fingerprint oils) and mechanical removal (e.g., rubbing against objects) due to the anodized layer being recessed and submerged within the valleys of the textured surface of the anodized part that has been etched and blasted,” Apple notes in the patent description.
While titanium is stronger than aluminum, and the etching process makes it a better option for hiding weld lines, it doesn’t mean the next MacBooks and iPads will ditch aluminum just yet in favor of titanium. However, if Apple manages to achieve the quality standards that the company strives to find, it is quite likely that some of Apple’s product might very well be made out of of titanium instead of aluminum in the foreseeable future.
To recall, another patent filed by Apple mentions imparting light-absorbing features to the surface of a dyed anodized part. We aren’t sure if this anodized part is made out of titanium, but it sure makes a compelling case. This is the one that also raised speculations about a matte black MacBook in the making. But these are patents at the end of the day, so there is always a chance that the idea might never make it to a commercially available product.