Apple may ditch ink for laser-marked fabric

This week a new way to print on Apple products has come to our attention. It'll be coming to your attention in just a minute, just as soon as you have a peek at the images and listen up: laser-marked fabric is what's coming up next. Apple's patent for their technique, filed this past November and released by the USPTO today, shows how Apple is working on a way to make extra-detailed printing happen on fabric.

How many things does Apple make that requires them to print of fabric in the first place, you might be asking. None. The answer is none, for now. What the patent suggests is that Apple will be potentially printing on several services, the most important of which – we think – is fabric that'll make up keyboards for all manner of Apple desktop devices.

That includes a new Smart Keyboard for the iPad Pro, for example.

Instead of printing ink on plastic or ink on metal, etcetera, this technique would allow Apple to print by reduction. With a laser, Apple would take away dark dye from an otherwise lighter material. Through evaporation or what you might recognize as bleaching, color is removed by lasers.

And why?

At least a couple of really good reasons. One – laser printing (almost like laser "etching") has the ability to create far more detailed images and edges thank ink. Ink can get really, really detailed, but not as detailed as lasers irradiating a piece of colored fabric can.

Another reason is the degradation of ink.

According to the patent, "in particular, it may be difficult to maintain an ink-printed pattern on a textile product that is subject to repeated handling or use."

There's also a sort of bonus reason, that "an application of ink on the surface of the textile may create a raised area or bump, which may be undesirable in some cases."

Above you'll see both Apple's application of this technique to textiles and some examples of where these textiles might be used.

For more information on this patent, see the USPTO's filing for Patent Application 14/933,355, "Laser-marked fabric."