iPhone Custom
TweetFollow Us on Twitter

iPhone Custom


Overview

The goal of the project was to not only make the iPhone visually more appealing but to dramatically increase its duribility.

The iPhone Custom process took over a month of hard work to complete the first device. That first device received so much positive attention that a manufacturing company was commissioned for a small scale, limited edition, production run. Less than 100 units were ever produced. The team that worked on the original iPhone Custom, detailed here, is now hard at work on the iPhone 3G.


Specs
TiAlN/TiN treated 304 stainless steel bezel and logo
Black type II anodized rear housing and SIM tray
Tools
  • Carl Zeiss Optical Microscope - Understanding wear characteristics / Surface treatments
  • Personal SEM - Material characterization
  • Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (PECVD) - TiN / TiAlN treatment
  • DC power supply - Anodizing


Process
Part 1 - Examine the iPhone

To achieve all the project goals a complete understanding of the iPhone hardware was necessary. The process began using a Carl Zeiss optical microscope. Such a tool was chosen to analyze the wear characteristics of the iPhone on the microscopic level. I think its safe to say that after a few months of pocket use an un-cased iPhone begins to loose some of its gloss and sparkle. Understanding how and why these tinny flaws occur helped shed light on ways to improve the wear characteristics of the iPhone. Here are some photos taken during the optical microscope session with the iPhone:

Figure1.jpgFigure 1: iPhone LCD 162ppi 100X

Figure2.jpg Figure 2: iPhone LCD 162ppi 1000X

Figure 1 & 2 show the LCD of the iPhone up close. Notice how each pixel is made up of 3 individual colors; Blue, Red, Green. Figure 1 shows the iPhone contacts screen with the letter “V” clearly visible tilted 90 degrees to the right. It is interesting to see how the intensity of each pixel can be controlled acting as an anti aliasing mechanism at the edge of each letter.

Figure3.jpgFigure 3: iPhone Home button 100X

Figure 3 shows the edge of the home button. Notice the gap between the plastic button and the glass screen. This gap measures between 90-110 microns.

Figure4.jpgFigure 4: iPhone front speaker 100X

Figure 4 shows the other disguising feature of the front side of the iPhone, the front speaker. The wire mesh used is very fine keeping out even tinny dust particles. The photo shows some microscopic pieces of lint caught inside the mesh.

Figure5.jpgFigure 5: iPhone front bezel 100X

Figure6.jpgFigure 6: iPhone front bezel 1000X

Figures 5 & 6 are some of the most valuable taken with the optical microscope. Notice the hairline scuffs and scratches. The majority of these blemishes measure only 10-20 micron across. The larger scratches measure between 100-150 microns. From this information it was determined tinny pieces of lint and dust are the cause of these microscopic blemishes. The result of these imperfections is the overall loss of the “new” and glossy effect the new device exuded.

Figure7.jpgFigure 7: iPhone rear housing 100X

Figure8.jpgFigure 8: iPhone rear housing 1000X

Figures 7 & 8 show the rear housing of the iPhone. Notice how the smooth bead blasted finish appears very angular under high magnification. This texture along with its surface treatment make the rear housing, one of the most durable surfaces of the entire stock iPhone. Figure 8 shows the gap between the rear housing and the apple logo.

Now, with a general idea of how the different surfaces of the iPhone wear, I needed to know a little bit more about the different materials themselves.

Part 2 - Scanning Electron Microscope spectroscopy of the iPhone

I set forth with the task of figuring out everything there is to know about what goes into the exterior of the iPhone. I had some assumptions but the only way to know for sure was to analyze the atomic makeup of these parts. I had 3 main interests.

1) The screen, I had heard tall tales about Apple secretly using sapphire crystal for the front display. The reasoning behind this was of course the scratch resistant nature of the iPhone screen. Apple says it is "optical quality glass." Wouldn't Apple advertise such an extravagant feature? I had to know...

2) The shinny outer bezel. Was it aluminum, or steel? And what gave it that shinny finish?

3) The rear housing. Again aluminum? or something else?

With access to PSU's new $190 million nano fabrication facility I set my eyes on the "PERSONAL SEM". A small tabletop device located just outside the class 1,000 clean room. A cool $250,000 dollar machine with a single feature I had to try out, X-ray diffraction spectroscopy.

In short X-rays are shot toward the sample causing electron diffraction (X-rays hit the surface and knock off electrons). Specific elements give off characteristic signals that can be picked up and output by the machine. On a side note the X-ray producing portion of the microscope has to be cooled with liquid nitrogen prior to use.

Here we go...
On a cold November morning I set foot in the clean room with the sole purpose of determining what the heck my $500 iPhone was really made of. This may not seem like a big deal at first but let me again describe what goes into taking SEM images. The sample is placed in a small chamber which is pumped down to an operating pressure of .00005torr. Normal atmosphere is 760torr.... So you are basically subjecting whatever you put in that chamber to the vacuum of space. iPhone LCD, battery electronics...
Why is such a vacuum necessary you ask? To take an image 20,000 Volts of electricity are shot at the sample, knocking free electrons. Air in the chamber would cause the filament producing this charge to instantly vaporize, not to mention it would wreak havoc with the imaging. So again I was willingly, going to apply a 20,000V potential directly to my sensitive, new $500 iPhone.

I placed the phone in the chamber and began pump down. First with a roughing pump, kicking in the turbo-molecular pump at crossover. Then the waiting began. Not only did this pump have to pull all the gas out of the chamber but also all the moisture and gunk from all the crevices from within the phone. If you remember from science class water evaporates at room temperature at low pressure. While this process usually takes 5-10minutes the iPhone took an hour to pump down.

It was time. Turn on the electron gun and apply the 20kV.

POWER ON!
Finally the pictures. They may not seem like much picture-wise but any geek would cream himself at the amazing spectrometry graphs generated.

Figure9.jpgFigure 9: iPhone Screen SEM

iPhone screen, main element: Si (Glass)!

Figure10.jpgFigure 10: iPhone Bezel SEM

iPhone Bezel, main element Fe (iron) secondary element Cr (chrome). With further analysis of the graphs it was determined both the bezel and rear logo are made out of 304 stainless steel.

Figure11.jpgFigure 11: iPhone Rear Housing SEM

iPhone rear housing, main element Al (Aluminum) secondary element (oxygen) Aluminum Oxide or anodized aluminum here!

I am fairly confident these are the first ever SEM images of an iPhone.

Part 3 - Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition of TiN

Now that the phone had been characterized I could set my attention on how to make it better. I focused on the front bezel and rear logo. Had they been chrome plated aluminum, plastic or anything other than hard steel, it would not have been to my advantage to utilize the unique properties of TiN. One engineer described it to me like this:

TiN is indeed very strong and wear resistant. Placing this hard "shell" over something soft would be like standing on mud covered in ice. The underlying material will not provide enough support to the TiN; thus allowing objects to deform the outer layer of TiN, resulting in a scratch. TiN will never crack or peel, but it must move with the underlying material.

One of the reasons it is used on hard cutting tools, Jet engine blades and surgical implants is its ability to magnify the strength and hardness of the all-so-important underlying material. Take stainless steel for example. On its own very strong and durable a TiN coating magnifies these properties creating a supper hard, durable surface.

The process to deposit TiN is also quite unique compared to other surface treatments such as plaiting and anodizing. TiN is deposited under vacuum in a plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD or PVD) tool. I find this process to be very cool.

A large disk of pure titanium called a target is inserted into the machine. Once at vacuum, nitrogen gas is flowed into the system and an electrical bias between the target and the gas generates a plasma. These positively charged particles are accelerated at high velocity toward the negatively charged titanium target. On impact these nitrogen ions knock free titanium atoms. You can think of it as atomic sand blasting. These atoms then fall coalescing on the surface of the parts to be treated with TiN.

Overall system, it is used for A LOT more than just TiN deposition, mostly for semiconductor manufacturing.

Here are some fun pictures of the PECVD tool:

Figure12.JPG Figure 12: PECVD

Figure13.JPGFigure 13: PECVD

The remaining rear housing now needed to be anodized black. A sample housing was stripped of its stock silver anodized treatment and anodized in a small scale acid bath with a DC power supply. The results were great but resulted in a surface that was very similar in durability to the stock apple anodizing treatment. With the goal set to not only change the appearance by also increase durability a more industrial treatment was needed. After some negotiations; a local hard anodizing shop took on the task of hard anodizing “Type II” some blank rear housings. Type II anodizing is 3-5 times thicker than regular anodizing. It must be performed under very strict conditions as to not burn the parts during the process. The acid tanks themselves are cooled to negative 35 degrees celsius while a DC bias is placed across the parts, oxidizing the surface. The finished parts are pictured below.

Figure14.jpg Figure 14: Finished housing components

Figure 14 shows the finished components. The rear housing has been hard anodized black and the two bezels have been treated with TiN (Gold) and TiAlN (Black).

Late at night a test fit was done easing everyones’  minds about fit and finish.

Figure15.JPGFigure 15: They Fit!


Final Images
Finished1.jpg Finished2.jpg
Finished3.jpg Finished4.jpg
Finished5.jpg Finished6.jpg


Bonus Pictures
PECVD
PECVD.JPG
Back of iPhonez-Back.jpg
Black iPhonez-BlackiPhone3.jpg

 
AAPL
$107.18
Apple Inc.
-0.16
MSFT
$46.18
Microsoft Corpora
-0.44
GOOG
$551.43
Google Inc.
+2.10

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Cocktail 8.0.1 - General maintenance and...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more
LibreOffice 4.3.3.2 - Free Open Source o...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
VMware Fusion 7.0.1 - Run Windows apps a...
VMware Fusion allows you to create a Virtual Machine on your Mac and run Windows (including Windows 8.1) and Windows software on your Mac. Run your favorite Windows applications alongside Mac... Read more
OneNote 15.3.2 - Free digital notebook f...
OneNote is your very own digital notebook. With OneNote, you can capture that flash of genius, that moment of inspiration, or that list of errands that's too important to forget. Whether you're at... Read more
Audio Hijack Pro 2.11.4 - Record and enh...
Audio Hijack Pro drastically changes the way you use audio on your computer, giving you the freedom to listen to audio when you want and how you want. Record and enhance any audio with Audio Hijack... Read more
Iridient Developer 3.0.0 beta 3 - Powerf...
Iridient Developer (was RAW Developer) is a powerful image conversion application designed specifically for OS X. Iridient Developer gives advanced photographers total control over every aspect of... Read more
TextWrangler 4.5.11 - Free general purpo...
TextWrangler is the powerful general purpose text editor, and Unix and server administrator's tool. Oh, and also, like the best things in life, it's free. TextWrangler is the "little brother" to... Read more
NeoFinder 6.6 - Catalog your external me...
NeoFinder (formerly CDFinder) rapidly organizes your data, either on external or internal disks, or any other volumes. It catalogs all your data, so you stay in control of your data archive or disk... Read more
Chromium 38.0.2125.111 - Fast and stable...
Chromium is an open-source browser project that aims to build a safer, faster, and more stable way for all Internet users to experience the web. FreeSMUG-Free OpenSource Mac User Group build is... Read more
Default Folder X 4.6.11 - Enhances Open...
Default Folder X attaches a toolbar to the right side of the Open and Save dialogs in any OS X-native application. The toolbar gives you fast access to various folders and commands. You just click... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Naailde the Witch Review
Naailde the Witch Review By Amy Solomon on October 30th, 2014 Our Rating: :: PITCH-PERFECT STORYTELLINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Marvelous storytelling, narration, and moving illustrations make this storybook... | Read more »
1st & Goal Review
1st & Goal Review By Andrew Fisher on October 30th, 2014 Our Rating: :: FOR THE D&D LOVING QBUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad 1st & Goal is a board gamer’s football game, a football fan’s board game, and... | Read more »
French Developer Pated Unveils Seashine
French Developer Pated Unveils Seashine Posted by Ellis Spice on October 30th, 2014 [ permalink ] French one-man studio Pated has unveiled Seashine, “a poetic journey into the abyss.” Players take on the role of a jellyfish strugglin | Read more »
Agents of Storm: Tips, Tricks, and Strat...
Calling all agents: Would you like to see what we thought of this rather pretty base builder? Check out our Agents of Storm review! Have you downloaded Agents of Storm, been bowled over by the graphics, and aren’t quite sure what to do next? Never... | Read more »
Any.DO 2.0 Hopes to Help Manage Producti...
Any.DO 2.0 Hopes to Help Manage Productivity Posted by Ellis Spice on October 30th, 2014 [ permalink ] iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad | Read more »
Base Busters Review
Base Busters Review By Jennifer Allen on October 30th, 2014 Our Rating: :: FUN BUT RESTRICTED MIXUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Mixing up two forms of tower defense gaming and collectible cards, Base Busters is a fun... | Read more »
Sumptus - Personal Expense Tracker in Yo...
Sumptus - Personal Expense Tracker in Your Pocket 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Finance Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Sumptus - a personal finance assistant in your pocket. It’s an ultimate expense tracker... | Read more »
Meat Factory (Games)
Meat Factory 0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 0.1 (iTunes) Description: Meat factory harks back to the old days of the game and watch. Easy to pick up and play, but hard to score big. With cute visuals... | Read more »
Medford Asylum: Paranormal Case - Hidden...
Medford Asylum: Paranormal Case - Hidden Object Adventure (Full) 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Uncover the mystery of Medford City asylum! | Read more »
Secret Files Sam Peters (Games)
Secret Files Sam Peters 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: [ After the successful iOS release of Secret Files Tunguska, the acclaimed point and click adventure Secret Files... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple now offering refurbished 2014 15-inch M...
The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 15″ Retina MacBook Pros for up to $400 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
Apple drops prices on refurbished 2013 Retina...
The Apple Store has dropped prices on 2013 Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ and 15″ Retina MacBook Pros, with Retina models now available starting at $999. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and... Read more
New 2.8GHz Mac mini on sale for $949, save $5...
Abt Electronics has the new 2.8GHz Mac mini in stock and on sale for $949.05 including free shipping. Their price is $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model from any reseller... Read more
Sale! 3.7GHz Quad Core Mac Pro available for...
 B&H Photo has the 3.7GHz Quad Core Mac Pro on sale for $2649 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $350 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price for this model from any... Read more
Mujjo Steps Up The Game With Refined Touchscr...
Netherlands based Mujjo have just launched their Refined Touchscreen Gloves, stepping up their game. The gloves feature a updated elegant design that takes these knitted gloves to the next level. A... Read more
Sale! Preorder the new 27-inch 5K iMac for $2...
 Abt Electronics has the new 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale and available for preorder for $2374.05 including free shipping. Their price is $125 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this... Read more
Simplex Solutions Inc. Brings Secure Web Surf...
New York based Simplex Solutions Inc. has announced the release and immediate availability of Private Browser 1.0, its revolutionary new secure web browser developed for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch... Read more
Save up to $180 off MSRP with an Apple refurb...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 MacBook Airs available for up to $180 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free.... Read more
Apple refurbished 2013 MacBook Pros available...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pros available starting at $929. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros (4GB RAM/... Read more
What Post PC Era? – The Mac Bounces Back, Big...
Apple’s fiscal Q4 2014 was an all-time record quarter for Mac sales, with 5.5 million units shipped, representing nearly one million more sales (+21 percent, + 25 percent sequentially) than Apple... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple I...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple I...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple I...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple Inc. (U...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple Inc. (U...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.