updated 10:44 am EDT, Tue October 1, 2013
Unusual techniques required to support curved glass
The US Patent and Trademark Office has granted Apple a patent on the design of the glass cylinder over top its Pudong Apple Store in Shanghai. The cylinder is similar in concept to the cube over top the Fifth Avenue Apple Store in New York City, but made even more complex by the need to curve the glass. To that end, Apple notes that it had to skip conventional glass laminate technology in favor of new construction techniques that could support a large weight load over long periods of time.
The Pudong cylinder uses glass fins and beams with integrated metal fittings; laminating the fittings directly into the glass is said to have increased the structural rigidity of the joined panels, while also making construction easier. The design features a central cylindrical support that connects to the main panels through a set of glass beams, and a roof with glass fins that not only extend to the main panels but down to the ground.
Apple first applied for the patent in 2011. Even prior to then, Apple had been working to make large glass panes a core element of its most important stores. The Fifth Avenue store was an early example, but others include outlets in places like Scottsdale, London, and Sydney.