by Brent Dirks
July 17, 2013
It looks like Apple is finally moving closer to large-scale production of products using Liquidmetal. A recently awarded patent to Crucible Intellectual Property, a joint venture between Liquidmetal and Apple, describes at least some of the method used to generate a large amount of the product. Electroinsta has a little more about the patent:
Patent number 8,485,245 B1 for a "Bulk amorphous alloy sheet forming process" was awarded on July 16. From the patent filing, Liquidmetal "can be valuable in the fabrication of electronic devices." Specifically, the patent names iPhones, "portable web-browser (e.g. iPad)," computer monitors, and portable music players as likely targets for the material. The filing also mentions that it could be used in a "watch or a clock," suggesting that Apple may be thinking of using the material in a future "smartwatch" device it has been rumored to be working on. The difficulty in fabricating the material was cited as an issue with widespread adoption. The patent claims that a plant utilizing the new method which operates non-stop for up to 15 years can make about 6,000 kilometers of Liquidmetal a year in thicknesses of between 0.1mm and 25mm in widths of up to three meters. The technique described is broadly similar to the "float glass" process used for making window panes.The Apple and Liquidmetal collaboration has been going on since mid-2010 and will continue until at least early 2014. As of now, Apple has only used the material in an iPhone 3G SIM card ejector tool. Liquidmetal’s alloys feature better strength and durability compared to other materials. Production problems were hinted at in mid-2012, but this patent seems to suggest that both companies have solved at least some of the issues.