Apple-Liquidmetal Collaboration Awarded Patent on Process for Mass Production of Amorphous Metals

Back in 2010, Apple signed an agreement with Caltech spinoff Liquidmetal Technologies, giving Apple exclusive access to the firm's unique metal alloys for consumer electronics applications. Liquidmetal's "amorphous metal alloys", sometimes referred to as "metallic glass" due to their non-crystalline molecular structures, offer several advantages over many other metals, including superior strength and durability. Apple had quietly tested Liquidmetal by using it in the SIM card eject tool for the iPhone 3G, but the material has yet to make any additional appearances in Apple's products.

The agreement between Apple and Liquidmetal funneled the covered intellectual property through a subsidiary known as Crucible Intellectual Property, LLC, and Liquidmetal is required to submit all of its newly developed intellectual property to that subsidiary through at least February 2014.

liquidmetal_float_process
As pointed out by MacDailyNews, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office yesterday issued a patent assigned to Crucible covering processes for mass producing thin sheets of amorphous metal alloys, suggesting that Apple and Liquidmetal are indeed making progress with the material. Of the five inventors listed on the patent, which was filed in May 2012, two are Apple product design engineers and three are engineers at Liquidmetal Technologies.

A conventional method for making a BMG [bulk metallic glass] sheet requires casting a amorphous metal alloy at or above the melting temperature of the amorphous metal alloy, freezing the molten amorphous metal alloy in a sheet mold to form a sheet, and then using a cutting tool to remove the gate portion of the cast sheet and shape the cast sheet into the desired final geometry. However, casting requires melting and cooling of the amorphous metal alloy in a sheet mold, and this can cause uncontrolled amount of amorphicity in the BMG sheet. Furthermore, the post-processing cost for removing the gate and runner overflow and shaping the cast sheet into the desired final sheet geometry can be quite high. Therefore, new methods for making BMG sheets that overcome the above mentioned limitations of the casting process are desirable. [...]

A proposed solution according to embodiments herein for the manufacture of bulk-solidifying amorphous sheets is to use a float glass process and/or a conveyor belt-type process.

The patent describes how molten BMG could be continuously poured onto a shallow bath of molten tin, where it would flow to form a sheet. The thickness of the sheets would be controlled by the speed at which cooling BMG is removed from the tin bath. The patent specifically claims that such a float plant could operate continuously for 10-15 years, producing approximately 6,000 kilometers of BMG per year in thicknesses ranging from 0.1 mm to 25 mm and widths up to 3 meters.

Rumors of Liquidmetal's alloys being used for Apple's iPhone have surfaced a number of times, but last year Liquidmetal's Atakan Peker noted that Apple was unlikely to use the alloys as major design materials for at least 2-4 years due to the production scale needed for such parts as MacBook casings. With yesterday's patent, however, it does appear that Apple and Liquidmetal may have developed processes to overcome that hurdle.

Tag: Patent

Top Rated Comments

Daws001 Avatar
117 months ago
Sweet. I anxiously await the day when I can drop my iPhone and it splatters into a liquidmetal puddle only to slowly reform back into an iPhone a la the T1000. Make it happen, Apple :cool:

Don't worry. Samsung will make a watch out of liquidmetal soon enough.

Only, Samsung's cheap knockoff version will likely be mercury and end up killing half its owners.
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
decimortis Avatar
117 months ago
Somebody should post a Terminator reference...

D.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dguisinger Avatar
117 months ago
It is really sad that Apple has taken control of this technology and yet has given the public nothing to show for it.

----------




Aluminum both dents easily and scratches easily. It is a cheap crappy material. That is why it is used in soda cans, but, with a few exceptions, is not commonly used in things that need to be durable.

Yeah... good thing its not used in anything else... like boats, trailers, fuel efficient or electric car bodies, airplanes, or space station modules ...
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Rogifan Avatar
117 months ago
Liquidmetal just sounds cool

Hello Phil Schiller. :D
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Millah Avatar
117 months ago
It is also used in cookwear, due to its ability to conduct heat. It is also light weight, accounting for the uses you recount.

But in everyday life, it is mostly used for things like "tin" foil and "tin" cans. It is rarely used for things that need to stay shiny and nice but which are handled frequently. That is why it was such a huge mistake for Apple to use it for the casing of a phone. If the iPhone were made of a durable material, there would be little need to put the product's case inside an additional outer case. People do that because the aluminum srcatches and dents easily - no surprise there.

Aluminum is pretty much never used for jewelry. That is because it scratches and dents easily, and does not feel good in the hand.

Right. I work in and my father owns a sheetmetal factory. So we work with metals every single day. You couldn't be any more clueless. We do a lot of military contracts, as well as some commercial projects. You know the airplane flight recorder boxes? Yea, those things that are designed to withstand a plane crash? Guess what they're made from. Aluminum. About 75% of the work we do is from a particular aluminum alloy that is very hard/dense.

Anyone who works with metals knows there are different thicknesses, hardness, strengths to an alloy. Aluminum could be a 5000 series, 6000 series, etc. I love how you lump all aluminum together into one basket and pretend to know what you're talking about.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gnasher729 Avatar
117 months ago
Don't worry. Samsung will make a watch out of liquidmetal soon enough.

Are you claiming that Samsung would copy a technology to which Apple owns the patents? Surely they wouldn't do that.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

2022 back to school apple

Apple Launches 2022 Back to School Offer: Up to $150 Gift Card With Mac or iPad

Friday June 24, 2022 5:08 am PDT by
Apple today launched its annual "Back to School" promotion for college/university students in the United States and Canada. This year's promotion offers a free Apple gift card with the purchase of an eligible Mac or iPad, rather than free AirPods like last year. Apple is also offering students 20% off AppleCare+ plans during the promotion. Apple is offering a $150 gift card with the purchase ...
apple ar headset concept 2

Apple CEO Tim Cook Hints at AR/VR Headset: 'Stay Tuned and You'll See What We Have to Offer'

Wednesday June 22, 2022 6:34 pm PDT by
CEO Tim Cook this week did an interview with China Daily, where he once again commented on on the future of augmented reality and hinted at Apple's work on an AR/VR headset. Render via designer Ian Zelbo Cook said that Apple is excited about the opportunities available with augmented reality, which is not too far off from prior comments that he's made, but he went on to say that people should ...
airpods pro 2 1

AirPods Pro 2 Said to Feature Upgraded H1 Chip, Find My, Heart Rate Detection, USB-C and More

Friday June 24, 2022 9:48 am PDT by
The next-generation AirPods Pro could come with a long list of new features that include heart rate detection, the ability to function as a hearing aid, and a USB-C port according to a report from 52Audio. The site claims that it has received new information on the AirPods Pro 2, and it has used that information to provide some renders on what the earbuds might look like. Design wise, there...
customize wallpaper setting ios 16

iOS 16 Beta 2 Tidbits: New Wallpaper Colors, Backup Over LTE, SMS Filtering and More

Wednesday June 22, 2022 2:16 pm PDT by
Apple today seeded the second betas of iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 to developers for testing purposes, and the new betas introduce new features and refine some of the changes that Apple made with the first iOS 16 release. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Lock Screen Photo Wallpaper Customization When customizing a photo on the Lock Screen, there are two new DuoTone and...
home app ios 16

Apple Confirms iPad Will No Longer Be Supported as a Home Hub in iOS 16

Wednesday June 22, 2022 12:38 pm PDT by
The iPad will no longer be able to be used as a home hub following the launch of iOS 16, iPadOS 16, macOS Ventura, and the HomePod 16 software this fall, Apple confirmed today. As discovered in iOS 16 code by MacRumors contributor Steve Moser, Apple says that the iPad will no longer be supported as a home hub. This information will be displayed in the Home app after updating to iOS 16.A home ...
apple ar headset concept 1

Apple Rumored to Announce 'Game-Changer' AR/VR Headset in January 2023

Friday June 24, 2022 2:52 am PDT by
Apple is "likely" to announce its long-rumored mixed-reality headset as soon as January 2023, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has reiterated. Concept render based on purported leaked information by Ian Zelbo In a detailed post on Medium, Kuo explained that Apple's headset will be a "game-changer" for the augmented-reality and virtual-reality market. Describing some of the headset's...