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
107 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
107 months ago
Somebody should post a Terminator reference...

D.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dguisinger Avatar
107 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
107 months ago
Liquidmetal just sounds cool

Hello Phil Schiller. :D
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Millah Avatar
107 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
107 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)

Top Stories

calculatorapp

iOS 11 Bug: Typing 1+2+3 Quickly in the Calculator App Won't Get You 6

Tuesday October 24, 2017 2:03 pm PDT by
A bug in the built-in Calculator app in iOS 11 is getting some major attention this week, despite the fact that it's been around since iOS 11 was in beta testing. At issue is a calculator animation that causes some symbols to be ignored when calculations are entered in rapid succession. You can try it for yourself: Type 1+2+3 and then the equals sign into the Calculator app quickly. Due to...
gradiente iphone white

Brazilian Electronics Company Revives Long-Running iPhone Trademark Dispute

Tuesday May 19, 2020 1:06 pm PDT by
Apple has been involved in a long-running iPhone trademark dispute in Brazil, which was revived today by IGB Electronica, a Brazilian consumer electronics company that originally registered the "iPhone" name in 2000. IGB Electronica fought a multi-year battle with Apple in an attempt to get exclusive rights to the "iPhone" trademark, but ultimately lost, and now the case has been brought to...
original iphone

Phil Schiller Says iPhone Was 'Earth-Shattering' Ten Years Ago and Remains 'Unmatched' Today

Monday January 9, 2017 7:15 am PST by
To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the iPhone, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller sat down with tech journalist Steven Levy for a wide-ranging interview about the smartphone's past, present, and future. The report first reflects upon the iPhone's lack of support for third-party apps in its first year. The argument inside Apple was split between whether the iPhone should be a closed...
iphone 12 colors 2021

iPhone 12 Colors: Deciding on The Right Color

Thursday November 5, 2020 8:35 am PST by
The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro arrived last October in a range of color options, with entirely new hues available on both devices, as well as some popular classics. The 12 and 12 Pro have different color choices, so if you have your heart set on a particular shade, you might not be able to get your preferred model in that color. iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 The iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12...
iPhone 13 Dummy Thumbnail 2

Full iPhone 13 Feature Breakdown: Everything Rumors Say We Can Expect

Tuesday August 31, 2021 7:50 am PDT by
With the launch of Apple's iPhone 13 lineup believed to be just a few weeks away, we have compiled all of the coherent rumors from our coverage over the past year to build a full picture of the features and upgrades coming to the company's new smartphones. For clarity, only explicit improvements, upgrades, and new features compared to the iPhone 12 lineup are listed. It is worth noting that...
omg lightning cable comparison

Security Researcher Develops Lightning Cable With Hidden Chip to Steal Passwords

Thursday September 2, 2021 6:59 am PDT by
A normal-looking Lightning cable that can used to steal data like passwords and send it to a hacker has been developed, Vice reports. The "OMG Cable" compared to Apple's Lightning to USB cable. The "OMG Cable" works exactly like a normal Lightning to USB cable and can log keystrokes from connected Mac keyboards, iPads, and iPhones, and then send this data to a bad actor who could be over a...
macbook air deals

Deals: Amazon Drops Price of 256GB M1 MacBook Air to New Low of $849.99 ($149 Off)

Friday August 27, 2021 6:16 am PDT by
Amazon today introduced new low prices on the M1 MacBook Air for both 256GB and 512GB storage options. To start, you can get the 256GB model for $849.99, down from an original price of $999.00. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. Only Silver and Gold are...
maxresdefault

New MacBook Pro Models Coming at WWDC, Suggests Leaker

Monday May 24, 2021 1:27 pm PDT by
New MacBook Pro models are coming at WWDC, according to leaker Jon Prosser who has a mixed track record when it comes to predicting Apple's plans. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Prosser provided no additional information, but there are new 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pro models in the works. The new MacBook Pros will feature the most radical redesign to the MacBook Pro ...
M1X MBP Feature

Leaker: Upcoming MacBook Pro to See Price Hike Over Current Model, Equal Performance Across 14 and 16-Inch Sizes

Tuesday August 24, 2021 5:28 am PDT by
The upcoming 14-inch MacBook Pro is set to be more expensive than the current 13-inch MacBook Pro and both the 14 and 16-inch models will offer the same performance, according to the leaker known as "Dylandkt." The leaker shared the information on Twitter, explaining that both of the upcoming MacBook Pro models, expected to come in 14 and 16-inch sizes, will feature the same performance due...
iPhone 13 Dummy Thumbnail 2

Kuo: iPhone 13 to Feature LEO Satellite Communications to Make Calls and Texts Without Cellular Coverage

Sunday August 29, 2021 7:39 am PDT by
The iPhone 13 will feature low earth orbit (LEO) satellite communication connectivity to allow users to make calls and send messages in areas without 4G or 5G coverage, according to the reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Kuo explained that the iPhone 13 lineup will feature hardware that is able to connect to LEO satellites. If enabled with the relevant...