Early 'iWatch' Production Seeing Poor Yields Due to Issues with Body Finish Treatments?
While Apple's long-rumored "iWatch" may be one of the products to look for in 2014, several rumors have suggested that the device is unlikely to launch until the latter half of the year as the company works to address technical challenges.
A new report from DigiTimes claims that one of those issues involves surface finish treatments for the body of the device, with both Apple and Qualcomm searching for ways to improve the look of chassis parts made using metal injection molding (MIM) methods.
Several wearable devices such as Apple's iWatch and Qualcomm's Toq are reportedly seeing less than 50% yield rates due to difficulties applying surface treatments on their metal injection molded (MIM) chassis, according to sources from the upstream supply chain. [...]
MIM-made components used to be used inside products, but as the components are now becoming part of the external design, surface treatments have become an important process for the look of products.
Metal injection molding may sound very similar to what Apple is trying to achieve with Liquidmetal alloys, but there are distinct differences between the technologies, with MIM involving powdered metals that are combined with binder materials and placed into molds before being heated to very high temperatures to solidify while Liquidmetal alloys are heated to a molten state before being formed using molds and allowed to cool.
Liquidmetal Technologies argues that its alloys and processes offer significant advantages over MIM, including greater precision in molding shapes while offering higher strength, hardness, elasticity, and corrosion resistance than with typical metals. But while MIM is an established production process, Liquidmetal technology remains under development and its inventors have indicated that it will still be several years before it it can be used to produce major parts for Apple's products.