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Apple obtains exclusive rights to custom, super-durable metal alloy

post #1 of 124
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Apple has entered into an exclusive agreement to utilize amorphous metal alloys with unique atomic structures, allowing products that are stronger, lighter, and resistant to wear and corrosion, AppleInsider has learned.

The metal alloys owned by Liquidmetal Technologies were developed by a research team at the California Institute of Technology, and their amorphous, non-crystalline structure makes them harder than alloys of titanium or aluminum.

Introduced for commercial applications in 2003 through the Delaware-based Liquidmetal corporation, the product has been used to create technology for the U.S. Department of Defense, has been found in medical equipment, and is even used to create sporting goods like tennis raquets and golf clubs.

In a Form 8-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last week, Liquidmetal Technologies indicated that it had granted all of its intellectual property assets to Apple. According to the terms of the deal, Apple was awarded "a perpetual, worldwide, fully-paid, exclusive license to commercial such intellectual property in the field of electronic products in exchange for a license fee."

Though the licensing agreement grants Apple exclusive use in consumer electronics, Liquidmetal is still allowed to license its products to other companies for any use outside of markets where Apple competes, meaning its deals with defense contractors, sports equipment manufacturers and medical suppliers are likely to remain intact.

The agreement was made on Aug. 5, and was revealed to the SEC on Monday. It was signed by Larry Buffington, president and CEO of Liquidmetal Technologies.



The company's official website gives examples of where Liquidmetal's products were used in portable electronics in the past. It touts that Liquidmetal alloys are 2.5 times the strength of commonly used titanium alloy and 1.5 times the hardness of stainless steel found in portable electronic devices. The technology is said to allow for thinner, smaller design while offering greater protection for internal components, and giving users a scratch and corrosion resistant exterior.

"As the demand for product 'miniaturization' continues in the electronic casings industry, Liquidmetal alloys enable smaller, thinner and more durable designs," the company's website reads. "Current casings technology is pushed to the limit in supporting these new designs and specifications, especially requirements for larger LCD screens, thinner wall sections and pure metallic surface finishes for products such as mobile phones, PDA's and cameras."



Past devices where Liquidmetal's technology was utilized include the Nokia Vertu smartphone, Sandisk Sansa media player, and Sandisk U3 Smart thumb drives. The product was also used to create strong hinge components for devices like flip smartphones.



Apple's interest in a company like Liquidmetal is no surprise, given its constant desire to create smaller and thinner devices. Apple has also employed a unibody design in its portable computers, beginning in early 2008 with the MacBook Air.

The precision unibody enclosures are milled from a single extruded block of aluminum, allowing devices like the MacBook Pro to become thinner while maintaining a rigid, sturdy frame. Previously, the frames of Apple's notebooks were made from multiple parts. Now, raw aluminum is carved out using CNC, or "computer numerical control" machines.
post #2 of 124
Is this the same substance used to make the T-1000 Terminator?
post #3 of 124
Here is a quote from the DigiTimes rumor that now sticks out:

"The CDMA iPhone's back plate will be forged from metal materials."

Curiouser and curiouser.
post #4 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kyle76 View Post

Is this the same substance used to make the T-1000 Terminator?

Or is it adamantium?
post #5 of 124
I've dealt with Liquidmetal alloys in the past. Great stuff.
"I'm way over my head when it comes to technical issues like this"
Gatorguy 5/31/13
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Gatorguy 5/31/13
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post #6 of 124
If you combine Zr-alloy with Corning Gorilla Glass do you get Transparent aluminum? (Anyone still remember Star Trek?)
post #7 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kyle76 View Post

Is this the same substance used to make the T-1000 Terminator?

No. The T-1000 and T-X both used mimetic poly-alloy. The T-X used this for its outside coating since it had an internal structure.
post #8 of 124
i just walked into a hard sci fi movie
wow


go apple

go liquid metal




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post #9 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post

Or is it adamantium?

No, its Unobtanium.
post #10 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by GQB View Post

No, its Unobtanium.

From "The Core"! Cheesy movie but I have to admit it wasn't too bad. I have weakness for end-of-the-world movies.
post #11 of 124
Papa likey.

Now if they can secure a battery tech that holds a superior charge to the current standards and bendable glass that is scratch proof and allows integration of LCD components then that would be what's up. OMG
post #12 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Apple has entered into an exclusive agreement to utilize amorphous metal alloys with unique atomic structures, allowing products that are stronger, lighter, and resistant to wear and corrosion, AppleInsider has learned.


Great move for Apple that they have entered into an exclusive deal. That way those Android phones can never copy them.

Apple needs more "Apple-Only" stuff.
post #13 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by SendMe View Post

Great move for Apple that they have entered into an exclusive deal. That way those Android phones can never copy them.

Apple needs more "Apple-Only" stuff.

Android will always lose when it comes to hardware. HTC & others are only interesting in offering things they can sell as features, even if they don't work properly for as little cost as possible. They're not interested in making the best product possible.

It is interesting hearing this story along with the Digitimes article today of a metal rear case to the Verizon iPhone.
post #14 of 124
So how is this likely to play out in Apple's product lines?

Will this quickly or slowly replace all the aluminum or steel components? Can they mill this stuff like aluminum for unibody cases? What is the material cost in comparison to aluminum?

This posting reads way to much like a press release and too little like journalism.
post #15 of 124
Unibody, Liquidmetal iPod Touch

Since the iPod Touch doesn't need a cellular antenna and Apple like to keep them uberthin...
post #16 of 124
I think this is just an intermediate solution. While adamantium would be a decent choice, I'm holding out for mirthil. Powered by dilithium crystals of course.
post #17 of 124
Finnally! My future mac's will be bullet proof!

Well of course this is a huge move. In times to come. we will see ultra light wight Apple hardware.. Can't wait to see what's coming. I didn't even know that something so much better than titanium exists. Well done Apple.
post #18 of 124
Hopefully it will be more scratch resistant than my 15" Core i7 MBP.......

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post #19 of 124
無心 The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders., Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit__Edward Abbey
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無心 The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders., Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit__Edward Abbey
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post #20 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by str1f3 View Post

Android will always lose when it comes to hardware. HTC & others are only interesting in offering things they can sell as features, even if they don't work properly for as little cost as possible. They're not interested in making the best product possible.

It is interesting hearing this story along with the Digitimes article today of a metal rear case to the Verizon iPhone.

Well of course the iPhone needs a lot of glass because of the display. But the frame (or do I have to say the antenna) are still replaceable. And as for the back cover I can imagine, thet apple is not really fixed to be using glass. New materials >> new options >> new design. We will see in 1 - 2 year I guess.
post #21 of 124
Is this Reardon Metal from Hank Reardon ?
post #22 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by extremeskater View Post

Not sure this would have anything to do with the iPhone. I see this as more related to MBP cases. iPhone seems to be going in a different direction using more glass then metal.

Yeah, and the iPhone 4 steel band is a custom alloy as well already. I don't see them replacing that anytime soon.

This could be useful for future iPads since what you want is something that's strong and rigid but lightweight.

For those referencing that janky idea about having metal backplates on the next iPods, it only makes sense if this metal is radio-transparent.
post #23 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by pcmonahan View Post

Is this Reardon Metal from Hank Reardon ?

From Ayn Rand... Atlas Shrugged.

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post #24 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by pcmonahan View Post

Is this Reardon Metal from Hank Reardon ?

Brilliant reference.

I've had a SanDisk "Titanium" (LiquidMetal) USB drive on a keychain for over 5 years. It is undented and almost completely unscratched. This is awesome news - both for iPods and for MacBooks/MBP's.

Also, on the link posted above (http://www.liquidmetal.com/index/) - it looks like companies have already been using LiquidMetal for antennas...
post #25 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by geekdad View Post

Hopefully it will be more scratch resistant than my 15" Core i7 MBP.......

Insanely more scratch resistent, its over twice as hard as titanium and stainless steel, trying to track down hard numbers, but it appears to have better wear resistance than tungsten carbide. Anamorphic metals have some great properties.
post #26 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post

Or is it adamantium?

Nope. It's Unobtainium.Apple has an expedition on its way to Pandora as we speak.

And its an old engineering term from the 1950's to boot...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unobtainium
post #27 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by jacquesass View Post

Brilliant reference....

Life imitates art I fear ....
post #28 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by extremeskater View Post

Not sure this would have anything to do with the iPhone. I see this as more related to MBP cases. iPhone seems to be going in a different direction using more glass then metal.


This is expensive stuff. For small things like thumb drives, there's so little the expense doesn't matter much. For a phone or iPod, which costs much more in a small package, the same thing would be true. But for a notebook case, it would be a different matter. The charts showed several important characteristics that are well in its favor, but stiffness wasn't showed, A high elastic limit means that it would be much more resistant to dents, but that often also means that it's not that stiff. If that's true, we might think back to the titanium cases which bent too easily.

Stiffness isn't important when used in small devices, because this would be more than stiff enough for that. Then, in addition, Apple is using the machined cases to eliminate a number of internal parts, with screw bolsters machined directly into the case. They couldn't do that with this if they are going to use a thin amount to save weight and thickness. I can't imagine how much a cast and machined case made out of this would cost, even if Apple uses ten thousand times as much of this material each year as is used now, so that the cost of it comes down.
post #29 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post

Nope. It's Unobtainium.Apple has an expedition on its way to Pandora as we speak.

It has a longer history than that: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unobtainium

Also apparently forgotten by most people (see Unobtainium): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oakley,_Inc.

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post #30 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by retnuh View Post

Insanely more scratch resistent, its over twice as hard as titanium and stainless steel, trying to track down hard numbers, but it appears to have better wear resistance than tungsten carbide. Anamorphic metals have some great properties.

I don't see how it can wear better than TC, when TC has a hardness in the low 90's Rockwell.
post #31 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by retnuh View Post

Insanely more scratch resistent, its over twice as hard as titanium and stainless steel, trying to track down hard numbers, but it appears to have better wear resistance than tungsten carbide. Anamorphic metals have some great properties.

I've worn a tungsten ring for 6 years now, and it's virtually scratch proof. I've taken off the ring and scratched it as hard as I can on cement, brick, metal files, anything.. and still not a scratch on it.

If this liquid metal stuff is more wear resistant than tungsten carbide, I would be flabbergasted. All I can say is I love my AAPL stock.
post #32 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by jb510 View Post

So how is this likely to play out in Apple's product lines?

Will this quickly or slowly replace all the aluminum or steel components? Can they mill this stuff like aluminum for unibody cases? What is the material cost in comparison to aluminum?

This posting reads way to much like a press release and too little like journalism.

Chances are they won't use it for large-scale casing at it is an exotic and there is no recycle stream for it - but for handheld devices, sure. Once a recycle is in place (if practical) then larger scale casings make sense. Based on the information available - it reads ok for me. Trying to pry loose information - especially on exotics and then extrapolating what they can be used for is not practical if you're looking for a news item. Now a research paper, maybe...
post #33 of 124
Quote:
Apple has entered into an exclusive agreement to utilize amorphous metal alloys with unique atomic structures, allowing products that are stronger, lighter, and resistant to wear and corrosion

Hopefully cheaper too. All the metal unibody designs have increased the prices of the laptops.

The weight should be able to drop in the Mac Pro too but we'll see.
post #34 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by extremeskater View Post

Not sure this would have anything to do with the iPhone. I see this as more related to MBP cases. iPhone seems to be going in a different direction using more glass then metal.

The iPad and other larger mobile devices would be good examples where metal alloys could be used.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gunner1954 View Post

If you combine Zr-alloy with Corning Gorilla Glass do you get ‘Transparent aluminum?’ (Anyone still remember Star Trek?)

Both glass and metals can be doped (or alloyed in the case of metals) to create the industrial raw materials of today. With glass you start with metalloid silicon element (e.g., from sand) and dope them with all sorts of other elements (including metallic elements), compounds or subtances to form all sorts of glass materials from transparent to opaque glass materials, and all sorts of colors.

Glass can be doped also with all sorts of other elements to make them more sturdy (e.g., gorilla glass), and can remain transparent -- very critical in the screens of smartphones using touch technology.

There are more metallic elements (aluminum, gold, tin, copper, titanium, to name a few) to choose from, as starting materials to manufacture metal alloys. However, I am not familiar with any transparent metallic alloy though.

Glass, even gorilla glass, is always more fragile than metals. Glass can shatter or break at much lower stress forces relative to metal alloys. Metallic alloys may bend or dent, but not shutter, upon stress or on impact.

Thus, metal alloys and glass have different optimal functions and uses in mobile devices. as far as casings and outer components are concerned.

Actually, I do not understand the technological rationale for using glass for the back casing even for smaller devices, like a smartphones. I was surprised therefore when the iPhone 4 used glass for the backcasing. It is mostly aesthetic that is lost in the white iPhone 4. One possible technical rationale for "glass backcasing" would have been using the back as "solar battery" area; but that may be a different "glass" technology altogether. Apple has an approved patent for solar powered technology for mobile devices.

CGC
post #35 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post

Yeah, and the iPhone 4 steel band is a custom alloy as well already. I don't see them replacing that anytime soon.

This could be useful for future iPads since what you want is something that's strong and rigid but lightweight.

For those referencing that janky idea about having metal backplates on the next iPods, it only makes sense if this metal is radio-transparent.

Hmm?.. Actually as long as you have external antennas, backplates don't need to be radio transparent. See, the iP4 antenna design is a good step in the right direction preparing the way for even more radical design solutions.
post #36 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by malax View Post

I think this is just an intermediate solution. While adamantium would be a decent choice, I'm holding out for mirthil. Powered by dilithium crystals of course.

Mithral is pretty good, but cuendillar is much better. You can make your part out of anything first, and then turn it into cuendillar afterwards, so it's really easy and inexpensive to make things into it. You do need someone with the One Power to make the change though.
post #37 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post

No. The T-1000 and T-X both used mimetic poly-alloy. The T-X used this for its outside coating since it had an internal structure.

Hey, maybe Arnie can get a job soon as a spokes-terminator for Apple, touting the benefits of his new poly-alloy Apple core.

Or tout the benefits of an Apple electric car (the Kali-fornicator special) (sorry bout that).

Ahll be baack, after these messages from Apple.
post #38 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kyle76 View Post

Is this the same substance used to make the T-1000 Terminator?

That was the first thing that popped into my head as well, when I read Liquidmetal.
post #39 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by jb510 View Post

Will this quickly or slowly replace all the aluminum or steel components? Can they mill this stuff like aluminum for unibody cases? What is the material cost in comparison to aluminum?

Actually it's big claim to fame in this area is that it can be injection moulded, like thermoplastics. That means they could ditch the milling entirely. It costs a LOT more money than aluminum, but my guess is for small amounts of material the milling costs might be more than the material.

VERY interesting development.

Maury
post #40 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by shadash View Post

Here is a quote from the DigiTimes rumor that now sticks out:
"The CDMA iPhone's back plate will be forged from metal materials."
Curiouser and curiouser.

Doesn't that seem unlikely though, since metal would block radio signals? (There's a reason the iPhone 4 has a glass back.) Or does this new Liquidmetal alloy not block RF? If so, that's a pretty interesting feature of the material.
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