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Liquidmetal inventor says Apple is years away from using alloy

post #1 of 73
Thread Starter 
The inventor of Liquidmetal guesses that it would take hundreds of millions of dollars and over three years for Apple to ready the technology necessary to mass-produce large products made from the material.

Dr. Atakan Peker, who discovered and developed the formulation that later became Liquidmetal, said in an interview with Business Insider that Apple is most likely years away from using the alloy in large-scale projects, noting that there is "no suitable manufacturing infrastructure yet to take full advantage of this alloy technology."

The former Vice President of Technology at Liquidmetal estimates that an investment of $300 million to $500 million and three to five years would be needed before the metal finds its way into the hands of consumers.

"This is a technology that has yet to be matured and perfected both in manufacturing process and application development," Peker said. "I should note that this is a completely new and different metal technology."

It is unlikely that MacBook casings will be made from the material in the near future, however there is a possibility that small operational parts such as hinges and brackets can be produced. Nokia and Samsung phones have employed Liquidmetal previously, though not as a main design or structural feature.

Dr. Atakan Peker
Liquidmetal inventor Dr. Atakan Peker.


Apple currently has exclusive license to the technology which has been rumored to play a part in the upcoming next-generation iPhone, however the company has so far only implemented the metal once to make a SIM card ejection tool for the iPhone and iPad.

The structure of Liquidmetal lends itself nicely to the design of device components like casings and frames as it is both strong and eye-pleasing.

"Liquidmetal is super strong, scratch and corrosion resistant, resilient and can be precision cast into complex shapes," Peker said."Plastics are low cost to manufacture into complex shapes but not strong enough. Metals are strong but difficult to produce into complex shapes. And glass feels and looks beautiful but is highly fragile. Liquidmetal can combine these advantages and remedy some of these shortcomings."

Peker speculates that the metal will be used to replace existing components, followed by a "breakthrough product" which can only be made by harnessing the alloy's special qualities.

"Such product will likely bring an innovative user interface and industrial design together, and will also be very difficult to copy or duplicate with other material technologies," Peker said.
post #2 of 73
Well Apple have the money ... How long have they had this technology in house now? I lose track but isn't getting on for three years already?
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post #3 of 73

that one quoted paragraph is the best explanation of what this stuff is.   ty
 

post #4 of 73

I didn't realize that both Nokia and Samsung had already used LiquidMetal in their phones! I'd have to guess it was before they gave Apple an exclusive on it in 2010, altho there's other companies with a similar product aren't there? Wonder what Samsung's experience with it was and why they didn't use it more/still?
 

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post #5 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

Well Apple have the money ... How long have they had this technology in house now? I lose track but isn't getting on for three years already?

I wonder why all the people who invented this stuff and founded the company have since moved on. You would think that if Apple was working on actually developing the 'suitable manufacturing infrastructure' some of these people would have been hired by Apple by now. 

 

I never thought LM was that practical for MBP or iPhone cases. It appears from the article it would be better suited to small complex parts.

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post #6 of 73
Apple needs to be careful here.

While they are focussing on future hardware implementations, users of PC software are leaping ahead on the software side of things:

http://www.redmondpie.com/os-x-mountain-lion-theme-transformation-pack-for-windows-7-and-windows-8-now-available-for-download/

Sheesh, this new layout looks like a dog's breakfast on an iPad.

It's a shame they didn't try testing it on an iOS device before selecting it.

You guys don't seriously expect me to go back to having sit at a computer just to use the Internet, do you?
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post #7 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

I wonder why all the people who invented this stuff and founded the company have since moved on. You would think that if Apple was working on actually developing the 'suitable manufacturing infrastructure' some of these people would have been hired by Apple by now. 

 

I never thought LM was that practical for MBP or iPhone cases. It appears from the article it would be better suited to small complex parts.

 

That is not correct. It is easily suitable for larger parts. For example, there are already tennis rackets and golf clubs on the market which use Liquidmetal alloys. The case for a MacBook Pro is hardly more difficult than a tennis racket. And an iPhone case would be even easier. Look at their website for examples. In particular look under medical applications to see the case of an analyzer which is built on liquidmetal. That case is far more complex than an iPhone case and not that different than a MacBook Pro case (albeit smaller).


The investment is not because it's difficult to make something like an iPhone case, but rather that it's difficult to do so by the millions. That requires a large number of machines and tooling which take time to build. 

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post #8 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

 

That is not correct. It is easily suitable for larger parts. For example, there are already tennis rackets and golf clubs on the market which use Liquidmetal alloys. The case for a MacBook Pro is hardly more difficult than a tennis racket. And an iPhone case would be even easier. Look at their website for examples. In particular look under medical applications to see the case of an analyzer which is built on liquidmetal. That case is far more complex than an iPhone case and not that different than a MacBook Pro case (albeit smaller).


The investment is not because it's difficult to make something like an iPhone case, but rather that it's difficult to do so by the millions. That requires a large number of machines and tooling which take time to build. 

I said I didn't think it was practical because in my opinion it doesn't serve any purpose to make these cases from LM. As the article points out, small complex parts are well suited to leverage the properties of LM, again, also my opinion which is neither correct or incorrect.

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post #9 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

Wonder what Samsung's experience with it was and why they didn't use it more/still?

 

It probably conflicted with the 'cheap and nasty' look and feel that they were going for with their devices.
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post #10 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

I said I didn't think it was practical because in my opinion it doesn't serve any purpose to make these cases from LM. As the article points out, small complex parts are well suited to leverage the properties of LM, again, also my opinion which is neither correct or incorrect.

 

There are plenty of reasons to make cases from Liquidmetal alloys:

- Less material processing cost

- Less waste

- More scratch resistant

- Resistant to dents

- Corrosion resistant

- Can be cast into shapes that are difficult and/or expensive to achieve by machining

 

Given how expensive it is to machine MBP cases from billets of aluminum, the reduced processing cost would be huge. Whether it would make up for somewhat higher material costs is not public information.

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post #11 of 73

I suspect it will happen at some point for the very reasons jragosta gives.  If the detractors think back to the process of machining a uni-body MacBook out of a block of aluminum it was totally unviable.  It was cost prohibitive and slow.  How did that work out?  If Apple want to do this they can IMHO.

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post #12 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

 

There are plenty of reasons to make cases from Liquidmetal alloys:

- Less material processing cost

- Less waste

- More scratch resistant

- Resistant to dents

- Corrosion resistant

- Can be cast into shapes that are difficult and/or expensive to achieve by machining

 

Given how expensive it is to machine MBP cases from billets of aluminum, the reduced processing cost would be huge. Whether it would make up for somewhat higher material costs is not public information.

100% agree, not to mention the 'wow' factor.

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post #13 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

I said I didn't think it was practical because in my opinion it doesn't serve any purpose to make these cases from LM. As the article points out, small complex parts are well suited to leverage the properties of LM, again, also my opinion which is neither correct or incorrect.

We'll check back in a few years and see.  Soli will pull up all the people that made idiots of themselves ... hope it isn't me :)

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post #14 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

 

There are plenty of reasons to make cases from Liquidmetal alloys:

- Less material processing cost

- Less waste

- More scratch resistant

- Resistant to dents

- Corrosion resistant

- Can be cast into shapes that are difficult and/or expensive to achieve by machining

 

Given how expensive it is to machine MBP cases from billets of aluminum, the reduced processing cost would be huge. Whether it would make up for somewhat higher material costs is not public information.

 

We don't know the cost

There is no waste with aluminum since it is all recycled

I have never had scratches or dents on any Apple product that I have owned

Corrosion of my a MBP and iPhone cases doesn't seem to be a big issue

Cases are not very complex shapes to start with

 

I don't see any demanding reason to switch to LM based on the advantages you list.

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post #15 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

100% agree, not to mention the 'wow' factor.

How easy is LM to recycle? I have not heard any mention of it so far. Apple has been saying that they prefer to use recyclable materials.

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post #16 of 73

The minute I saw the word guesses I stopped reading.  yawn.

post #17 of 73
I think this video is a pretty spectacular demo of one of the properties of liquid metal:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOEBR3DcqN0
post #18 of 73

By making such an ipso-facto denouncement of the ability of Apple to make an entire phone out of Liquidmetal, Liquidmetal has just categorically confirmed that the iPhone 5 will be made entirely out of Liquidmetal. 

 

*I can see the commercial: T1000 walking through the prison bars, but gets stuck because his iPhone 4 isn't made of Liquidmetal. Queue in iPhone 5. 

post #19 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post

The minute I saw the word guesses I stopped reading.  yawn.

In original article on Business Insider the word was 'estimate' not guess. Guesses are an AI exclusive.  lol.gif

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post #20 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

 

We don't know the cost

There is no waste with aluminum since it is all recycled

I have never had scratches or dents on any Apple product that I have owned

Corrosion of my a MBP and iPhone cases doesn't seem to be a big issue

Cases are not very complex shapes to start with

 

I don't see any demanding reason to switch to LM based on the advantages you list.


Wow. You managed to prove that you don't have any clue about manufacturing or marketing.


1. Cost
You are correct, we don't know the cost - which is why I never stated that it would be less expensive. HOWEVER, we know that it is inexpensive enough to have been used commercially in tennis rackets, hinges, golf clubs, and cases for electronics gadgets. That suggests that the cost is not horrendous.

 

2. Waste.
First, there is waste in aluminum recycling. You never get 100% back, there's always some loss. More importantly, 'waste' has a very specific meaning for anyone who has studied manufacturing in the last 20 years. Learn something about lean manufacturing and muda (waste). Any activity which does not DIRECTLY result in value added is waste. Every step of machining billets of aluminum is waste in the Lean sense.

 

3. Scratches/dents.

So the fact that you've never had scratches means that Apple should ignore it? Do you have any idea how many people have complained about scratches on their electronics products - and how many more never bothered to complain? Google 'macbook air dent' for some examples.

4. Corrosion.

I'm not sure how big of a problem corrosion is, but it's another nice feature.

 

5. Complex shapes.

No one said that Liquidmetal could only be used on complex shapes except you. As stated repeatedly, it has been used commercially on things like golf clubs and tennis rackets. It is not suitable only for complex shapes. In fact, it's ideal in things like cases where you're replacing an expensive, time consuming operation with a cheap molding operation.


Not to mention, of course, the 'wow' factor and the marketing value it brings. 

If you can't see that any of those things are of value, you really need to re-examine either your data or your though processes. That's not to say that it's a sure thing. We don't know how much extra it would cost Apple (if any) so it's impossible to say if the advantages outweigh the cost. But arguing that there are not real advantages is ridiculous.

Clearly, there's a great deal of potential. Or perhaps you really think that Apple paid $20 M for an exclusive on hinges?

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post #21 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

How easy is LM to recycle? I have not heard any mention of it so far. Apple has been saying that they prefer to use recyclable materials.

 

It should be recyclable. Certainly recyclable to the component materials even if the liquidmetal alloy itself can not be reused.

 

However, that misses the point. It is important to be able to recycle the aluminum in a MacBook pro because a large majority of the material is lost when machining it. The whole point of Liquidmetal is to be able to manufacture it near net shape so that there's little or no waste generated in the manufacturing process.

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post #22 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

As stated repeatedly, it has been used commercially on things like golf clubs and tennis rackets.

Yes you have stated that repeatedly in several other threads as well, however, I believe I read that the LM golf clubs and tennis rackets were only surface coatings of LM not solid castings. Not going to bother looking it up but I have nothing against LM, it just doesn't seem like a ready for prime time material. If Apple perfects it I'm sure it will be marvelous.

 

I really don't know why you go to so much effort to insult and discredit people when they are not even expressing anything other than an opinion. If I said I don't think the color red is very practical for an automobile, you would somehow have to prove that my opinion was the result of faulty reasoning.

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post #23 of 73

wow, I really hope my stock in liquid metals tech is ok now..... I guess I just have to believe that Apple is still up to their sneaky old ways of churning the rumor mill....Like someone above said "you really think Apple would pay a 20m contract to make hinges?"

post #24 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

It is important to be able to recycle the aluminum in a MacBook pro because a large majority of the material is lost when machining it. 

I believe they recover nearly all of the metal shavings in the factory. You are the expert in manufacturing so I will defer to your superior knowledge, but if I were running the factory I would consider recovering all the metal that was removed from the billets. 

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post #25 of 73

i'm predicting cyberdyne systems will be the one that figures out how to use liquid metal...

post #26 of 73
Perhaps Apple is much, much further along than anyone thinks

Perhaps with its exclusivity arrangement Apple is planning to create a permanent competitive advantage

Perhaps the big recent increases in cap ex is for purchases of state of the art tooling equipment to create tens of millions of products a quarter

Perhaps this is one of Apple Top Five areas of focus for the next three years

Perhaps they have kept it under wraps because they want to knock everyone's socks off

Perhaps :-)

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post #27 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

Yes you have stated that repeatedly in several other threads as well, however, I believe I read that the LM golf clubs and tennis rackets were only surface coatings of LM not solid castings. Not going to bother looking it up but I have nothing against LM, it just doesn't seem like a ready for prime time material. If Apple perfects it I'm sure it will be marvelous.

 

I really don't know why you go to so much effort to insult and discredit people when they are not even expressing anything other than an opinion. If I said I don't think the color red is very practical for an automobile, you would somehow have to prove that my opinion was the result of faulty reasoning.

 

I'm not insulting anyone. I'm simply pointing out that you are too lazy to even do the most rudimentary research and you don't have any idea what you're talking about. Therefore, your opinion on the matter is worthless. 


To address your specific comments - the existing products are solid castings, not surface coatings. In fact, it is unreasonable to expect a surface coating to create some of the properties being claimed.  (they also sell surface coatings, but that's different). 

 

And your example is a ridiculous straw man argument. You've made multiple factual errors and I pointed them out. Maybe next time you'll make the effort to learn something about a topic before making yourself look foolish. Then again, I doubt it.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

I believe they recover nearly all of the metal shavings in the factory. You are the expert in manufacturing so I will defer to your superior knowledge, but if I were running the factory I would consider recovering all the metal that was removed from the billets. 

 

As I said, you can't recover 100% of the shavings. More importantly (again) is the non-metal waste. The entire machining process is extremely wasteful in the muda sense. Pick up a book on the Toyota Manufacturing Process if you want to educate yourself (again, it's obvious that you don't care about knowing anything about a subject before commenting).

And, of course, that doesn't even consider the fact that the aluminum machining process creates a risk of explosion - as one plant learned already.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Red Oak View Post

Perhaps Apple is much, much further along than anyone thinks
Perhaps with its exclusivity arrangement Apple is planning to create a permanent competitive advantage
Perhaps the big recent increases in cap ex is for purchases of state of the art tooling equipment to create tens of millions of products a quarter
Perhaps this is one of Apple Top Five areas of focus for the next three years
Perhaps they have kept it under wraps because they want to knock everyone's socks off
Perhaps :-)


They've been working on it for nearly 2 years now. And with immense resources, I'd be inclined to agree. IF there is a significant potential cost savings and/or if the other benefits make up for an increase in cost, Apple could be well down the path toward manufacturing Liquidmetal products.

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post #28 of 73
Quote:
Cases are not very complex shapes to start with

I can't disagree more with this statement.  The macbook pro and macbook airs are very complex cases.  They require very specialized machines to create and machine.  Liquid Metal can be cast into these shapes much like plastic can and could reduce the cost enormously for creating complex cases.  Not to mention it is harder lighter and stronger than titanium, and stainless steel, It would be a huge deal for apple.

post #29 of 73

Also liquid metal alloy has all of these properties because of the fact that it has no crystalline  structure like other metals in the same strength, weight, durability and corrosion resistance class.

post #30 of 73

Uh huh...and Steve Jobs said they had no interest in phones, tablets, etc., before they introduced them. C'mon guys, you really think this guy is gonna say, "Yes, Apple will be releasing the new iPhone this year featuring our innovative new metal"? Get real.

post #31 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

 

I'm not insulting anyone.

 

I'm simply pointing out that you are too lazy ...

 

you don't have any idea what you're talking about....

 

your opinion on the matter is worthless. ...


making yourself look foolish... 

 

you don't care about knowing anything about a subject before commenting...

 

But please MStone, don't take those comments as insults.  To the contrary, those were relative compliments.

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post #32 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

I believe they recover nearly all of the metal shavings in the factory. You are the expert in manufacturing so I will defer to your superior knowledge, but if I were running the factory I would consider recovering all the metal that was removed from the billets. 

I think you are looking at this at too basic a level. Machining is an energy intensive process. Using a unibody Macbook for an example, the raw material needs to be machined, then a laser drills the holes for the lights and what not. You also have the cost of cutters that need to be sharpened or replaced, aluminum shavings that need to be recycled, etc.

 

You end up with machine time +plus labor+plus tooling costs+high energy usage. Even in a large scale production machining something like the Macbook Pro case is a costly and time consuming endeavor.

 

If I understand the process of liquid metal correctly, it's more along the lines of plastic injection molding. The high cost of tooling is paid upfront, and it takes a lot of energy to melt and inject your raw material. The benefit is there should be almost no waste, the ability to use lower cost labor (lower skilled)  and a much shorter production time. Using this method, the more pieces they make the cheaper the overall cost is.

 

I can certainly understand the buzz surrounding this product. A metal casing made as strong as a machined part, quicker then a cheap casting and at a cost close to a injection molded part. Of course, if it was easy to develop this technology, we would have seen it used long ago.

 

Clear as mud?


Edited by bigdaddyp - 5/2/12 at 5:38pm
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post #33 of 73
Seriously, liquid metal?
post #34 of 73
No worries the feeling is mutual. I am away from keyboard so that is all for now. Can't use an iPhone for this type of discussion.

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post #35 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by GTR View Post

Apple needs to be careful here.
While they are focussing on future hardware implementations, users of PC software are leaping ahead on the software side of things:
http://www.redmondpie.com/os-x-mountain-lion-theme-transformation-pack-for-windows-7-and-windows-8-now-available-for-download/
Sheesh, this new layout looks like a dog's breakfast on an iPad.
It's a shame they didn't try testing it on an iOS device before selecting it.
You guys don't seriously expect me to go back to having sit at a computer just to use the Internet, do you?

 

You don't honestly expect me to waste my time scrolling and zooming, trying to view content on a 3.5" screen when I've got a 27" one in the next room.

To each his/her own.

 

Despite Apple's vast financial resources and lineup of Chinese manufacturers begging to build stuff for them it would be really hard, even for Apple, to keep secret the widespread retooling of entire factories with liquid metal fabrication.

post #36 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by maccherry View Post

Seriously, liquid metal?

 

What's your point? 

It's actually reasonably descriptive of the product.

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post #37 of 73
Let's bring the focus back to the products, with this exclusive breaking news:


The delays in bringing LiquidMetal into use are due to the amazing breakthroughs in science and design that Apple has had to make to create the most beautiful new iPhones and iPads! And incredibly, these will be even more insanely great than anything that Apple has ever done!

The LiquidMetal molding process has been miniaturized so that it can be installed at every single Apple Store!

And very soon, you will have the option to personalize your own iPhone or iPad with a gorgeous new case that is molded to the shape of your own hand!

Every Apple customer will want to be one of the first on the planet who is lucky enough to own the amazing new customized iPhone or iPad. And it can be made just for you in every Apple Store! And custom-crafted while you wait!

With the purchase of a new, next-generation iPhone or iPad, you will be able to have an advanced silicone-polymer mold made of your very own hand!

If that's not already enough to blow you away, this quick-set mold will be used to cast a LiquidMetal case that matches your every curve and contour!

And -- boom! -- it's that easy to make the most spectular iPhones and iPads ever! One that will be as personalized and comfortable and familiar as the front of your hand!

These new iPhones and iPads are so out of this world and spectacular that they are guaranteed to make you weep!

With this awe-inspring new innovation, Apple is melding human flesh and Apple's inspiring, uplifting, and wonderful design to create what might be considered to be the first, fully functional, integrated Android!! Wow!! Oh, crap...
post #38 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by tmhisey View Post

Let's bring the focus back to the products, with this exclusive breaking news:
The delays in bringing LiquidMetal into use are due to the amazing breakthroughs in science and design that Apple has had to make to create the most beautiful new iPhones and iPads! And incredibly, these will be even more insanely great than anything that Apple has ever done!
The LiquidMetal molding process has been miniaturized so that it can be installed at every single Apple Store!
And very soon, you will have the option to personalize your own iPhone or iPad with a gorgeous new case that is molded to the shape of your own hand!
Every Apple customer will want to be one of the first on the planet who is lucky enough to own the amazing new customized iPhone or iPad. And it can be made just for you in every Apple Store! And custom-crafted while you wait!
With the purchase of a new, next-generation iPhone or iPad, you will be able to have an advanced silicone-polymer mold made of your very own hand!
If that's not already enough to blow you away, this quick-set mold will be used to cast a LiquidMetal case that matches your every curve and contour!
And -- boom! -- it's that easy to make the most spectular iPhones and iPads ever! One that will be as personalized and comfortable and familiar as the front of your hand!
These new iPhones and iPads are so out of this world and spectacular that they are guaranteed to make you weep!
With this awe-inspring new innovation, Apple is melding human flesh and Apple's inspiring, uplifting, and wonderful design to create what might be considered to be the first, fully functional, integrated Android!! Wow!! Oh, crap...

 

You seem to be suffering from a really serious envy problem.

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post #39 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

I didn't realize that both Nokia and Samsung had already used LiquidMetal in their phones! I'd have to guess it was before they gave Apple an exclusive on it in 2010, altho there's other companies with a similar product aren't there? Wonder what Samsung's experience with it was and why they didn't use it more/still?
 

 

I guess it's still to difficult for Samsung to copy it yet!! lol.gif

post #40 of 73
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

I believe they recover nearly all of the metal shavings in the factory. You are the expert in manufacturing so I will defer to your superior knowledge, but if I were running the factory I would consider recovering all the metal that was removed from the billets. 

 

That's still considered waste. Why? It still costs money and energy to recycle the aluminum that wasn't used in the final component - and I'm guessing only a fraction of the material of the original billet is used.

Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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