Liquidmetal inventor says Apple is years away from using alloy

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 75
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,003member
    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?
  • Reply 2 of 75
    skyzlmtskyzlmt Posts: 46member


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

     

  • Reply 3 of 75
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,030member


    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?

     

  • Reply 4 of 75
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    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.

  • Reply 5 of 75
    gtrgtr Posts: 3,231member
    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?
  • Reply 6 of 75
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member

    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. 

  • Reply 7 of 75
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    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.

  • Reply 8 of 75
    gtrgtr Posts: 3,231member
    gatorguy wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 9 of 75
    gadgetcanadagadgetcanada Posts: 423member


    This guy is lucky Steve isn't around to tell him what a Bozo he is. Apple (at least when Steve was there) pushes people beyond what they think they are capable of to get things done. I'll bet Steve would say, you have 3 months to be up to full production of a liquid metal iPhone case and somehow it would get done. Instead of tinkering with it in labs for 10 years, build something!!

  • Reply 10 of 75
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member

    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.

  • Reply 11 of 75
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,003member


    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.

  • Reply 12 of 75
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,003member

    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.

  • Reply 13 of 75
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,003member

    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 :)

  • Reply 14 of 75
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    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.

  • Reply 15 of 75
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    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.

  • Reply 16 of 75
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member


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

  • Reply 17 of 75
    iansilviansilv Posts: 283member
    I think this video is a pretty spectacular demo of one of the properties of liquid metal:

  • Reply 18 of 75
    macinthe408macinthe408 Posts: 1,050member


    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. 

  • Reply 19 of 75
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    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.  image

  • Reply 20 of 75
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member

    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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