Apple exploring new ways of melting and feeding Liquidmetal for manufacturing

Posted:
in General Discussion edited September 2014
Apple is still working to perfect methods of manufacturing Liquidmetal parts, according to a new patent application published Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, with the company moving on to processes for melting the unique metal alloy and feeding it to casting and processing equipment.




The application, entitled "Methods of melting and introducing amorphous alloy feedstock for casting and processing," shows a number of ways in which amorphous alloys like Liquidmetal can be melted and injected into manufacturing equipment. It was filed in May of this year.

Apple's methods simplify the containment and pouring system necessary to transfer molten alloys. One method adds an additional "branch" to a tradition cold chamber, which contains the metal using water-cooled "fingers" containing a non-wetting surface -- surface tension prevents the metal from moving until the fingers are retracted.

A second method uses a system not unlike a traditional hot glue gun, holding a solid piece of feedstock in place by a constriction in the feed tube. The feedstock is melted at the constriction point, then flows into the cold sleeve.

Apple says that parts formed with these methods have nearly endless application in consumer electronics, from internal parts with dimensions measured in millimeters to full outer casings. The applicaiton specifically mentions mobile phones, portable music players, streaming devices, laptop and desktop computers, and watches.

Though Apple's latest iPhone 6 models and the Apple Watch are not known to contain Liquidmetal parts --?the iPhone 6 features an outer case made of aluminum, while the Apple Watch is available in stainless steel, aluminum, and 18-karat gold --?it is possible that some internal components have been fabricated from the material.

Apple credits Theodore A. Waniuk, Joseph Stevick, Sean O'Keeffe, Dermot J. Stratton, Joseph C. Poole, Matthew S. Scott, and Christopher D. Prest with the invention of U.S. Patent Application No. 0140251568. As usual, the application is assigned jointly to Apple and Crucible Intellectual Property, a subsidiary of Liquidmetal's parent company that exclusively handles Apple's license.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 66
    hydrhydr Posts: 146member

    I´m sure Apple have perfected Liquidmetal production a long time ago.

    But why not milk the market with aluminium products for a while longer? I bet we´ll see at least 5-6 product cycles with the same old before they feel pressured enough to start pushing new materials.

     

    It´s all about making it better than the competition. No need to push too far ahead when you can incrementally improve your products.

  • Reply 2 of 66
    roakeroake Posts: 624member
    Liquidmetal Sapphire iPhone 6S (the "S" is for Sapphire)
  • Reply 3 of 66
    As I've said all along, Sapphire in the 6S and Liquidmetal in the 7.

    That said, I was totally wrong about liquidmetal in the ?Watch. I would have sworn it was going to be there in Version 1. Then again, I thought the watch would be about 1/3 the thickness of the one they introduced, so I was wrong on both accounts.

    Considering the iPhone 7 will be coming out in two years (note how the 7 is an upside down "L" btw), I have to think that ?Watch 3 will probably be much slimmer than now and possibly also contain a lqmt body, at least in one iteration.

    Unfortunately for us investors in LQMT that means another LOOONG two more years before the stock jumps. Expecting it to trade in the .16 to .30 range for the whole time...
  • Reply 4 of 66

    Looking at Liquidmetal's financials, it looks like Swatch has exclusive rights to use Liquidmetal in watches, just like Apple's agreement for exclusive rights in electronic devices.  

  • Reply 5 of 66
    i think apple is already using liquidmetal alloys in its watch,

    the 'series 7000 aluminium alloy' is 60% stronger and 'very light'.
    the 'custom gold alloy' is 2 times harder than standard 18kt alloys.
    the 'custom stainless steel 316L alloy' is 40% harder than 316L stainless alloys.

    apple also uses terms 'cold forged' and ' tempered' too describe its custom stainless alloy, you can also use those words to describe BMG or amorphous alloys.

    all those terms sounds like different liquidmetal alloys to me, most likely they are all injection moulded, same mould just different alloys cold forged with the above patent.
  • Reply 6 of 66
    Here we go again. Same rumor, different day.
  • Reply 7 of 66
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hydr View Post

    But why not milk the market with aluminium products for a while longer? ... No need to push too far ahead when you can incrementally improve your products.

    Repulsive philosophy.

    Same thinking that says you should hunt a species to extinction before finding new prey.

    Same thinking says use up all the petro-energy of the planet before using alternatives.

    Same thinking says overpopulate the world until resources are scarce, before considering birth control.

    Same thinking says just use another year of continuing resolution to fund the government instead of developing a rational budget.

  • Reply 8 of 66
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,485member
    hydr wrote: »
    I´m sure Apple have perfected Liquidmetal production a long time ago.
    But why not milk the market with aluminium products for a while longer? I bet we´ll see at least 5-6 product cycles with the same old before they feel pressured enough to start pushing new materials.

    It´s all about making it better than the competition. No need to push too far ahead when you can incrementally improve your products.

    I doubt if they have. It's difficult producing these alloys. Several years ago the inventor himself gave an interview where he said it would take years before Apple could produce large scale products with this. Posters here poo pooed what he said, and said it wasn't true. But it was. And apparently still is.
  • Reply 9 of 66
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,485member
    shogun wrote: »
    As I've said all along, Sapphire in the 6S and Liquidmetal in the 7.

    That said, I was totally wrong about liquidmetal in the ?Watch. I would have sworn it was going to be there in Version 1. Then again, I thought the watch would be about 1/3 the thickness of the one they introduced, so I was wrong on both accounts.

    Considering the iPhone 7 will be coming out in two years (note how the 7 is an upside down "L" btw), I have to think that ?Watch 3 will probably be much slimmer than now and possibly also contain a lqmt body, at least in one iteration.

    Unfortunately for us investors in LQMT that means another LOOONG two more years before the stock jumps. Expecting it to trade in the .16 to .30 range for the whole time...

    Well, look again at the shape being cast in the drawings. Looks like the end of the watch. Could be. I would suspect that before Apple is willing to use a very expensive alloy with high production costs for their phones, they would use this for the much smaller, and simpler, case for the watch, where they could charge more for the unique material. Possibly pricing it between the stainless model and the gold model.

    That would make some sense, as people would be more willing to pay for a case material in a watch, which is a jewelry statement as well as anything else, than for a phone. I don't see people paying $100 more for a Liquidmetal phone shell. People keep watches longer, even smart watches, than they do phones.
  • Reply 10 of 66
    hngfr wrote: »
    i think apple is already using liquidmetal alloys in its watch,

    the 'series 7000 aluminium alloy' is 60% stronger and 'very light'.
    the 'custom gold alloy' is 2 times harder than standard 18kt alloys.
    the 'custom stainless steel 316L alloy' is 40% harder than 316L stainless alloys.

    apple also uses terms 'cold forged' and ' tempered' too describe its custom stainless alloy, you can also use those words to describe BMG or amorphous alloys.

    all those terms sounds like different liquidmetal alloys to me, most likely they are all injection moulded, same mould just different alloys cold forged with the above patent.

    Interesting. I was thinking the same thing when they mentioned the improved strength but I don't know about metallurgy to create that hypothesis.
  • Reply 11 of 66
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Shogun View Post



    As I've said all along, Sapphire in the 6S and Liquidmetal in the 7.



    That said, I was totally wrong about liquidmetal in the ?Watch. I would have sworn it was going to be there in Version 1. Then again, I thought the watch would be about 1/3 the thickness of the one they introduced, so I was wrong on both accounts.



    Considering the iPhone 7 will be coming out in two years (note how the 7 is an upside down "L" btw), I have to think that ?Watch 3 will probably be much slimmer than now and possibly also contain a lqmt body, at least in one iteration.



    Unfortunately for us investors in LQMT that means another LOOONG two more years before the stock jumps. Expecting it to trade in the .16 to .30 range for the whole time...

     

    Just like you, I believed in liquidmetal for the Apple Watch. Much for the same reasons, I didn't think that Apple would release a smartwatch this thick and liquidmetal looked to be the solution to make it thinner. I also didn't expect it to be that advanced, which in my view offsets the thickness problem. Liquidmetal could also have helped Apple mass produce many different shapes for the watch body itself as those can be molded/stamped instead of requiring custom machines for each model.

     

    One problem is, Swatch has a perpetual exclusivity agreement for use of liquidmetal on watches, while Apple has exclusivity for use in consumer electronics. I thought Apple could've get away with not calling it a watch, but since it's called the "Apple watch" they can't do that now.

     

    It'll be interesting to see if the shiny Apple logo on the iPhone 6 is indeed made of liquidmetal, as every leak (except the scratchable one from nowhereelse.fr) show it to be made of a weird molded metal material. 

     

    Apple has a lot of patents on about production and use of liquidmetal, many are shared with Crucible Intellectual Property LLC, which is a patent holding company set up for their agreement with LQMT. It's kind of obvious that Apple has big plans for it, beyond the SIM ejector and Apple logo.

  • Reply 12 of 66
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by hngfr View Post



    i think apple is already using liquidmetal alloys in its watch,



    the 'series 7000 aluminium alloy' is 60% stronger and 'very light'.

    the 'custom gold alloy' is 2 times harder than standard 18kt alloys.

    the 'custom stainless steel 316L alloy' is 40% harder than 316L stainless alloys.



    apple also uses terms 'cold forged' and ' tempered' too describe its custom stainless alloy, you can also use those words to describe BMG or amorphous alloys.



    all those terms sounds like different liquidmetal alloys to me, most likely they are all injection moulded, same mould just different alloys cold forged with the above patent.



    You want there to be liquid metal so you see liquid metal where there clearly isn't any.

  • Reply 13 of 66
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,485member
    hngfr wrote: »
    i think apple is already using liquidmetal alloys in its watch,

    the 'series 7000 aluminium alloy' is 60% stronger and 'very light'.
    the 'custom gold alloy' is 2 times harder than standard 18kt alloys.
    the 'custom stainless steel 316L alloy' is 40% harder than 316L stainless alloys.

    apple also uses terms 'cold forged' and ' tempered' too describe its custom stainless alloy, you can also use those words to describe BMG or amorphous alloys.

    all those terms sounds like different liquidmetal alloys to me, most likely they are all injection moulded, same mould just different alloys cold forged with the above patent.

    Doesn't sound like it. If they were, Shiller would have made a big deal of it, as would the video with Ive.

    You can't use those terms with Liquidmetal, as it isn't tempered. It comes out hard from the casting.

    It makes no sense. The aluminum watch is the cheapest, and weighs the least. The SS model costs more, and weighs more. The gold will cost a lot more, and weigh the most. I can't even imagine where you are coming up with this.

    Apple is known to work on its own versions of alloys. The had their own SS alloy for the iPhone 4 and 4S. This is no different. There are ways of strengthening standard alloys with either heat or pressure, or bombardment, there is no need to fly off a cliff coming out with odd statements about Liquidmetal.
  • Reply 14 of 66
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,485member
    vl-tone wrote: »
    Just like you, I believed in liquidmetal for the Apple Watch. Much for the same reasons, I didn't think that Apple would release a smartwatch this thick and liquidmetal looked to be the solution to make it thinner. I also didn't expect it to be that advanced, which in my view offsets the thickness problem. Liquidmetal could also have helped Apple mass produce many different shapes for the watch body itself as those can be molded/stamped instead of requiring custom machines for each model.

    One problem is, Swatch has a perpetual exclusivity agreement for use of liquidmetal on watches, while Apple has exclusivity for use in consumer electronics. I thought Apple could've get away with not calling it a watch, but since it's called the "Apple watch" they can't do that now.

    It'll be interesting to see if the shiny Apple logo on the iPhone 6 is indeed made of liquidmetal, as every leak (except the scratchable one from nowhereelse.fr) show it to be made of a weird molded metal material. 

    Apple has a lot of patents on about production and use of liquidmetal, many are shared with Crucible Intellectual Property LLC, which is a patent holding company set up for their agreement with LQMT. It's kind of obvious that Apple has big plans for it, beyond the SIM ejector and Apple logo.

    Apple can use this for a watch.
  • Reply 15 of 66
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by VL-Tone View Post

     

     

    It'll be interesting to see if the shiny Apple logo on the iPhone 6 is indeed made of liquidmetal, as every leak (except the scratchable one from nowhereelse.fr) show it to be made of a weird molded metal material. 


     

    I thought I read that in the end it was stainless steel, not LM.

  • Reply 16 of 66

    If Liquid Metal were used in any of the new products, wouldn't there at least be a press release from the company?  It would be a very big deal for a small company, so I imagine that as soon as the product is unveiled they would take credit.

     

    My guess is that there is no use of LM yet in Apple products, but I'm still hopeful for something in the future.

  • Reply 17 of 66

    Originally Posted by hydr View Post

     

    I´m sure Apple have perfected Liquidmetal production a long time ago.

    But why not milk the market with aluminium products for a while longer? I bet we´ll see at least 5-6 product cycles with the same old before they feel pressured enough to start pushing new materials.

     

    It´s all about making it better than the competition. No need to push too far ahead when you can incrementally improve your products.


     

    Agree.  If you're leading a race, you only need go as fast as necessary to win.

    You don't need to go as fast as possible.  Leave that to everyone else trying to catch up.

     

    But no, I don't expect Apple to wait 5 or 6 more years to use Liquidmetal.

    Not if there is time and/or money to be saved by using it in the manufacturing process.

    Quickly injection-molding Liquidmetal could be much faster than grinding out a solid aluminum billet.

    And time is money on the assembly line.

     

    Also, because Liquidmetal doesn't need to be melted to a liquid state to be molded, there

    might be an energy saving during initial molding and on recycling.  

    That could lower production cost too.  Not sure.

  • Reply 18 of 66
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by melgross View Post





    Apple can use this for a watch.

     

    What about the Swatch exclusivity agreement?

     

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Carson O'Genic View Post

     

     

    I thought I read that in the end it was stainless steel, not LM.


     

    The only "proof" of that comes from that single part that the guy from nowhereelse.fr got.

     

    And the material shown seems to have very different characteristics than previously leaked logos, including many that were shown integrated to the leaked back shells. The nowhereelse part also have two holes that were not present in other leaks, and there didn't seem to have any mounts for these holes in the leaked shells. Maybe Apple ran into liquidmetal production issues and switched to stainless steel at the last minute, or maybe it was just a "plan B" part that they didn't end up using.

     

    I guess we'll have to wait for the teardowns to really know.

  • Reply 19 of 66
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,485member
    sockrolid wrote: »
    Agree.  If you're leading a race, you only need go as fast as necessary to win.
    You don't need to go as fast as possible.  Leave that to everyone else trying to catch up.

    But no, I don't expect Apple to wait 5 or 6 more years to use Liquidmetal.
    Not if there is time and/or money to be saved by using it in the manufacturing process.
    Quickly injection-molding Liquidmetal could be much faster than grinding out a solid aluminum billet.
    And time is money on the assembly line.

    Also, because Liquidmetal doesn't need to be melted to a liquid state to be molded, there
    might be an energy saving during initial molding and on recycling.  
    That could lower production cost too.  Not sure.
    Even the cheapest Liquidmetal alloys are very expensive. Much more so than aluminum or stainless steel. Producing products from them is also expensive. They don't grind out aluminum parts, they CNC machine them, polish them, and anodize them, or otherwise coat them. Those costs seem to be less than producing parts from Liquidmetal.

    Liquidmetal is liquid when injected into the mold, or at least in a high plastic state. It then must be cooled down very rapidly (a tiny fraction of a second), or it crystallizes. Depending on the quality of the mold, it might not have to be polished. But it might still need machining, which is difficult on these alloys.
  • Reply 20 of 66
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,485member
    vl-tone wrote: »
    What about the Swatch exclusivity agreement?


    The only "proof" of that comes from that single part that the guy from nowhereelse.fr got.

    And the material shown seems to have very different characteristics than previously leaked logos, including many that were shown integrated to the leaked back shells. The nowhereelse part also have two holes that were not present in other leaks, and there didn't seem to have any mounts for these holes in the leaked shells. Maybe Apple ran into liquidmetal production issues and switched to stainless steel at the last minute, or maybe it was just a "plan B" part that they didn't end up using.

    I guess we'll have to wait for the teardowns to really know.

    I would have to see it, not read some nebulous statement about it from someone I don't know. But Apple's agreement, which we've seen here some time ago gives Apple exclusive license to use this for just about any consumer device they want to use it for. An electronic, computerized watch fits right into that. Perhaps Swatch, if they really do have some agreement and license in place, can use this for a mechanical watch, which could be an entirely different category. But I would still need to see the license agreement. I've never heard of it.
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