Apple continues exploring Liquidmetal manufacturing methods

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited July 2014
Though Liquidmetal has yet to make a headline appearance in an Apple product, the company continues to explore new manufacturing methods for the amorphous alloy, most recently filing a divisional patent application for a new counter-gravity casting process.




Entitled "Counter-gravity casting of hollow shapes," the application -- filed in March of this year -- is a division of previously-issued patent 8,701,742 of the same name. A divisional patent is one that refines or "carves out" a new invention from a previous filing.

Counter-gravity casting is a manufacturing method that draws molten material into a mold using a vacuum, rather than being poured in. The method has a number of advantages over traditional poured casting, including increased yields and a simplified molding system.

According to Apple's filing, one of the most difficult parts of manufacturing Liquidmetal components is controlling the cooling rate to avoid crystallization of the material. Using counter-gravity casting, the company says, allows for more precise control of temperature as well as charge amount, viscosity, injection rate, and injection pressure.

Apple has also contemplated ways of spinning the mold during the manufacturing process to control the shell thickness of hollow parts, as well as a "fountain" approach to evenly distribute the material. The parts formed by these methods could have "various hollow shapes, enclosures, tubes, preforms, and other similar items."

As with most of Apple's Liquidmetal-related patents, the application is assigned to both Apple and Crucible Intellectual Property, Liquidmetal's specially-created subsidiary that handles Apple's license. The companies credit Theordore A. Waniuk, Joseph Stevick, Sean O'Keeffe, Dermot Stratton, Joseph Pools, Matthew Scott, and Christopher Prest with the invention of U.S. Patent Application No. 14/198,993.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 31
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member

    so many LM articles... which begs the question -- as a consumer, why do i care about alloys? why do i care if its Liquid Metal or Schmiquid Metal? i dont. i just want awesome products that deliver value to me for their job to be done. if that means they use LM, great. if that means they dont, also great. 

     

    personally, i think the media attention around LM on the rumor sites is mostly because of the name.

  • Reply 2 of 31
    shogunshogun Posts: 362member
    Folks should remember that Liquidmetal's parent company are locked on success whether or not Apple uses the material. They're prototyping for 15-20 companies right now, and several of those are highly engaged, expecting to use the material in large scale production by 2016.

    That said, clearly "smaller and thinner" will reach a limit for Apple for aluminum. Eventually they will need a more rigid material, and ideally one that doesn't require extensive machining. Lqmt does all of this, plus it works with existing injection-molding machines, plus it possible to merge lqmt and sapphire to create a waterproof seal.

    Induction charging should be all that's necessary to create a device that is waterproof, scratch proof, break proof, light, strong, and beautiful.
  • Reply 3 of 31
    blazarblazar Posts: 270member
    shogun wrote: »
    Folks should remember that Liquidmetal's parent company are locked on success whether or not Apple uses the material. They're prototyping for 15-20 companies right now, and several of those are highly engaged, expecting to use the material in large scale production by 2016.

    That said, clearly "smaller and thinner" will reach a limit for Apple for aluminum. Eventually they will need a more rigid material, and ideally one that doesn't require extensive machining. Lqmt does all of this, plus it works with existing injection-molding machines, plus it possible to merge lqmt and sapphire to create a waterproof seal.

    Induction charging should be all that's necessary to create a device that is waterproof, scratch proof, break proof, light, strong, and beautiful.

    Agreed wireless charging is a necessity for a properly waterproof device. The physical buttons you can even do away with depending on what other input methods you create.

    The fingerprint sensor on the iphone needs to be made waterproof also and likely a non-depressable surface.

    Scratchproof and waterproof would be nice attributes to have.
  • Reply 4 of 31
    drandalldrandall Posts: 13member

    @NolaMacGuy

     

    You should care, honestly.

     

    Liquidmetal is half the weight of aluminum and twice the strength of titanium. It's virtually scuff-proof and unlike aluminum which must be machined, liquidmetal can be cast into complex shapes with much greater ease. Apple has patented ways of directly joining hot liquidmetal with sapphire without the need for a gasket, raising the possibility of directly joining the screen to the frame, eliminating the need for side bezels.

     

    If they can master the tricky manufacturing involved, apple could make an edge-to-edge phone which is lighter, thinner, stronger and gets better reception. That's worth getting excited about.

  • Reply 5 of 31
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 2,564member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by NolaMacGuy View Post

     

    so many LM articles... which begs the question -- as a consumer, why do i care about alloys? why do i care if its Liquid Metal or Schmiquid Metal? i dont. i just want awesome products that deliver value to me for their job to be done. if that means they use LM, great. if that means they dont, also great.


     

    If you don't care... why'd you bother reading the article? Some of us are actually interested in this stuff and enjoy reading about it, particularly since it demonstrates that Apple is still interested in the material and that we may still see a product made from it.

  • Reply 6 of 31
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 20,305member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mjtomlin View Post

     
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by NolaMacGuy View Post

     

    so many LM articles... which begs the question -- as a consumer, why do i care about alloys? why do i care if its Liquid Metal or Schmiquid Metal? i dont. i just want awesome products that deliver value to me for their job to be done. if that means they use LM, great. if that means they dont, also great.


     

    If you don't care... why'd you bother reading the article? Some of us are actually interested in this stuff and enjoy reading about it, particularly since it demonstrates that Apple is still interested in the material and that we may still see a product made from it.


    Exactly.... and, some of us own LQMT stock as well.

     

    Moroever, if it all works out, one day, as promised/hoped for, Apple has an exclusivity lock on all consumer electronics applications of liquidmetal forever. That means the Samesungs of the world can't ever rip off the innovations here.

  • Reply 7 of 31
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by NolaMacGuy View Post

     

    ...  personally, i think the media attention around LM on the rumor sites is mostly because of the name.


     

    Also, nerdgasm because: Terminator 2  :-)

  • Reply 8 of 31
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Shogun View Post



     ...They're prototyping for 15-20 companies right now, and several of those are highly engaged, expecting to use the material in large scale production by 2016. ...

     

    I find this hard to believe, because Apple has the world-wide exclusive on small mobile device applications, and the material is so expensive and hard to handle, that large scale uses are almost nonexistent and prohibitively expensive. 

  • Reply 9 of 31
    hngfrhngfr Posts: 72member
    as stated this patent was

    %u2014 filed in March of this year %u2014

    just wondering why wait several months before writing an article about it?
  • Reply 10 of 31
    imemberimember Posts: 247member
    Deleted
  • Reply 11 of 31
    wigbywigby Posts: 692member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by NolaMacGuy View Post

     

    so many LM articles... which begs the question -- as a consumer, why do i care about alloys? why do i care if its Liquid Metal or Schmiquid Metal? i dont. i just want awesome products that deliver value to me for their job to be done. if that means they use LM, great. if that means they dont, also great. 

     

    personally, i think the media attention around LM on the rumor sites is mostly because of the name.


    The answer to your question lies in your first statement. Since the company (Apple) that has an exclusivity lock on this technology also happens to be the company that keeps all product developments secret, you end up with a vacuum of postulating and rumors. The only hard facts about liquid metal that we have are its possible uses. Until Apple reveals a real liquid metal product, we will get nothing of substance. 

     

    I still contend that they will never release a real shipping liquid metal product. I think they only want to use it internally for fast and flexible prototyping of metal alloy products.

  • Reply 12 of 31
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    nolamacguy wrote: »
    so many LM articles... which begs the question -- as a consumer, why do i care about alloys?
    Why do consumers care about the processor, RAM or type of cell phone support? Some people find such things interesting if you don't then why did you read the article. Back in the day when newspapers where popular did you read every single article in the paper? Most people didn't back then, it would be wasting your time.
    why do i care if its Liquid Metal or Schmiquid Metal? i dont.
    That may be fine for you but the rest of us can do without our whining.
    i just want awesome products that deliver value to me for their job to be done. if that means they use LM, great. if that means they dont, also great. 

    personally, i think the media attention around LM on the rumor sites is mostly because of the name.

    it is new technology just like A7 was and A8 will be. In some ways it is eqsierechnology to understand for people. As for the name, if that is in fact true, something i doubt, then a good name was choosen for the product.

    Your lack of interest here is actually rather pathetic and reflects a growing segment of society that maintains itself in a woefully ignorant state. Some people are just far too willing to be lead around like a duct leads her chicks.
  • Reply 13 of 31
    bushman4bushman4 Posts: 842member
    LM is A long ways from being a part of your cellphone. While it has many advantages As an alloy, it's not cost effective at this stage of the game nor has it been tamed to create what Apple or crucible wants. It's out there but will it ever become reality remains to be seen
  • Reply 14 of 31
    macjellomacjello Posts: 38member
    Quote:


     LM is A long ways from being a part of your cellphone. While it has many advantages As an alloy, it's not cost effective at this stage of the game nor has it been tamed to create what Apple or crucible wants.


     

    Can you explain why you believe this? Apple's patents suggest that there has been lots of progress in the last few years, and while it's not cheap, Apple's current processes aren't cheap either. 

  • Reply 15 of 31
    macjellomacjello Posts: 38member

    Apologies for repeating myself, but the first time I posted the links below they were buried on the second page of comments, and I doubt they got noticed. I believe they contain some of the most exciting info and speculation one will find about Apple and/or Liquidmetal, not to mention sapphire. These links originally appeared back in March in the comment section of an article on Seeking Alpha. I'm astonished that more people haven't taken note. I'm reposting because it seems to me that this is exactly the sort of thing many people come here to read.

     

    http://bit.ly/1e5GRpF

    http://bit.ly/1gHQU68

    http://bit.ly/1hjNP9B

     

    The author of these posts points out that Apple's own patents make the case that amorphous metals offer many benefits above and beyond durability and weight. These even include cost savings with respect to assembly.  

     

    One of the most interesting ideas is noted in the third post: Liquidmetal announced in late 2013 that it had partnered with Engel, the company that makes the injection molding equipment used for the iPhone 5c. Apparently the very same equipment can be retrofitted to use Liquidmetal. Can this really be a coincidence?  

     

    Given Jony Ive's recent comment about new materials in products this fall, it's hard not to believe that we're going to see some use of amorphous metal. What else would he be referring to, just sapphire?  

     

    Perhaps it's a bit too soon to see a full amorphous metal/sapphire phone, but could there be a better combination for a watch?

  • Reply 16 of 31
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Shogun View Post



    it possible to merge lqmt and sapphire to create a waterproof seal.



    Induction charging should be all that's necessary to create a device that is waterproof, scratch proof, break proof, light, strong, and beautiful.

     

    where is it defined that LM + sapphire = waterproof? 

     

    also, im not sure induction charging is required for waterproofing (keep in mind you still need a headphone jack of some sort). there are third-party sealant companies that sell materials to coat the inside of iphone connectors to make them waterproof. tons of videos online.

     

    nothings going to be break proof, either -- sapphire shatters, and thin metals bend or snap. just physics. 

  • Reply 17 of 31
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by drandall View Post

     

    @NolaMacGuy

     

    You should care, honestly.

     

    Liquidmetal is half the weight of aluminum and twice the strength of titanium. It's virtually scuff-proof and unlike aluminum which must be machined, liquidmetal can be cast into complex shapes with much greater ease. Apple has patented ways of directly joining hot liquidmetal with sapphire without the need for a gasket, raising the possibility of directly joining the screen to the frame, eliminating the need for side bezels.

     

    If they can master the tricky manufacturing involved, apple could make an edge-to-edge phone which is lighter, thinner, stronger and gets better reception. That's worth getting excited about.


     

    all the things you mentioned that i should care about (light, strong, etc) are features, not materials. i like features. if it uses LM to do this, great. if it uses something else, thats great too. but the fact that they arent using LM today, 7 years after the SIM card ejection tool, should tell you something. maybe LM as a material isnt the magic bullet some are suggesting it is.



    i get excited about features.

  • Reply 18 of 31
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post



    Your lack of interest here is actually rather pathetic and reflects a growing segment of society that maintains itself in a woefully ignorant state. Some people are just far too willing to be lead around like a duct leads her chicks.

     

    hahahah, youre hilarious. so glad you can deduce all of that from my pointing out that its *features* that matter, not whether or not apple "hurries up and uses Liquid Metal, already!" such statements miss the point of apple -- they dont build products around specs, they build products around features. this is why Ives has no problem using plastic, despite how many fanboys got their panties in a bunch over the perceived "cheapness" of the material.

     

    thats my point, and you missed it. features, not materials.

     

    ill just continue my life as a pathetic, woefully ignorant software developer reading tech articles every day for years on end, being lead around like a....wait, what? a DUCT?

  • Reply 19 of 31
    richard getzrichard getz Posts: 1,142member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by MacJello View Post

     

    Apologies for repeating myself, but the first time I posted the links below they were buried on the second page of comments, and I doubt they got noticed. I believe they contain some of the most exciting info and speculation one will find about Apple and/or Liquidmetal, not to mention sapphire. These links originally appeared back in March in the comment section of an article on Seeking Alpha. I'm astonished that more people haven't taken note. I'm reposting because it seems to me that this is exactly the sort of thing many people come here to read.

     

    http://bit.ly/1e5GRpF

    http://bit.ly/1gHQU68

    http://bit.ly/1hjNP9B

     

    The author of these posts points out that Apple's own patents make the case that amorphous metals offer many benefits above and beyond durability and weight. These even include cost savings with respect to assembly.  

     

    One of the most interesting ideas is noted in the third post: Liquidmetal announced in late 2013 that it had partnered with Engel, the company that makes the injection molding equipment used for the iPhone 5c. Apparently the very same equipment can be retrofitted to use Liquidmetal. Can this really be a coincidence?  

     

    Given Jony Ive's recent comment about new materials in products this fall, it's hard not to believe that we're going to see some use of amorphous metal. What else would he be referring to, just sapphire?  

     

    Perhaps it's a bit too soon to see a full amorphous metal/sapphire phone, but could there be a better combination for a watch?


     

    Awesome reads- Thanks!! 

     

    The second link explains how we can have an infinity screen and not worry about unwittingly touching objects. 

     

    If Apple simplifies the manufacturing process as greatly as detailed in article 1, I see little reason why they can't bring the entire assembly process to the U.S. 

  • Reply 20 of 31
    ceek74ceek74 Posts: 324member
    Adamantium.
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