Apple awarded new Liquidmetal patent

Apple awarded new Liquidmetal patent

Summary: A new patent awarded to Apple could pave the way for a whole host of devices -- iPhones, iPads, iPods, iWatches -- made from the high-tech, super-touch amorphous metal alloy.

(Source: Liquidmetal Technologies)

Interest in the high-tech, super-touch amorphous metal alloy called Liquidmetal spiked back in August of 2010 when Apple gained an exclusive licensed to the product. Was this going to herald in a new era of Liquidmetal iPhones, iPads, Macs, and iPods?

Well, short of making the SIM eject tool for the iPhone out of this wonder material, Apple has done nothing with Liquidmetal. Part of the problem with Liquidmetal is making it in significant enough volumes for mass market devices.

See also: What is Liquidmetal used for?

But this could change.

United States patent 8485245, titled "Bulk amorphous alloy sheet forming processes," which was awarded to Apple on July 16, outlines a process that could operate non-stop for 10 to 15 years and output 6000 kilometers of Liquidmetal a year in thicknesses between 0.1 to 25 millimeters and widths up to 3 meters. The process outlined to output Liquidmetal is similar to the "float glass" process used for making window glass.

This, according to the patent, could "be valuable in the fabrication of electronic devices" such as iPhones, iPads, iPods, laptops, and even "a device such as a watch or a clock".

(Source: Apple)

I've come into contact with Liquidmetal in the past, as part of the casing for a super-strong Sandisk Cruzer Titanium USB flash drive. The casing of this drive took an insane amount of punishment and survived. I stamped on it, ran my office chair over it, drove over it, threw bricks at it, hit it with a baseball bat and it just wouldn't break. In fact, I could barely put a scratch in it.

There's no doubt in my mind that Liquidmetal is tough stuff. Now that it seems that Apple has cracked the problem of making it in large volumes, we could see some interesting things done with it. 

Topic: Apple

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  • Playing with Mercury all day at apple

    No wonder they haven't came up with anything good in 3 or 4 years.
    • Please

      Q: Name another tech company that re-invented a product, defined the market and sold 10s upon 10s of million of devices?

      A: No one.

      The Apple boys have done that 3 times now. What is your point?
      • They have had nothing newi n 3-4 years was the point

        idk how u missed it

        If they were smart they get on the next big thing and push Skype Number/Google talk phones sold with just data plans. Of course lazily slap and I in front and call it iTalk or whatever.

        People would snap them up as not having to waste an extra $50-$60 a month for the outdated/obsolete cell talk and text plans. Basically just an ipod touch with LTE.
      • Ummm, that's a really stupid question

        GE has done it far more than 3 times.

        Microsoft has done it more than 3 times.

        IBM has done it more than 3 times.

        Rubbermaid has done it more than 3 times.

        Heck, you could include Pampered Chef in the mix if you wanted to.

        Apple did it with a music player, a phone and a tablet. They've made some great devices. But they are coasting on past success now. I have seen nothing since Jobs passed to make me think they're going to do anything more than that in the near future.
      • Please

        name any company where so few of their fans have any sense of humour at all.....
        Little Old Man
        • Sadly...

          Linux (community)
        • :-))

          Microsoft. It's enough to look at Toddy. :-)
          Maria Davidenko
    • Judging?

      Apple is a place of employment and they sell devices that make money. If they invest in manufacturing materials that don't yield value for customers, this would be a money losing investment and a patent that doesn't go anywhere for them. No need to hate on that. It is called capitalism.
  • Just more Lawyer Fodder

    Robert Patrict (T-1000, Terminator 2) not impressed
  • Apple a defense contractor?

    How does it compare weightwise with titanium and steel? Sounds like a good product for high-stress products like fighter jets and high-caliber armor-piercing ammunition.
    • Liquidmetal is a process, not an alloy

      The Liquidmetal process can be used with different alloys, so the weight is determined by which metals are used, although I am not sure exactly which metals and alloys are compatible with the process. The key point in the process is that you take molten metal at high temperature and pressure and flash-chill it into an "amorphous glass" (solid with no crystal structure).

      When you have no crystal structure, you have no cleavage planes (no weakness or pre-disposition to fracture in any particular direction) and no harmonic resonances (does not "ring" or store internal vibrations--it is odd to hear a Liquidmetal bell go "clack" instead of "bing"). These properties make objects made of Liquidmetal stronger and more durable than an identical object made of normal crystaline alloys of the same metal.

      I recall there was interest in making aerospace components out of Liquidmetal because of the high stresses and tight weight requirements. The problem was producing Liquidmetal components of any significant volume, given the difficulty of rapidly and uniformly chilling the metal before crystals could form. One of the first financially viable products were golf-club heads since they were relatively small, the market was willing to shell out big bucks, and it could make a club deliver more energy to the ball because it would not absorb energy from the impact by way of vibration.

      What is notable about Apple's process is that they are making sheets of Liquidmetal. It seems a lot easier to flash-chill a thin sheet than rapidly cool an ingot or cast part of any significant volume. If all you want is super-durable sheet metal for forming a phone, tablet, or laptop case, then maybe this is exactly what you need. Sheet metal typically fails by tearing, which would be far more difficult with Liquidmetal.
  • Terminator 2

    Sorry, I don't see how Apple got this patent, after watching Terminator 2 many a year ago.

    Prior-art, IMHO.
    • Somebody else HAS the patent for Liquid Metal

      Apple is patenting a process to make it in bulk. A big difference.
  • Sorry Apple, this patent isn't a big deal

    More typical Apple B.S. Apple hasn't invented anything here. Metal alloys have been in use for thousands of years. And float-forming technology has been around since 1950 - it's how ALL glass panes are made today. There are already better ways to produce higher quality metal alloys, like cold rolling and forging. Sorry, this just isn't new or even interesting.
    • It's not the "Liquid Metal" they're patenting

      What they're patenting is the process used in making it. That IS patentable and doesn't run off of any "prior art".
    • Re: Metal alloys have been in use for thousands of years.

      Good. Could you handily remind us how LiquidMetal alloys are made for thousands of years. For such period of time, all patents would have expired and everyone around would be making LiquidMetal alloys.

      Where are these?
  • vapor magnesium

    that sounds so much cooler than liquid metal, liquid metal is so 20th century
    • Re: that sounds so much cooler than liquid metal

      Might be. Good for those who "hear" it properly.

      Yet, LiquidMetal has qualities that no magnesium alloy has. Therefore, doesn't matter how cooler the vapor magnesium SOUNDS to you, if it doesn't match what LiquidMetal can do.
  • This could be a preventative measure...

    just in case a competitor claims Apple is infringing on a design, Apple can then say
    "We didn't design any solid form, the customer is holding it wrong, and it took the
    shape of 'insert competitor here'!" Hehehe...Wednesday humor gang!
  • Golf

    Call me back when I can hit an Apple golf ball with my Liquidmetal driver.