Jul.21, 2013

Not long ago, researchers from North Carolina State University have developed 3D printing technology and techniques to create free-standing structures made of liquid metal. Now Apple is looking to introduce 3D printed liquid metals to its mobile products, with the help of company Liquidmetal Technologies with its patented fabrication process.

Revealed through an SEC filing in August 2010, an agreement between Apple and the Orange County company, Liquidmetal Technologies, gave Apple exclusive rights to develop and sell Liquidmetal's eponymous material in the consumer market. Meanwhile Liquidmetal can license and sell the technology to other industries. So far, this technology has been used by Omega, Vertu and a USB flash drive by SanDisk. And Apple has used the material in a tiny tool on iPhone for removing SIM card.

According to electronista, a patent awarded to Crucible Intellectual Property, a joint venture between the two companies, indicates they may use a portion of method to generate large quantities of Liquidmetal which will be used in future iOS and other devices.

The material is a group of alloys that have an atomic structure more similar to glass, but more superior in strength, hardness and elasticity as well as resistance to corrosion and wear. For Apple this means thinner, lighter, stronger parts. So Apple may be apply this material in its next line of iPhone and iPad, which could be lighter or have more room for other components.

The newly issued patent for a "Bulk amorphous alloy sheet forming process" was awarded on July 16. The patent covers a process for creating a sheet of Liquidmetal by pouring molten alloy on top of a denser molten metal so that the first pools on top of the other, and then cools.

"The patent claims that a plant utilizing the new method which operates non-stop for up to 15 years can make about 6,000 kilometers of Liquidmetal a year in thicknesses of between 0.1mm and 25mm in widths of up to three meters. The technique described is broadly similar to the "float glass" process used for making window panes." writes electronista.

But Liquidmetal Technologies guessed it would still take a few ways before Apple could use it at the required scale.

Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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Arkalogik wrote at 5/28/2014 4:09:14 PM:

Imagine creating a giant sphere in which a person could be inside while wearing a virtual reality oculus rift helmet surrounded by this material that could actually create the illusion of movement, texture, solid or liquid and adapt instantly to ones surroundings. As the person would walk, run or jump the ball would rotate in that direction creating an instant holodeck type reality.

Jelle wrote at 7/21/2013 2:20:34 PM:

ehm, no, the two are not related, except in the oddly chosen trademark/name of one. the former 3D printer tech used real liquid metal , so the name is appropriate. The second, used the trademark liquidmetal to name their product, which is bulk bulk amorfous metal alloy. That is 'just' a type of metal with superior properties. Being liquid is not one of them though.

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