Nov.21, 2013

The US Patent & Trademark Office published today a new series of five Liquidmetal patent applications from Apple which were originally filed in Q2 2012.

Two of Apple's inventions are related to 3D printing. They are methods of construction a part with build metallic glasses (BMG - Liquidmetal) layer by layer.

In one embodiment, a layer of BMG powder is deposited to selected positions and then fused to a layer below by suitable methods such as laser heating or electron beam heating. The deposition and fusing are then repeated as need to construct the part layer by layer. One or more layers of non-BMG can be used as needed. In one embodiment, layers of BMG can be cut from one or more sheets of BMG to desired shapes, stacked and fused to form the part.

Another method is to selectively deposite molten bulk metallic glass (BMG). In one embodiment, a continuous stream or discrete droplets of molten BMG is deposited to selected positions. The deposition can be repeated as needed layer by layer. One or more layers of non-BMG can be used as needed.

The patent can be used for producing poducts such as smart phone like iPhone, TV monitor, electronic-book reader, an iPad, and a computer monitor. It can also be used to make DVD player, video game console, music player, such as a portable music player (e.g., iPod), etc. It can be a part of a remote control for an electronic device, or a part of a computer or its accessories, such as the hard drive tower housing or casing, laptop housing, laptop keyboard, laptop track pad, desktop keyboard, mouse, and speaker.

According to Apple,

3D printing may be used to produce parts directly from computer-generated design data. 3D printing uses layering techniques to build three-dimensional parts. Such parts may be formed by forming successive thin cross-sections of the desired part. The individual cross-sections are formed by bonding together adjacent grains of a granular material on a generally planar surface of a bed of the granular material. Each layer is bonded to a previously formed layer to form the desired three-dimensional article at the same time as the grains of each layer are bonded together. 3D printing can be quicker and less expensive than machining of prototype parts or production of cast or molded parts by conventional "hard" or "soft" tooling techniques, that can take from a few weeks to several months, depending on the complexity of the part.


3D printing may be useful in design-related fields for visualization, demonstration, and mechanical prototyping. It may also be useful for making patterns for molding processes. 3D printing techniques may be further useful, for example, in the fields of medicine and dentistry, where expected outcomes may be modeled prior to performing procedures. Other fields that may benefit from rapid prototyping technology include architectural designing, as well as others in which visualization of a design is useful.


One application of 3D printing is production of parts such as enclosures for consumer electronics. Parts for consumer electronics may have small sizes, tight constraints on their dimensions and complex shapes, which can make traditional subtractive manufacturing method difficult or expensive.


Another application of 3D printing is in the field of individualized consumer goods. For example, 3D printing can be used to create individualized interfaces to human body, such as customized ergonomic handles that fit each individual's hands.

The other three Liquidmetal related patent are

20130306196, "Manipulating Surface Topology of BMG Feedstock"

20130306197, "Amorphous Alloy Component or Feedstock and Methods of Making the Same"

20130306199, "Bulk Metallic Glass Feedback with Dissimilar Sheath"

Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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Brian wrote at 11/24/2013 5:21:46 PM:

So, is Apple actually just patenting the BMG material here? Because all of the 3D printing technologies they describe are already in use by other companies, i.e. FDM, FTI, SLS, SLA, etc.

John Kocurek wrote at 11/22/2013 3:58:14 PM:

That is my point. To be fair, the rounded corners thing was a design patent, which probably shouldn't exist because they are necessarily vague. But these aren't design patents. Yet they still are about as open-ended as they can be.

Eric wrote at 11/22/2013 11:23:20 AM:

To me it seems a standard apple patent, just with some 3d-printing namedropping.. Vacuum, argon, nitrogen OR OTHER INERT ATMOSPERE, really?! Patents should be novel and specific, this is neither..

Mark wrote at 11/22/2013 10:57:28 AM:

I see the old patent trolls are getting ready! I like the last one.... almost as vague as "rounded corners" patent.

John Kocurek wrote at 11/21/2013 3:15:22 PM:

What is new or novel here? Except for possibly where they cut stuff out and stack them, all of these are already in use, albeit with other materials. I am not sure that metallic glasses qualify as a very different material.

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