Apple patent application reveals methods of forming 3D structures with Liquidmetal

“On July 25, 2013, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals methods for forming three-dimensional structures which may be configured to provide desirable characteristics with respect to light, sound, and fluid travel therethrough,” Jack Purcher reports for Patently Apple.

“Further, the three-dimensional structures may be configured to define desired stiffness, weight, and/or flexibility within a device,” Purcher reports. “The three-dimensional structures may be employed in embodiments including heat sinks, housings, speaker or vent covers, springs, etc.”

Purcher reports, “Buried deep in the patent is a reference to liquid metal. Apple states that “the structures may be formed by molding or casting, in which a mold or cast is employed to form the three-dimensional structure from a fluid substance, such as a liquid metal or plastic. In another embodiment, material defining a body may be compressed to form a desired three-dimensional shape by forging.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
‘iPhone 5S’ release date nears as Apple begins mass production of Liquidmetal case, report claims – July 22, 2013
Apple’s ‘iPhone 5S’ to feature indestructible Liquidmetal case, says BGR – July 17, 2013
Apple and Liquidmetal scientists granted new patent that could enable Liquidmetal production on a massive scale – July 16, 2013


    1. You are correct. This reference isn’t to the patented “Liquidmetal”. That is a metal alloy with a non-uniform crystal structure. It is very similar to ceramics like glass (Liquidmetal is often refer to it as a ceramic metal). It just so happens that in material science, the term “Liquid” can refer to a solid that has a non-uniform crystal structure (it looks like a static fluid). That’s why sometimes glass is referred to as liquid. It’s not fluid, it’s just in a liquid state. Liquid metal is the same deal.

      The patent on the other hand seems to be talking about metals and liquid that are literally fluid. Also the adjective “liquid” would seem to be shared by both metal and plastic.

      1. “the structures may be formed by molding or casting, in which a mold or cast is employed to form the three-dimensional structure from a fluid substance, such as a liquid metal or plastic.”
        Matthew, that seems to be pretty unequivocal, in order for something to be formed by moulding or casting, it has to be fluid, a liquid metal, or plastic, and they also mention forging, but that does not discount Liquidmetal, because it has to be liquid in order to be formed. How else can something be made from Liquidmetal? It’s the level of control required during the cooling process that’s complicating the situation.
        It may well be that the recent patent from both Apple and Liquidmetal detailing how large quantities can be manufactured using the float process that is used to make sheet glass, and then forging it, could allow the use of Liquidmetal for phone frames, laptop cases, computer chassis in commercial quantities.

      2. Matthew, glass is properly referred to as an amorphous solid. Some ceramics qualify for this classification too. Some metals can be classified this way. Amorphous solids can flow, but flow very, very slowly — some flow more rapidly. Some cannot be used in certain situations (e.g., teflon typically cannot be used in satellites because of its “cold flow” properties).

        While I have not investigated the true, atomic level structure of Liquidmetal, from what I’ve read it could be classified as an amorphous solid too.

        Metals are not categorized by their “solid” versus “not solid” states. Metals are categorized by how the energy structures are layered. You can have metals that are truly stereotypical liquids.

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