The Turing Phone is not made out of Liquidmetal

There are some articles floating around that describe an Android phone, the “Turing Phone,” as being made out of “Liquidmetal.”

The Turing Phone is not made out of Liquidmetal®. Apple has a perpetual, worldwide, fully-paid, exclusive license to commercialize Liquidmetal® intellectual property in the field of consumer electronic products.

The Turing Phone is made out of something the phone’s maker, Turing Robotic Industries, calls “liquidmorphium.” If that makes you immediately think of some marketing jargon ginned-up in order to play off the Liquidmetal® name, so be it.

Thomas Steipp, President and CEO of Liquidmetal Technologies, provided the following statement to MacDailyNews, “Regarding Touring Phone [sic], we have no relationship with them at all. They do not use our technology, nor do they have a license. We have a large patent portfolio and are trying to ensure that others in our space do not use any of it inappropriately. At this point, we do not have enough information to comment on either their product or the technology that is being used.”

Turing Phone is not made of Liquidmetal®, but it does look like something John Dykstra super-glued together
Turing Phone is not made of Liquidmetal®, but does look like something John Dykstra super-glued together

 
According to CNET, “liquidmorphium” is “an amorphous alloy of zirconium, copper, aluminum, nickel and silver that’s supposedly stronger than steel.”

Liquidmetal®, the one to which Apple has a perpetual and exclusive license, was discovered by researchers at the California Institute of Technology. Liquidmetal® Technologies is the leading developer of bulk alloys that utilize the performance advantages offered by amorphous alloy technology. Amorphous alloys are unique materials that are distinguished by their ability to retain a random structure when they solidify, in contrast to the crystalline atomic structure that forms in ordinary metals and alloys. Liquidmetal® alloys are harder than alloys of titanium or aluminum of similar composition. The zirconium and titanium based Liquidmetal® alloys achieved yield strength of over 1723 MPa, nearly twice the strength of conventional crystalline titanium alloys (Ti6Al4V is ~830 MPa), and about the strength of high-strength steels and some highly engineered bulk composite materials.

Liquidmetal® combines a number of desirable material features, including high tensile strength, excellent corrosion resistance, very high coefficient of restitution and excellent anti-wearing characteristics, while also being able to be heat-formed in processes similar to thermoplastics.

Liquidmetal® Technologies has developed highly specialized alloys and a manufacturing process that allows cosmetic (down to 2 Ra, μin), high-strength (231 ksi), precision parts to be injection molded in a single manufacturing step. Liquidmetal alloys provide an economic advantage for parts with cosmetic surfaces, complex shapes with close tolerances, or forged titanium-grade strength.

Liquidmetal® Technologies controls the intellectual property rights with more than 70 U.S. patents.

Check out this video (especially the ball bearing test starting at 1:42):

The Apple-Liquidmetal deal is basically this: Apple contributes engineers and R&D – basically figuring out how to practically make Liquidmetal into commercial parts – and contributes their inventions back to Liquidmetal (via Crucible Intellectual Property, LLC, a Liquidmetal subsidiary) which gets to use Apple’s inventions in fields other than consumer electronics (sporting goods, aviation, medical, military, etc.). With an already-paid one-time license fee of US$20 million, Apple owns sole rights to use Liquidmetal in electronics forever via “a perpetual, worldwide, fully-paid, exclusive license to commercialize such intellectual property in the field of consumer electronic products.” Every time that we hear of Apple and Liquidmetal extending their agreement, it refers to Apple and Liquidmetal lengthening the amount of time where both companies share IP with each other via Crucible.

SEE ALSO:
Why does Apple keep extending their partnership with Liquidmetal? – June 25, 2015
Apple extends Liquidmetal exclusivity deal through February 2016 – June 23, 2015
Two new Liquidmetal patent filings from Apple revealed; list watch and jewelry among potential uses – April 23, 2015
Liquidmetal’s Apple alliance yet to bear fruit – September 30, 2014
Apple’s new Liquidmetal-related patent sparks speculation – July 7, 2014
Apple patents method for embedding sapphire displays in LiquidMetal device chassis – May 27, 2014
Liquidmetal-Visser agreement paves the way for more rapid adoption of amorphous metal manufacturing – May 21, 2014
Apple extends Liquidmetal exclusivity deal through February 2015 – May 21, 2014

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18 Comments

      1. The license will never run out since Swatch always auto-resumes it.

        Apple will not have LM for watches since it is specifically excluded as type of product because of Swatch exclusive license.

  1. Custom alloys of metals, ceramics and rare earths are being created all the time for specific benefits and Apple doesn’t have a lock on all these combinations.

    Hence, competitors to LiquidMetal will appear.

    1. True enough, but IMO, half the point of the article is in this statement right here:

      “If that makes you immediately think of some marketing jargon ginned-up in order to play off the Liquidmetal® name, so be it.”

      — the real question is not of technology, but one of Trademark dress and if the term “liquidmorphium” is pragmatically too close of a term to the Trademarked name so as to cause customer confusion.

      Given that they used 60% of the Trademarked term, and with this 60% being on the front end, if it was my company, I’d have my lawyers on this – – especially if I knew that I could ask Apple Legal for assistance.

      The competition can have their Engineering, but not also “take” the name.

      1. In the case of trademarks I think if you use common words to form it as in the case of LiquidMetal, it may be harder to defend against similar names as opposed to if they had gone with “LiqMet”. Even more so if the non-merged form “liquid metal” can be used as a general term for the entire class of amorphous metallic solids.

  2. This doesn’t mean that another company can’t come up with a competitive product. Patents are not an all exclusive protection. If there are other ways of manufacturing this material, and alloys that work, then others can do so. In fact, there are other companies working on this.

    What I don’t understand is why Apple hasn’t found some real use for this already. While iPhones are likely too big for these expensive alloys, the Apple Watch is not. It would seem that a tier above the SS Watch models would be perfect for this, and I was surprised that Apple didn’t have one.

    Maybe next year’s models?

    1. For Apple, the question is undoubtably about cost.

      If you mold a liquidmetal housing and want super tight tolerances for the likes of liquid tight construction you have to finish machine critical surfaces, so it may cost more than a totally machined part.

  3. I find it extremely interesting that Apple would choose Tom Steipp of Liquidmetal to be Apple’s spokesperson for a matter concerning the potential infringement of Apple’s exclusive and perpetual rights to the use of liquidmetal for which Apple has the sole responsibility to prosecute it’s intellectual property. It would seem more appropriate to have the president of the custodian of the IP, Ricardo Salas, or Apple itself, via their legal department to speak on behalf of this issue. Liquidmetal, after all, is limited to having only the rights to the non-consumer electronics arena, a sphere in which the Turing phone obviously and distinctly is a part from.

  4. So did the articles in question actually use the term “LiquidMetal” or the term “liquid metal” or “liquid-metal”? The first is an actual product, the latter two are descriptions.

  5. After watching the video, is it just me or doesn’t the non-force absorbing properties of LiquidMetal also mean that more force is passed through the material? It would follow that any enclosure made of this material will not deform itself, however the contents of that enclosure would receive a larger brunt of the force directly as opposed to Titanium and Stainless steel. This will result in designing either much finer specs to reduce ‘free’ space or some kind of cushioning material which may affect heat dissipation..

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