U.S Patent office reveals four Apple patent applications involving Liquidmetal

“Today the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a series of four patent applications from Apple relating to their potential use of Liquidmetal, a metallic glass alloy,” Jack Purcher reports for Patently Apple. “One of the patents published today covers the creation of 3D parts using an atomized powder.”

“Apple’s invention generally relates to methods of constructing a three-dimensional part using metallic glass alloys, layer by layer, as well as metallic glass-forming materials designed for use therewith,” Purcher reports. “In one embodiment, the metallic glass-forming powder is a homogenous atomized powder.”

“Apple’s patent [illustration] depicts an exemplary method of constructing a part from metallic glass sheets layer by layer,” Purcher reports. “Apple’s first patent application 20150299825 was originally filed in Q2 2015. The other liquid metal related patents published today by the U.S Patent and Trademark Office include the following: Patent Application 20150299824: AMORPHOUS ALLOY ROLL FORMING OF FEEDSTOCK OR COMPONENT PART; Patent Application 20150298206: INJECTION MOLDING AND CASTING OF MATERIALS USING A VERTICAL INJECTION MOLDING SYSTEM; Patent Application 20150298207: INDUCTIVE COIL DESIGNS FOR THE MELTING AND MOVEMENT OF AMORPHOUS METALS.”

Read more, and see Apple’s patent application illustration, in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Hmm…

I estimate that Apple will likely spend on the order of $300 million to $500 million — and three to five years — to mature the technology before it can used in large scale. — Dr. Atakan Peker, one of the Caltech researchers who invented Liquidmetal, May 2012

No Home button? Liquidmetal body? What can we expect from next year’s Apple iPhone 7? – October 19, 2015
New Apple patents show continuing work on Liquidmetal – August 11, 2015
The Turing Phone is not made out of Liquidmetal – July 15, 2015
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


      1. Sounds like the prototyping of otherwise production ready parts to me create the part and modify it endlessly in this way and once perfected use the very same material but in a true production process. Would massively improve and speed up the whole development process from design to production to my eye and likely improving reliability while attaining maximum lightness. Could be a magic bullet for engineering for any complex product you can imagine from watch to car.

      2. Beyond being light and strong the real benefit of LQMT parts is the ability to make in one step what usually involves multiple steps, including machining.

        Some have suggested that Apple’s whole interest in LQMT is for their prototyping. Could be.

        Certainly the 6000 series aluminum (7000?) buys Apple lots more time on the thin-and-strong road before aluminum just won’t be able to bear the bending torque of people’s butts. I would have told you the iPhone 7 would be LQMT. In fact I have said that often. Now I’m thinking the usage could be as far as three gens away with the iPhone 8 (2018).

        The day will come though.

        If I’m being honest I’d bet it’s used in tiny quantities internally long before it becomes the external case material. Perhaps internally in the 7?

          1. The aluminum in the 6S is just so very strong. Literally 2x as strong as the aluminum in the 6. It just makes me think that there’s easily another generation (read two generations if the body stays the same for 7 & 7S) left in the aluminum pipeline. LQMT is thus far quite expensive to produce and new (so new problems yet to solve.) Conversely Aluminum is cheap and well established.

            My thinking anyhow. I’m anything but a metallurgist, but I have watched Apple for 15 years…

            1. No, no it isn’t twice as strong.

              And a casting process with a marketing name isn’t by definition superior to any other casting process either.

              MDN can stop advertising “Liquid Metal” any time now. It wasn’t convincing in Terminator, and it’s not going to replace all the other processes necessary in building complex products. Apple needs to choose from the full range of materials technology.

              Aluminum, by the way, is not cheap. It’s plentiful and recyclable, but it is not cheap. Plastics are cheaper by far. Stainless steels are stronger by far. Apple, as it does more often than not, is just picking a middle-of-the-road choice. Which is disappointing to those of us who remember when Apple really swung for the fences….

            2. I’ve seen bend tests of the 6 vs. the 6S. The 6 bent at 30 lbs. The 6S bent at 65 lbs. Thus “twice as strong.”

              Compare the cost of aluminum to Liquidmetal. It’s cheap. Sure compare it to plastic and it’s expensive. But no one’s comparing it to plastic but you, are they?

            3. You’re confusing stiffness with strength. The Al used in the iP6S is indeed stronger than that used in the iP6, but marginally. Apple changed the structural design to make it bend less when a bending moment is applied (yes, that is the technical term).

              As for plastic — you know damn well Apple compares plastic to Al with every product. That’s why they released an iPhone 5C, which turned out to be a relatively poor money maker despite Apple saving money by using a cheap case. But in the brand new Apple TV, Apple goes for the cheap plastic case. Why? To save money on a product that doesn’t get carried around constantly.

              Back in the day I owned a stainless steel Nokia phone and it was by far the best case — highly scratch resistant without the need for a grossly overpriced case. It was indestructible. Since Apple is pushing hard to be a fashion brand, it’s odd that they would release a stainless Apple Watch and still not have a stainless iPhone for the high end spenders. But what do i know — some people worship every decision Apple makes.

            4. Your comments on material properties are simplistic, at best. Many factors must be considered in choosing the proper material. And aluminum may be a better choice than a stronger metal for various reasons, including minimum gauge considerations.

              Material cost is only one component of the overall cost of manufacturing. Yes, luminous is moderately costly, but the byproducts of machining aluminum can easily be recycled into fresh aluminum, so the net cost of aluminum is not be as high as you imply. The complexity and duration of the iPhone chassis fabrication process is an important factor in overall cost. It is possible that the ability to rapidly injection mold a LM chassis to near net form could offset some of the higher material cost. That is one of the reasons that plastic is so prevalent in consumer products. But the heavy duty commercial product tend to have a lot more metal.

              You have no idea how hard Apple hardware and software engineers and designers are working to make kick ass products…

            5. Well thanks Mel, and I thought all along i could use this blog as my doctoral thesis.

              (rolls eyes)

              Aluminum versus stainless is primarily an economic decision. Just like Apple’s grossly overpriced memory and Apple’s refusal to offer greater battery capacity in a slightly thicker case.

              Since I do consulting for Apple and other electronics companies, yes, I am very aware of what efforts Apple’s engineers are making. I am also well aware that Apple has bean counters who also have a say in what gets built. Don’t think that Apple is the only company that knows how to design electronics.

      3. Auto bodies have conventionally been stamped out of metal, but I’d be very surprised if an Apple car were made out of stamped metal.

        I think it’s highly likely that Jony Ive will opt for something quite different and that other manufacturers will porn scorn on it while quietly trying to copy the idea for their future models.

  1. Yup, I just keep acquiring LQMT a little at a time. Not huge investments because they don’t really make any money yet but I’ll take the risk because they payoff could be grand. 😀

  2. It could be Liqudmetal is already used, Apple just doesn’t advertise it. Think about their smaller chips, like the Apple Watch. LQMT is good for conducting and heat control. Using a small amount could be what keeps them a step ahead.

    This could also be used in batteries, something they are expanding with. Just offering mobile devices that last twice the battery life would kill the competition.

    Apple’s poaching auto personal may have nothing to do with making their own car. If they could build a battery that lasts a lot longer with less space this would change the auto industry quickly. They could make a fortune without building a car. It would also help the solar industry.

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