“Breakthrough” Liquidmetal Apple gadget at least 5 years away

By , May 2, 2012

Apple’s love for new materials and its penchant for innovative manufacturing processes is well documented and evident in shiny products it builds.

Perhaps no other material has gotten the rumor-mill as much excited as metallic glass, better known as Liquidmetal.

Apple owns worldwide and exclusive rights to use this new material in consumer electronics products. And while it has yet to build a Liquidmetal-based gadget, the company did buy the amorphous alloy for a good reason – and I’m not talking about the SIM ejector tool.

One of the creators of this Terminator material has now spoken about Apple’s Liquidmetal plans, explaining how Liquidmetal’s gonna make Apple gadgets even more exclusive and sexier than ever.

Apparently, a “breakthrough product” based on Liquidmetal could be in the works. Before you start jumping for joy, bear in mind it’s gonna take years as plants and the alloy itself simply aren’t mature enough for mass production…

NOTE: we’ve covered this magical material extensively here at iDownloadBlog so feel free to browse our Liquidmetal archive for a little backgrounder.

It all started back in October 2008 when industrial design head Jony Ive took the stage at Apple’s Cupertino campus to detail Unibody construction, Apple’s (still) breakthrough way of building notebooks.

He underscored that “one of the most significant challenges when you’re designing a product that is as thin and as light as the MacBook Pro is actually making it strong, making it robust, making it torsionally rigid”.


Apple’s design guru explains Unibody construction, billed as “a new to build notebooks”, at a presser on October 2010.

And it’s this pursuit of materials which allow for thin and light, yet strong, gizmos that led Apple to get its hands on this new zirconium-based alloy before its rivals do.

A Liquidmetal Apple product is the favorite water-cooler topic among the techies lately. This is especially true for the next iPhone some folks hope will be re-engineered around an all-new Liquidmetal casing.

Not so fast.

Atakan Peker, one of Liquidmetal inventors (pictured top right), sat down for a quick one-on-one with Business Insiders‘ Steve Kovach to explain what makes Liquidmetal so special and why hasn’t Apple used it in products yet, even though they’ve had the rights to use it since 2010.

For starters, Peker dispelled that the next iPhone will be machined from Liquidmetal.

Too bad, considering the jaw-dropping iPhone 5 concept shown below (more renditions here).


Liquidmetal iPhone 5 concept render courtesy of French designer Antoine Brieux.

Instead, the inventor explained, it’s gonna take at least two to four years to achieve reliable mass production of anything Liquidmetal-based with the Apple logo on it.

MacBooks, you say?

Given the size of MacBook and scale of Apple products, I think it’s unlikely that Liquidmetal casing will be used in MacBooks in the near term. It’s more likely in the form of small component such as a hinge or bracket. A MacBook casing, such as a unibody, will take two to four more years to implement.

In fact, Apple will spend up to half a billion dollar and three to five years to mature this new technology before it’s ready for large-scale manufacturing.


A Unibody MacBook casing, machined from a single piece of aluminum.

As for the benefits, Liquidmetal is “super strong, scratch and corrosion resistant, resilient and can be precision cast into complex shapes”. This will let Apple create entire device casings that are strong, aesthetically pleasing and structurally rigid, even more so than aluminum.

Plus, Liquidmetal is beautiful:

At first look, it looks like a typical metal, more like stainless steel. It’s silvery grey metallic color has a bit different tone and hue than stainless steel. Depending on the specific alloy formulation, its hue may vary slightly. Its surface can be prepared in various cosmetic finishes, such as bright shiny, satin or brush metallic. It feels like a solid strong metal like stainless steel and comes a bit warmer to hand when touching compared to other metals.

As for that “breakthrough product”, the inventor said this:

I expect Liquidmetal application in two ways: First evolutionary substitution of current materials and secondly, and more importantly, in a breakthrough product made only possible by Liquidmetal technology. Apple’s exclusively licensing a new material technology (specifically for casing and enclosures) is a first in the industry.

This is very exciting.

Therefore, I expect Apple to use this technology in a breakthrough product. Such product will likely bring an innovative user interface and industrial design together, and will also be very difficult to copy or duplicate with other material technologies.

Apple will make Liquidmetal huge in consumer electronics, I think.

I’d dare say that Liquidmetal is going to do for iOS devices what aluminum and the Unibody manufacturing process did for the design, aesthetics and functionality of Apple’s MacBook lineup, still the gold standard in notebooks.

While I love the feel and look of aluminum on Apple’s products, Liquidmetal is no doubt going to up the sexiness, shininess and lust factor of their future gadgets.

The future is bright, indeed.

I’m really looking forward to seeing some sci-fi-looking Apple gear based on Liquidmetal.

You excited yet?

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  • Anonymous

    So no liquidmetal for the upcoming iPhone? What a shame.

  • http://twitter.com/T1rell T1rell

    pretty sweet, but for now…
    where do i get one of those liquidmetal balls?

    • LiquidMetalResearcher

      The ball isnt LiquidMetal, but the plate/surface underneath it is made of LiquidMetal

  • http://twitter.com/MattGregg97 Matt ッ

    You would never catch your iPhone if you dropped it. It would just keep on bouncing…

    • LiquidMetalResearcher

      theoretically yes, but i dont know about in reality. there is a chance that your phone wont bounce for exactly 1 minute and 21 seconds

  • http://twitter.com/Devin_Plebuch Devin Plebuch

    “It comes a bit warmer to hand…”

    Now the iPhone really will need iOvenMitts to hold while charging. :D

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1595420643 Simche Apple Konstantinovic

    Woooooow, an revolutionary iPhone, now with superior bouncing effect! Never more do you have to bend, it will come right back to you! Haha :D

  • http://twitter.com/Freducken Alfredo Arredondo

    Can someone help me understand the exclusivity that Apple has on this material? Are there other examples of companies getting rights to a material and not allowing others to manufacture with it? I would imagine it’s more like poly-carbonate manufacturing in terms of coming up with a proprietary formula, but what metals make this alloy so unique? Or is that secret?

    • LiquidMetalResearcher

      The best LiquidMetal is know made ofthe metals know made of zirconium, titanium, copper, nickel and beryllium, but how and in what balance is only for apple to know, because they bought it and are researching it.
      Other companies can make it, but not the same way and with the same balance as apple does

  • The RqTect

    No The iphone will have liquid metal. This guy worked there five years ago
    , I know three people working there now. Iphone is a go And Mac Pro is a go

    • http://twitter.com/e420kush e420Kush

      I hope your right.

  • http://twitter.com/IbrahimRIAlBora Ibrahim R.I.AlBoraey

    OK, it is new technology, no-one used before in his daily use, so does it really good to use such thing in your mobile, the idea looks so shiny now, but we don’t know if it good in preventing electromagnetic waves away form our bodies, heat, weight, environmental impacts, on other hand lets know it’s bad before we know it’s goods.

  • http://pattaya-travel.com/ jo-macral

    I want a set of liquid metal balls.. that would be so cool.

    • http://twitter.com/e420kush e420Kush

      I know! Those things are amazing!

      • airbreak

        I don’t think you understand what that poster “really”meant…

    • LiquidMetalResearcher

      the balls aren’t LiquidMetal, but the surface/plate underneath it is, but it probably would have the same effect if it’s the ball that’s made of LiquidMetal. Ow and btw, there is a difference in liquid metal and LiquidMetal: liquid metal is just a metal in a liquid state, but LiquidMetal is the BulkMetallicGlass/Amorphous Metal that this article is talking about

  • http://twitter.com/e420kush e420Kush

    that video with the bearing balls is cool as hell!