Liquidmetal Technologies CEO Tom Steipp has officially confirmed that Apple has licensed the metallic glass substance for use in products, going out on a limb to say that Liquidmetal Technologies is supplying the alloy to Cupertino…
Though he did not specifically state that Apple is readying a product made out of Liquidmetal, Steipp’s comment can be certainly deciphered as a confirmation of Apple working to use the alloy for certain product parts – for now.
Our technology has been commercialized in a number of accounts, most recently by Apple computer, which took a license on the product in August of 2010.
Apple along with us are commercializing Liquidmetal in the consumer electronic space.
So far, Apple tested Liquidmetal with the iPhone 3G’s SIM ejector tool. The use of Liquidmetal, also known as metallic glass, would let Apple’s engineers develop a stronger, lighter and thinner iPhone.
Here’s that clip, recorded at Alan Stone’s Southern California Investment Forum.
Liquidmetal is made from zirconium, titanium, nickel, copper and other materials and has smooth appearance akin to liquid that allows for stronger, lighter and more corrosion-resistant parts. It’s twice as strong as Titanium and possesses the processability of plastics.
Apple owns worldwide and exclusive rights to use this Terminator-like alloy in the consumer electronics space. Other companies outside this space are also experimenting with the alloy, like Omega, whose prototype watch for the Omega watches blends Liquidmetal with ceramics.
Recent checks with Apple’s supply chain debunked persistent rumors of the upcoming iPhone using Liquidmetal-based chassis. Liquidmetal Technologies announced right before the new iPad’s even in early March that shipments of commercial parts of the sci-fi alloy to unnamed customers around the world had commenced in December 2012.
Their press release reads:
Liquidmetal Technologies today announced that its manufacturing operations are currently in the midst of shipping commercial parts to several of its customers world-wide. Parts delivery began this past December with continuing shipments scheduled for the months ahead.
Still, commercial shipments of Apple products based on metallic glass are at least five years away as manufacturing facilities and the alloy itself aren’t mature enough yet for mass production, according to Atakan Peker, one of Liquidmetal inventors.
A rendition of a Liquidmetal-based iPhone, courtesy of French designer Antoine Brieux
The great thing about Liquidmetal is that it addresses key shortcomings of today’s popular materials, the inventor explained:
Each material has its own advantage and disadvantages. Plastics are low cost to manufacture into complex shapes but not strong enough. Metals are strong but difficult to produce into complex shapes. And glass feels and looks beautiful but is highly fragile. Liquidmetal can combine these advantages and remedy some of these shortcomings.
He deemed Apple’s exclusive licensing of the new material technology for casing and enclosures “a first in the industry”, predicting a breakthrough Apple product made only possible by Liquidmetal technology.
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.
This is all very exciting, if not groundbreaking.
Apple’s obsession with materials and manufacturing processes is well-known. Liquidmetal arrives just in time: aluminum looks beautiful but it’s getting kinda boring so Liquidmetal should breathe new life into the design of Apple’s gadgets and give sexiness a new meaning.
For more on Apple’s Liquidmetal plans, feel free to browse our archive of related posts.