Liquidmetal's Manufacturing Process Promises Rapid, Low-Cost Fabrication

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Earlier this month, it was revealed that Apple had acquired the rights to use technology owned by Liquidmetal that would allow the company to build its products out of metal alloys carrying high strength and corrosion-resistance that can also be easily cast into any number of forms.

Cult of Mac, which reported last week that the iPhone 3G's SIM card removal tool was made out of the technology as a test of Liquidmetal's capabilities, now takes a look at some of the company's manufacturing capabilities.
Apple will soon start experimenting with a new prototype injection molding machine, says Drew Merkel, who is perhaps the most knowledgeable third-party expert on Liquidmetal Technologies. It may allow Apple to make advanced iPhone antennas and seamless gadget cases with holographic logos cast right into the metal.

"This is the most advanced injection-molding machine ever made," Merkel says. "It is state-of-the-art."
While only a single prototype of the machine used by Liquidmetal is in existence and currently in use in Korea, Apple is obviously expected to order more of the machines to ramp up production for any products requiring the technology.




Sample part cast in a single step with Liquidmetal's injection molding machine
As an example of what the injection molding machine can do with Liquidmetal's alloys, the report points to a small metal part used in the aerospace industry, which can be fabricated in a single step with Liquidmetal's technology as opposed to the numerous steps required in a traditional manufacturing process.
"The cost savings are tremendous," Merkel said. "This is truly a fantastic representation of the complex design which can be fabricated and ready to go in minutes."
The report also notes that Liquidmetal has been making prototypes for Apple "for a long time", hoping to catch the company's eye and strike a deal. Merkel, a former steel and plastics industry executive and major investor in Liquidmetal, notes that the company's technology must have been extremely enticing to Apple for it to pursue a deal with Liquidmetal. Merkel calls the company "flaky" and "broke for years", as it has struggled to meet its payroll obligations while producing prototypes free-of-charge in attempts to land major deals with other companies.

Article Link: Liquidmetal's Manufacturing Process Promises Rapid, Low-Cost Fabrication
 

mabaker

macrumors 65816
Jan 19, 2008
1,122
293
So HTC and co are ramping up their Xerox production so that they can keep up with copying I hope?
 

mlts22

macrumors 6502a
Oct 28, 2008
538
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Time to market is everything for phones. If Apple can get from prototype to finished product weeks faster than everyone else using LM's technology, they will have a significant competitive advantage in addition to having the name brand advantage.
 

Salacion

macrumors 6502a
Apr 8, 2010
810
0
I've been saying this, and I'll say it once more. iPhone 5 will BE the end-all iPhone. I think.
 

Mousse

macrumors 68020
Apr 7, 2008
2,189
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Flea Bottom, King's Landing
Faster AND lower cost fabrication. So how much of the cost savings will be passed on to the customers? Oh, who am I kidding. We'll pay because it will be marketed as a state of the art manufacturing.:(

Okay, let the early adopters pay more (those fancy new machines ain't free). After the first 10 million or so iPhones/iPods/iPads I'll expect lower prices.:D
 

mr.steevo

macrumors 65816
Jul 21, 2004
1,338
812
Time to market is everything for phones. If Apple can get from prototype to finished product weeks faster than everyone else using LM's technology, they will have a significant competitive advantage in addition to having the name brand advantage.

But given that Apple releases a phone only once a year...

s.
 

SSDGUY

macrumors 6502a
Jul 27, 2009
608
756
"… with holographic logos cast right into the metal"

Oh man, that's just what I've been waiting for. :rolleyes:
 

kaisdaddy

macrumors member
Jan 8, 2008
52
16
Glad to see...

...that giving out all those free samples finally gave them a nice return! It's great that they were able to get out of debt because of this deal. Apple gets the exclusive (for electronics) on a cutting edge material and Liquid Metal gets caught up on their bills. Sounds like a win - win! :)
 

Salacion

macrumors 6502a
Apr 8, 2010
810
0
...that giving out all those free samples finally gave them a nice return! It's great that they were able to get out of debt because of this deal. Apple gets the exclusive (for electronics) on a cutting edge material and Liquid Metal gets caught up on their bills. Sounds like a win - win! :)

Hopefully this product is as good as it sounds. Hopefully we can have a unibody iPhone. Hopefully we ca...
 

RawBert

macrumors 68000
Jan 19, 2010
1,727
66
North Hollywood, CA
I've seen some YouTube vids on this alloy... man, cool stuff. There's one that compares the hardness of Liquidmetal with regular Titanium using a couple of metal spheres. It's crazy how long the Liquidmetal keeps the ball bouncing.
 

newdeal

macrumors 68020
Oct 21, 2009
2,381
1,504
...

I am guessing if they can mould iPhone parts in this way they can make them far faster than the current cad milling and with far less waste, also they can get it more detailed as with cad details take a long time to mill
 

machomer

macrumors regular
Jun 27, 2007
164
0
is this the stuff that the Terminator is made from?

How will this material handle heat transfer?
 

FuNGi

macrumors 65816
Feb 26, 2010
1,117
30
California
You will see this stuff on a new unibody Macbook Pro within 12 months

Unlikely as the article states there is currently only a single prototype machine to manufacture. It will take some time to mass produce the prototype, roll them out the manufacturers, test the outputs etc. Maybe if it were a small component such as the hinges on the MBP's they could at least advertise their state-of-the-art technology as an improvement, etc. but it will be awhile. I would guess that the IP5 antennae will be made of this stuff first, imagine a bouncing iphone.
 

SockRolid

macrumors 68000
Jan 5, 2010
1,560
118
Almost Rock Solid
2012 - real 4G

I've been saying this, and I'll say it once more. iPhone 5 will BE the end-all iPhone. I think.

But, but, but... The real all-singing all-dancing all-IP all-packet-switched 4G won't be rolled out until 2012, in the iPhone 6 time frame. Pay no attention to LTE - it's 3.9G. 4G will use either the LTE Advanced or the 801.16m spec (and it looks like LTE Advanced will be chosen.)
 
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