The Cool Space-Age Welding Technology That Lets The New iMacs Be As Thin As A Knife

The Cool Space-Age Welding Technology That Lets The New iMacs Be As Thin As A Knife

The new, ultra-thin iMacs may not be shipping yet, but they are at using cutting-edge manufacturing and fabricating techniques that are right out of the space program.

Case in point? The way the new iMacs achieve their remarkable thinness is because of something called friction-stir welding, and it’s a process that’s been used in spacecraft fuel tanks and airplane wings.

The Register explains more:

Invented in 1991 by Wayne Thomas at TWI, friction-stir welding is a solid-state process, meaning that it doesn’t require the materials to be melted for them to be joined. Instead it softens and merges the edges by mixing the two materials under frictional heat.

The result is a smoother join of very high strength, and the process is quicker and uses less energy than traditional welding techniques.

It allows the join to be thinner too, so Apple can reduce the width of the iMac down to half a centimetre when attaching the front to the back of the computer: a “seamless, precise, and superstrong join” according to Apple.

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  • bdkennedy

    It just occurred to me that this iMac doesn’t sound like it can be opened up.

  • jeffythequick

    It just occurred to me that this iMac doesn’t sound like it can be opened up.

    Which makes one wonder, how does that Genius at the Apple store fix the darn thing should it break. I know my post is out of ignorance, but I look forward to the teardown of this one.

  • dcdevito

    Will iFixit ask NASA to take it apart? :p

  • Zod Buster

    How many times do you look at the side of your desktop computer.. or maybe that’s an Apple thing.
    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  • Brandon Dillon

    So if is stronger, quicker, and uses less energy than traditional welding techniques, why hasn’t this been more widely adopted? I can only imagine the millions of usages for this.

    The only thing that comes to mind is the equipment cost to perform it. Maybe the machines used to do this are very expensive?

  • Gregory Wright

    “and it’s a process that’s been used in spacecraft fuel tanks and airplane wings.
    Read more at http://www.cultofmac.com/202181/the-cool-space-age-welding-technology-that-lets-the-new-imacs-be-as-thin-as-a-knife/#1jVSjhwEU651GLdk.99

    Is it safe to say Apple does not hold the patent on the process?

  • CaioDA

    Apple is literally using rocket science? Well played, well played…

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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