Apple has had an exclusive contract to use the next-gen Liquidmetal alloy for almost three years now. Theoretically, Liquidmetal could allow Apple to realize thinner, lighter, more resilient devices… but the Liquidmetal fabrication process is hard to work with, which is why, so far, we’ve only seen one actual Liquidmetal Apple product: the SIM removal tool that ships with every iPhone!
But it looks like Apple might have finally cracked the problem. And they are eyeing Liquid Metal for use in the iWatch.
Electronista reports on a new Apple patent:
Patent number 8,485,245 B1 for a “Bulk amorphous alloy sheet forming process” was awarded on July 16. From the patent filing, Liquidmetal “can be valuable in the fabrication of electronic devices.” Specifically, the patent names iPhones, “portable web-browser (e.g. iPad),” computer monitors, and portable music players as likely targets for the material. The filing also mentions that it could be used in a “watch or a clock,” suggesting that Apple may be thinking of using the material in a future “smartwatch” device it has been rumored to be working on.
The difficulty in fabricating the material was cited as an issue with widespread adoption. The patent claims that a plant utilizing the new method which operates non-stop for up to 15 years can make about 6,000 kilometers of Liquidmetal a year in thicknesses of between 0.1mm and 25mm in widths of up to three meters. The technique described is broadly similar to the “float glass” process used for making window panes.
Patents don’t necessarily mean anything, of course, but Apple’s being awfully specific here, not only about what Liquidmetal could be used for, but how much they could make: 6,000 square kilometers of the stuff. That’s a lot of iPhones and iWatches.