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Apple Lodge Liquid Metal Patents; New Designs Possible

By David Richards | Monday | 25/11/2013

A series of recent patents filed by Apple reveal that the company is looking to release new products using a super strong substance called liquid metal alloy; it is looking at using sapphire crystal in future versions of its display screens.

Known as BMG, Liquidmetal is a mix of titanium, nickel, copper and zirconium a combination that delivers more flexibility, is lighter and smoother than normal metals and is scratch resistant.

The key benefit is that it can be moulded more easily than steel or aluminium, and is more hard wearing.

The patents lodged in the USA detail a process that involves injection moulding and 3D printing using bulk metallic glasses (BMG) powder.

Layers of BMG could be printed using a 3D printer to create the casing for phones, tablets and even TVs.

It could also be used to produce the more complex and smaller parts needed for inside phones, too, as well as make the devices super-slim.

Back in 2010, Apple signed an exclusive deal with Liquidmetal Technologies, a company that has pioneered manufacturing using the new component.

It has also signed exclusive deals with sapphire mineral experts GT Advanced Technologies which is capable of producing the sapphire display screens.

Both technologies produce super-strong products and Apple may might be attempting to move away from its reputation for making fragile devices.

The new patents detail a process that involves injection moulding and 3D printing using bulk metallic glasses (BMG) powder - the technical name for liquidmetal.

The Daily Mail science section claims that traditional metals have what's called a crystalline structure, Liquidmetal, by comparison, has an amorphous structure. The white spaces in the crystalline structure are weak spots, whereas amorphous materials form fewer gaps meaning they have fewer weak spots, making them stronger overall.

These layers could then be moulded into shape using lasers and the process would be similar to how plastic is moulded for phone cases among other uses.

Apple already uses liquidmetal for its SIM-ejector tool which is used like a pin to pop the SIM-card holder out from the side of the latest iPhones.

The patent, explains how the process could be used for: 'a telephone, such as a cell phone, and a land-line phone, or any communication device, such as a smart phone, including, for example an iPhone, and an electronic email sending/receiving device. It can be a part of a display, such as a digital display, a TV monitor, an electronic-book reader, an iPad, and a computer monitor.'

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