August 12, 2010
Where will Apple Use the Liquidmetal Alloy Technology?
Apple has obtained exclusive license to use Liquidmetal Technologies’ metal alloy in consumer electronics. The metal alloy is made using Zircon mineral and is called Vitreloy. Unlike other metal alloys this Zircon based alloy doesn’t form crystal structure and is “amorphous” in nature, allowing it to be processed like thermoplastics using die cast at relatively lower temperature. Also, Liquidmetal alloy is more durable, harder, stronger and scratch resistant when compared to other metals like aluminum, titanium and steel.
As soon as information about the exclusive license deal was released speculations about where Apple will use the technology started flooding the blogosphere. The speculations ranged from MP3 player (iPod) to desktops. However, we believe that the first device to get the Liquidmetal treatment will be Apple’s Laptop lineup and specially the MacBook Air.
The MacBook Air is one of the thinnest laptop available on the market today, but it is slightly heavier at 3.0 pounds than few other ultraportable laptops that weigh around 2.5-2.7 pounds. The reason behind this slight increase in weight is the aluminum case, which is the heaviest part of the whole design. Yes, the same aluminum case makes the Air more durable and tougher than other ultraportable on the market, but also heavier.
With Liquidmetal alloy, Apple will be able to drastically increase toughness of the laptop further, while reducing the weight. Liquidmetal alloy has 6 times yield strength and 4 times hardness of aluminum, but it is only about 1.5 times heavier. So, Apple could triple the yield strength and double the hardness of MacBook Air, while decreasing the case weight by 25 percent.
Apple could also decrease production cost and time associated with milling operations required to make the aluminum case, as highly precise, cheaper and faster die casting process can be used for Liquidmetal alloy. The alloy will be costlier than aluminum, but the amount of alloy required and process cost for making laptop case will be lower.
Every Apple portable product can get a Liquidmetal upgrade, but we believe MacBook Air might be the first, as it has been due for a design refresh since launch in January 2008. We have added a video below showing the use of Liquidmetal in manufacturing of Omega watch bezels that are considered one of the toughest.