by Anton Shilov
05/08/2012 | 10:36 PM
Materials used to make modern electronic products are very different and have their own pros and cons. Plastic is inexpensive, but not durable; glass is fragile; aluminum and stainless steel are hard to produce in complex shapes. According to the inventor of liquidmetal, a family of amorphous alloys that combine advantages of the aforementioned, the new material could be a solution for future electronics devices, but only several years down the road.
Liquidmetal, which is currently used in various medical, military, industrial, sports and technical applications, can be cast in various forms and will maintain good look, superior strength, scratch and corrosion resistance and other advantages, e.g. relative light weight. Unfortunately, mass manufacturing infrastructure is currently not ready for liquidmetals. Although Apple has bought exclusive rights to use liquidmetals in its PCs, phones, tablets and other electronics, it will take hundreds of millions of dollars and several years before the company starts to use the new material in large scale.
"I would not say Liquidmetal was perfected. This is a technology that has yet to be matured and perfected both in manufacturing process and application development. I should note that this is a completely new and different metal technology. Therefore, there is no suitable manufacturing infrastructure yet to take full advantage of this alloy technology. For example, I estimate that Apple will likely spend on the order of $300 million to $500 million - and three to five years - to mature the technology before it can used in large scale," said Atakan Peker, one of the inventors of the Liquidmetal alloy, in an interview with Business Insider web-site.
There are several instances of liquidmetal usages in personal technology: Apple used the material for SIM-removing pin, Nokia and Samsung made flip phones of liquid metal. At present Apple uses aluminum to create cases for MacBook laptops, but since it involves milling cutter, it is very hard and expensive to produce them in volume. Liquidmetal could help, but at present it is not ready for it.
"First evolutionary substitution of current materials and secondly, and more importantly, in a breakthrough product made only possible by Liquidmetal technology. Apple’s exclusively licensing a new material technology (specifically for casing and enclosures) is a first in the industry. This is very exciting. Therefore, I expect Apple to use this technology in a breakthrough product. Such product will likely bring an innovative user interface and industrial design together, and will also be very difficult to copy or duplicate with other material technologies," added Mr. Peker.