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Apple’s (s aapl) aluminum unibody laptop enclosure technology is pretty sophisticated. The housing and chassis of the computer comprise a single, seamless part, laser-carved using computer numerical control (CNC) machines from a single billet of extruded high-grade aluminum.
However, it looks like Apple may soon have an even more technologically avant-garde device enclosure technology. CrunchGear reports that an SEC filing reveals that Apple Inc. has concluded a deal to access all the intellectual property of LiquidMetal Technologies regarding a CalTech-developed, amorphous, non-crystalline, metal alloy with unique atomic structures that can be used to create products that are stronger, lighter, and harder than is possible with alloys of titanium or aluminum. Not only is this material resistant to wear and corrosion, it’s easily and economically formable, somewhat like plastic.
Cheaper, But With Superior Material Qualities
The relatively easy formability of LiquidMetal alloys would presumably facilitate much faster and cheaper production of device enclosures than the current aluminum unibody process, possibly rendering superior materials characteristics as well.
A Third Industrial Revolution
Noting that Sir Henry Bessemer’s 19th Century invention of a process to mass-produce steel inexpensively was crucial to the modern industrial revolution, while the invention of thermo-plastics dramatically reduced the cost of manufacturing by using one mold for thousands of parts, the LiquidMetal folks suggest that its technology developed in cooperation with scientists at CalTech combines more than twice the strength of titanium with the processing efficiency of plastics to create a third industrial revolution.
Smaller, Thinner, Lighter, More Durable
LiquidMetal alloys enable smaller, thinner and more durable electronic device enclosure designs, helping facilitate the requirement for larger LCD screens, thinner wall sections and pure metallic surface finishes. With approximately 2.5 times the strength of titanium alloy and 1.5 times the hardness of stainless steel, LiquidMetal alloys enable thinner, more compact device designs while providing greater protection for their internal components.
Using a process called precision net-shape casting, the alloys can be fashioned into intricate, innovative form-factors incorporating advantages like:
- Excellent durability
- High Scratch and corrosion resistance
- High Yield Strength
- High Hardness
- Superior Strength/Weight Ratio
- Superior Elastic Limit
- Unique Acoustical Properties
Not much wonder that Apple glommed on to this. I can hardly wait to see what it does with it.