Even though Liquidmetal (a bulk metal glass which can be cast into any shape and then let to harden like a metal) is currently used by Apple only for its SIM ejector tool, the company hasn’t stopped experimenting in that domain. And a couple of fresh patents, received by Apple today (via AppleInsider), hint towards Cupertino giant’s continued research in the field.
These fresh pair of patents published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday describe methods of melting bulk amorphous alloys and applying the material to casts, either by itself or in conjunction with another metal.
The first of these patents, U.S. Patent No. 9,103,009 describes a “Method of using core shell pre-alloy structure to make alloys in a controlled manner,” wherein Apple notes that much of today’s metallic alloys are cast into a metal or ceramic mold where it cools and solidifies. Cooling rates for commonly used metals are easily managed as structural changes occur gradually in concert with reductions in temperature, but the same process can be detrimental to bulk-solidifying amorphous alloys.
However, casting BMGs is a critical process, wherein the tiniest fraction of an impurity can result in severe damage to the whole process.
Apple’s second granted IP, U.S. Patent No. 9,101,977 for “Cold chamber die casting of amorphous alloys using cold crucible induction melting techniques,” details methods of melting BMG feedstock using horizontal cold crucible induction melting (CCIM) systems.
While imaginations may help you picture an iPhone manufactured with BMGs, it might still be a distant reality. Apple Watch in contrast though, looks a bit more realistic, considering that rumours have been doing rounds of a second-gen Apple Watch built with liquidmetal alloys.
Apple’s core/shell BMG patent was filed for in July 2012 and credits Christopher D. Prest, Joseph C. Poole, Matthew S. Scott and Dermot J. Stratton as its inventors. The CCIM patent was first filed for in July 2014 and credits the same inventors as well as Theodore A. Waniuk, Joseph Stevick and Sean O’Keeffe.