Apple may have found a solution to widely reported reception
problems for its latest iPhone. Earlier
this month, Apple bought all rights to commercialize a new metals technology
for consumer electronics applications.
Technologies of Rancho Santa Margarita, CA, granted Apple a perpetual,
worldwide, fully paid exclusive license to commercialize its intellectual
property in the field of consumer electronic products in exchange for a license
The intellectual property refers to the development of
liquid amorphous metals, also called "metallic glass," which were first
reported by scientists at the University of California in 1960. Amorphous metal technology is said to combine
the mechanical benefits of metals with the processing benefits of plastics.
Liquidmetal was established in 2003 to commercialize the
technology, which may still require significant investment by Apple to make it fully
processable like a plastic. The payoff would be huge - a housing for portable
electronics devices that would provide the strength and electrical properties
of metals with the ability to quickly produce components with complex shapes.
It's not known which cocktail of metals from Liquidmetal Apple
may pursue for its electronic applications. One of the first commercial alloys
developed at Caltech contained zirconium, titanium, copper, nickel and
Most metals crystallize when cooled. Caltech researchers,
however, discovered that certain metals remain amorphous if cooled in special
ways. Amorphous materials such as glass can be brittle - one of the issues
Apple researchers may need to address.
The latest model of the iPhone featured a metal antenna that
surrounded the outside of the device. The design played to Apple's strengths - the
new model is thin and light. But technical problems may have been the impetus
for investment in a major new materials technology.
Liquidmetal Technologies retains the rights to commercialize
the technology for other markets, such as defense, where it was granted a new
patent for composite armor in 2009. Another major market may be devices for
"We believe that the unique properties of bulk Liquidmetal
alloys provide a combination of performance and cost benefits that could make
them a desirable replacement to incumbent materials, such as stainless steel
and titanium, currently used in various medical device applications," the
company said in its most recently filed 10-K financial statement with the
Securities and Exchange Commission.
One reason why Liquidmetal may have sold such extraordinary
access to its technology could be financial.
The company has experienced significant operating losses
since its inception. The net loss for the fiscal years ending Dec. 31, 2008,
2007 and 2006, was $6.6 million, $5.6 million, and $14.5 million, respectively.
Liquidmetal had an accumulated deficit of approximately $162.3 million at Dec.
31, 2008. Part of the deficit was attributable to losses generated by
discontinued equipment manufacturing and retail golf operations.
Officials at Apple nor Liquidmetal Technologies could be
reached immediately for comment.
An in-depth survey of 700 current and future users of 3D printing holds few surprises, but results emphasize some major trends already in progress. Two standouts are the big growth in end-use parts and metal additive manufacturing (AM) most respondents expect.
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