A recently published Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) patent spotted by Apple Insider shows that the Cupertino-based company is continuing to explore the use of an incredibly strong alloy known as Liquidmetal. In a patent titled, “Counter-gravity casting of hollow shapes,” Apple describes a new method for casting a “bulk metallic glasses” material — also known as Liquidmetal — into hollow parts by using a counter-gravity molding technique.
Although this proprietary material is owned by Liquidmetal Technologies (LQMT.PK), Apple has an agreement with the company that gives it the right to manufacture consumer electronics products made from Liquidmetal through a wholly-owned subsidiary of Liquidmetal Technologies called Crucible Intellectual Property. In a filing made with the Securities and Exchange Commission in May, Apple extended its licensing agreement with Liquidmetal Technologies until February 5, 2015.
Despite holding the exclusive rights to use this material for consumer electronics products since 2010, Apple has so far only used Liquidmetal to make a SIM card eject tool for the iPhone. Apple’s limited use of Liquidmetal may be related to the difficulties associated with mass producing this material. However, the recent publication of a Liquidmetal-related patent by Apple has reignited speculation that the long-rumored iWatch may be made from this material.
As noted on the Liquidmetal Technologies website, this material “uniquely combines the strength of forging with intricate molding capabilities” and has “twice the strength of titanium.” The unique properties of this material have led to its widespread use in many different markets, including “medical, aerospace, military, commercial, sporting goods, & energy applications.” However, one of the first industries to embrace the use of Liquidmetal was watchmakers. As noted on ABlogtoWatch, The Swatch Group’s (SWGAY.PK) Omega luxury watch brand has been using Liquidmetal for some of its devices since 2009. As seen in the Omega video above, Liquidmetal’s unique qualities make it an ideal material for watchmaking.
The same qualities of durability and malleability that make Liquidmetal an ideal material for traditional timepieces also make it the ideal material for Apple’s rumored wrist-worn wearable tech device. Last month, an insider source cited by 9to5Mac reported that Apple’s iWatch will be marketed primarily as a fashion accessory. More recently, it was reported by Reuters that Apple had poached a prominent sales executive from Swiss luxury watch brand TAG Heuer. Both reports suggest that Apple’s iWatch will be competing against luxury watchmakers, rather than other wearable tech device makers such as Samsung (SSNLF.PK). For this reason, it would make sense for Apple to make its iWatch out of a material that has already been embraced by a premier luxury watch brand.
Although Apple’s latest Liquidmetal-related patent is simply expanding on a previously filed patent, the latest filing reveals that the iPhone maker is still actively exploring the use of this material. This raises the possibility that Apple has found an efficient way to mass produce its upcoming iWatch out of this super strong alloy.
Since Apple has acquired exclusive rights to use Liquidmetal for consumer electronics products, the use of this material for the iWatch would also give Apple an important competitive edge over other wearable tech device makers that will not be able to use this unique material.
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