Liquid-Metal-Seamaster-Planet-Ocean

Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean watch with Liquidmetal

Apple has extended its rights to the metal alloy material that it originally licensed from Liquidmetal Technologies in 2010 for exclusive use in consumer electronics products. The proof comes from a recent filing with the SEC:

On May 19, 2014, Liquidmetal Technologies, Inc. (the “Company”) and Apple Inc. (“Apple”) entered into an second amendment (the “Second Amendment”) to the Master Transaction Agreement that was originally entered into on August 5, 2010 (the “MTA”) and amended on June 15, 2012 (the “First Amendment”). Under the MTA and the First Amendment, the Company was obligated to contribute to Crucible Intellectual Property, LLC, a special purpose subsidiary of the Company, all intellectual property acquired or developed by the Company from August 5, 2010 through February 5, 2014, and all intellectual property held by Crucible Intellectual Property, LLC was exclusively licensed on a perpetual basis to Apple for the field of use of consumer electronic products under the MTA. Under the Second Amendment, the parties agreed to amend the MTA and the First Amendment to extend the February 5, 2014 date to February 5, 2015.

Up until now Apple has tested the material in its SIM card ejector tool that came with previous generation iPhones, but several rumors in recent years have claimed it could take advantage of Liquidmetal for batteries, screws or other components of its products. However, back in 2012, one of Liquidmetal’s inventors noted that Apple was likely still three to five years away from using the material on a large scale in products:

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.

He also noted that Apple licensing the technology for casings and enclosures was an industry first, but that we’d likely see it used in hinges or brackets before something like a MacBook casing. “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.”

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14 Responses to “Apple extends exclusive rights to Liquidmetal in consumer products to Feb 2015”

  1. fredhstein says:

    How about wearables? highly rugged, small size, water proof.

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    • Completely inflexible though. An “iWatch” is far more likely to be a plastic band than a high end watch and almost all wearables need to be flexible by definition. Liquid Metal would not be a good choice for wearables.

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      • joshalfie says:

        Wasn’t there speculation recently that Apple would release a higher priced “luxury” smart watch? If Omega can use it in their watches I don’t see how Apple would not be able to in their own watch.

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      • @joshalfie: That the speculation happened is true, but it’s such a terrible idea that I don’t believe it will ever happen myself. That’s why I was ignoring that possibility.

        I think the only way Apple will ever make such an obsolete, anachronistic product (a traditional “watch”), is if the new iWatch is closer to a platform than a product, and if the only product using that platform that Apple makes is said luxury watch. I don’t see that happening.

        It would also make me seriously question whether I wanted to continue to use Apple products if they did such a silly thing. They might as well get into fashion directly and start making clothes, shoes and handbags.

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  2. dugbug says:

    Ah the liquidmetal tease

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  3. Liquid metal will be use on the tops and bottoms, including corners, of the next iPhone.

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    • That would be very cool. The phone would bounce when you drop it and jump back into your hand. :-)

      Don’t think so though. On the diagrams, the corners appear to be made of the “antenna break” material, so … probably not metal.

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    • Ah, so you saw it too eh? ;)

      I was starting to think I was the only one that noticed that possibility. People are looking at these schematics leaked entirely wrong. They think that “antenna line” is just a plastic line. They don’t realize that top and bottom piece actually appears to be a single piece, formed and molded directly onto the milled aluminum “windows” or whatever.

      Its hard to put into words because it is so complex what Apple looks to be doing, but I have experience in sheetmetal and have a little understanding when I look at blueprints.

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      • Yes, this was my reading of the schematics as well. I hope it’s true, because those super huge lines that everyone is showing on the mockups are horrid.

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      • Yea trust me, these ugly mock ups with the plastic outline on the backing have it completely wrong.

        What I’m saying is, that to me looks like it could only be possible with liquid metal. If the entire top/bottom pieces are all one piece, and lined through the back of the enclosure, the way that its attached to the enclosure it doesn’t seem like that could be done with anything other than liquid metal or plastic. And I HIGHLY doubt Apple would make the top and bottom edges of the next iPhone plastic. First off, I don’t think plastic would be able to serve as the actual antenna, and its unlikely Apple will revert back to internal antennas especially given the dimensions of this new iPhone. Second, there’s no way Apple would go from an aluminum/glass design to an aluminum/plastic design like the first iPhone.

        Like I said, the most recent leaked diagrams are VERY intriguing. The engineering of this part is incredibly complex and sophisticated. Totally something I’d expect from Apple.

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      • This is the diagram I’m referring to.

        slashgear(dot)com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/IMAGE_197.jpg

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  4. Tallest Skil says:

    Maybe by then they’ll have a product that uses it.

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  5. Would there be some advantage in using a Liquidmetal screw? Seriously. I’m hoping Liquidmetal in batteries would either increase battery life or have them charge faster. That would be a really practical use.

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  6. vkd108 says:

    I’d like to know what this offers over and above what can be achieved with Powder Metallurgy.

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