Wednesday, May 02, 2012, 01:53 pm PT (04:53 pm ET)
Liquidmetal inventor says Apple is years away from using alloyThe inventor of Liquidmetal guesses that it would take hundreds of millions of dollars and over three years for Apple to ready the technology necessary to mass-produce large products made from the material.
Dr. Atakan Peker, who discovered and developed the formulation that later became Liquidmetal, said in an interview with Business Insider that Apple is most likely years away from using the alloy in large-scale projects, noting that there is "no suitable manufacturing infrastructure yet to take full advantage of this alloy technology."
The former Vice President of Technology at Liquidmetal estimates that an investment of $300 million to $500 million and three to five years would be needed before the metal finds its way into the hands of consumers.
"This is a technology that has yet to be matured and perfected both in manufacturing process and application development," Peker said. "I should note that this is a completely new and different metal technology."
It is unlikely that MacBook casings will be made from the material in the near future, however there is a possibility that small operational parts such as hinges and brackets can be produced. Nokia and Samsung phones have employed Liquidmetal previously, though not as a main design or structural feature.
Liquidmetal inventor Dr. Atakan Peker.
Apple currently has exclusive license to the technology which has been rumored to play a part in the upcoming next-generation iPhone, however the company has so far only implemented the metal once to make a SIM card ejection tool for the iPhone and iPad.
The structure of Liquidmetal lends itself nicely to the design of device components like casings and frames as it is both strong and eye-pleasing.
"Liquidmetal is super strong, scratch and corrosion resistant, resilient and can be precision cast into complex shapes," Peker said."Plastics are low cost to manufacture into complex shapes but not strong enough. Metals are strong but difficult to produce into complex shapes. And glass feels and looks beautiful but is highly fragile. Liquidmetal can combine these advantages and remedy some of these shortcomings."
Peker speculates that the metal will be used to replace existing components, followed by a "breakthrough product" which can only be made by harnessing the alloy's special qualities.
"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," Peker said.
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