Apple Inc. has been granted a US Patent (No. 7,911,711, March 22, 2011) which will allow the electronics giant to explore a range of advanced metal-ceramic composites for use as lightweight structural casings and housings for personal electronic devices.
The patent given to Apple cites several different types of metal-ceramic composites, including ceramic fibre reinforced metals such as aluminium and titanium in order to provide the light weight and high stiffness. However, it does not specify any particular manufacturing route. PIM is thought to be an option as it is already being used by some manufacturers to produce complex shapes from Al-SiC metal-ceramic materials.
Another material option for Apple, cited in the patent, is a ceramic matrix composite reinforced with discontinuous metal fibres.
Apple recently signed an agreement with California-based company Liquidmetal Technologies to acquire the exclusive right to use essentially all of its intellectual property in the consumer electronics field relating to ‘Liquidmetal alloys’ while Liquidmetal retains usage rights in other fields.
Liquidmetal alloys are said to deliver stronger and harder device casings while also offering thinner designs. The relatively low melting temperature of the amorphous alloys lend themselves to be injection moulded like plastics into a variety of forms while retaining their excellent strength and durability.
The Swatch Group in Switzerland has also acquired a license from Liquidmetal Technologies to use the technology for its entire line of timepieces.
Edited by: Paul Whittaker, Editor ipmd.net, [email protected]