1 post • joined Tuesday 17th August 2010 18:02 GMT
Advantages of LiquidMetal
Apple now takes a huge block of aluminum and machines away 90% of it to make a body for the MacBook Pro or the Mac Mini. Of course, the waste metal is recycled but the machining takes time and energy. Using the ‘LiquidMetal’ alloys will allow the same parts to be cast in bulk like so many plastic spoons. However, Apple probably won't do this for large components as the alloy is much denser than aluminum, adding to the total weight.
Aluminum dents easily. The LiquidMetal alloys are very “springy” – not only harder to deform but less likely to leave a permanent dent.
The alloys themselves are not that expensive in small quantities – just the licensing, and Apple has already paid for that. The metal is easy to cast at a relatively low temperature and unlike other cast metals (Aluminum, Magnesium, Zinc, & other “white metal” alloys) the finished casting is very strong and very hard. Because the alloy is made of atoms of widely dissimilar sizes, a crystal structure cannot form as the metal cools. It ends up as an amorphous soild like glass. Without a crystal lattice there are no weak points to easily fail or to propagate cracks.
Apple also has a patent for parts (casings, mostly) made of ceramics which are not only very hard and durable but totally transparent to radio frequency waves (RF) allowing signals to go through the case.
The best of both worlds is to have a part made of a lightweight porous closed-cell ceramic and then to fill the spaces with a LiquidMetal alloy (think of a brick soaking up molten aluminum and then cooling.) This metal-reinforced ceramic would be literally bulletproof. Tiny parts could be press-formed from a ceramic paste, fired, and then filled with the alloy giving lightweight but immensely strong parts that were also corrosion resistant – think hinges, handles, buttons, antennas, cases, &c.