Apple fans drool over Liquidmetal widget
Amazing material put to mundane use
It should come as no surprise that Apple fanboys are moistened by their favourite vendor's use of novel materials, and you can understand that excitement when a device uses a clever new compound in its construction.
But it's downright scary when the discovery that a tiny, often overlooked iPhone accessory is formed from a fancy alloy prompts so many blog posts and fansite write-ups after being revealed by Cult of Mac.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the iPhone's SIM ejector tool is made of something called Liquidmetal.
For those of you who aren't metallurgists, Liquidmetal is a California Institute of Technology-developed alloy that's strong, light, and highly resistant to wear and corrosion.
We mean no disrepect to Liquidmetal's inventors or the team the commercialises this tougher-than-titanium substance, but what sort of arse gets excited by the fact that Apple has used this substance to make a widget uses to ping out a phone's SIM tray?
Apparently, the Liquidmetal SIM ejector tool only shipped with US-bound iPhone 3G handests - 'lesser' European and Asian buyers got steel tools instead. No doubt they're feeling extremely hard done by - or would be if their ejectors popped out the SIM trays any less efficiently than the Liquidmetal one does.
The steel ejector that came with this reporter's UK-sourced iPhone 4 certainly does the job well enough, and we defy anyone outside the Reality Distortion Field to prove that Liquidmetal - as good as it may be for other applications - makes for a superior SIM ejection experience.
Apple might well have chosen the SIM ejector tool as a testbed to sample Liquidmetal's resilience in real world usage, and that's fair enough. But does it really warrant so many awestruck column inches?
Of course, what's really interesting here is that Apple has paid Liquidmetal Technologies, the company formed to licence the alloy, at least $11m for the exclusive right to use the material in consumer electronics kit. ®
"But does it really warrant so many awestruck column inches?"
The Reg certainly seems to think it does.
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.
Liquid Metal Jacket
I accidentally dropped my iPhone SIM key into the fire. I carefully retrieved it but noticed that it was strangely cool. Then, quite suddenly, some fiery lettering appeared in a font I'd not seen before. It was an inscription written in the old MacSpeech of Cupertino. It roughly translates as:
1Phone to fool them all
1Phone to find them
1Phone to ring them all
and in the contract bind them
In the land of Macdor where the execs lie.
the biggest non story of the year..
A fucking sim remover warrants THIS...
Having a giraffe...
Bet the fanbois are all nursing a semi as we speak.
I thought his post...
was a damn sight more interesting than the original article. And that your reaction was amazingly over the top.