Feeds

Thank BRIT eggheads for new iMac's sexy seamless knife-edge

Welding knowhow keeps Apple beyond bleeding

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

A little-known British company is the brains behind technology in the new super-slim iMacs that Apple CEO Tim Cook raved about on stage.

That admired tech is the tapered aluminium edge at the 5mm-wide end of Apple's latest thin desktops, which were revealed at an event in October.

Edge of the latest iMac, credit Apple

The new thin iMac and its 5mm edge

The welding technique that has made the new iMac so thin is the intellectual property of Cambridge-based company TWI. The iMac Apple is just 5mm thick around the edges of the display on the all-in-one computer, and the aluminium join is made possible by friction-stir welding.

Invented in 1991 by Wayne Thomas at TWI, friction-stir welding is a solid-state process, meaning that it doesn't require the materials to be melted for them to be joined. Instead it softens and merges the edges by mixing the two materials under frictional heat.

The result is a smoother join of very high strength, and the process is quicker and uses less energy than traditional welding techniques.

It allows the join to be thinner too, so Apple can reduce the width of the iMac down to half a centimetre when attaching the front to the back of the computer: a "seamless, precise, and superstrong join" according to Apple.

The first licensed use of friction-stir welding was the in the construction of freezers for Swedish fishermen. Since then it's been used for spacecraft fuel tanks, aeroplane wings, high-speed trains, and boat hulls. And now it's in the new iMac.

Apple licensed the tech earlier this year and has been testing it since then. Iain Smith, associate director and intellectual property manager of TWI, would not reveal the commercial details of the deal with Apple.

But Smith said licences cost roughly £40,000 per assembly plant location per year - although that can vary according to the overall size of the contract and TWI's relationship with the customer.

Its list of patent licensees includes seven mentions of Hon Hai, the parent of Apple's electronics manufacturing partner Foxconn, but Smith said the extent of the Apple contract was greater than that.

Most of TWI's clients are big aerospace contractors, such as BAE and Lockheed Martin. Apple is unusual in using the metal-mushing technique for consumer electronics, although Smith mentioned that a Bang & Olufsen speaker has used friction-stir welded aluminium for the past 12 to 15 years, and heat sinks in laptops are among other components built using the technology.

The Brit welding specialist collected £60m in revenue in 2011, and banked a profit of just under a million quid. It is an independent research and development organisation, Smith explained, and it ploughs its profits back into devising new welding techniques - the speciality at the heart of the business: "If you think about it," Smith said, "everything you do in the world is joining materials together." ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
TEEN RAMPAGE: Kids in iPhone 6 'Will it bend' YouTube 'prank'
iPhones bent in Norwich? As if the place wasn't weird enough
George Clooney, WikiLeaks' lawyer wife hand out burner phones to wedding guests
Day 4: 'News'-papers STILL rammed with Clooney nuptials
iPAD-FONDLING fanboi sparks SECURITY ALERT at Sydney airport
Breaches screening rules cos Apple SCREEN ROOLZ, ok?
Crouching tiger, FAST ASLEEP dragon: Smugglers can't shift iPhone 6s
China's grey market reports 'sluggish' sales of Apple mobe
A moment of brilliance? UPnP for Internet of Stuff lightbulbs
Thus doth tech of future illuminate present, etc
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
How the FLAC do I tell MP3s from lossless audio?
Can you hear the difference? Can anyone?
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.