With all the recent rumors floating around the internet about the next iPhone 5 allegedly coming in a casing made from liquidmetal in addition to all the concept phones various fans have created with the same feature, Atakan Peker who is allegedly one of the inventors of the material, shed some light on the issue during an interview. While speaking to the folks over at BusinessInsider (via 9to5mac), Peker said that Apple is still a few years away from using the material on a larger scale like for MacBooks.
Despite the company obtaining the rights to the liquidmetal amorphous metal alloys in 2010, he thinks that it will still take some time until it matures and only after that will it be part of a breakthrough product for the Cupertino tech-giant. Peker goes on to explain that in order to put the material through the wringer and have it mature would cost Apple $300 to $500 million and that it would probably take from 3 to 5 years until it is ready to be used on a large scale. He also thinks that materials like metal, glass and plastic have their own advantages and disadvantages but liquidmetal apparently has the ability to combine their advantages and remedy their shortcomings.
In the interview, he focused on how Apple could be using the material in a few years time to create breakthrough products or even a MacBook made from the material but he didn’t mention any possibility or otherwise if there was a chance that the next-gen iPhone would ship with a casing made of the material. Of course, liquidmetal does have some very good qualities in that it’s strong and can be molded into complex shapes easily, but Peker seems to think that for now, it still has some ways to go before it is used on a larger products.
That said however, can the iPhone be classified as a large scale product like the MacBook? Peker said, “Given the size of MacBook and scale of Apple products, I think it’s unlikely that Liquidmetal casing will be used in MacBooks in the near term. It’s more likely in the form of small component such as a hinge or bracket. A MacBook casing, such as a unibody, will take two to four more years to implement.” If rumors are to be believed, we are only going to find out for sure in June when the iPhone 5 is said to be launched. Until then however, you can read a few highlights from the interview below.
How long did it take to perfect Liquidmetal?
I would not say Liquidmetal was perfected. This is a technology that has yet to be matured and perfected both in manufacturing process and application development. I should note that this is a completely new and different metal technology. Therefore, there is no suitable manufacturing infrastructure yet to take full advantage of this alloy technology.
For example, I estimate that Apple will likely spend on the order of $300 million to $500 million — and three to five years — to mature the technology before it can used in large scale.
I’ve heard rumors that future MacBooks from Apple could use Liquidmetal casing, what would that be like? Is it likely to happen?
Given the size of MacBook and scale of Apple products, I think it’s unlikely that Liquidmetal casing will be used in MacBooks in the near term. It’s more likely in the form of small component such as a hinge or bracket. A MacBook casing, such as a unibody, will take two to four more years to implement
How does Liquidmetal compare to the metal, glass, and plastic used in mobile devices now?
Each material has its own advantage and disadvantages. 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.
Is there anything else relating to mobile gadgets and Liquidmetal that you think people should know about?
I expect Liquidmetal application in two ways: First evolutionary substitution of current materials and secondly, and more importantly, in a breakthrough product made only possible by Liquidmetal technology. Apple’s exclusively licensing a new material technology (specifically for casing and enclosures) is a first in the industry.
This is very exciting. Therefore, I expect Apple to use this technology in a breakthrough product. 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.