Apple's latest Liquidmetal patents point to 3D printing for new iPhone parts

Apple Liquidmetal 3D patent
Liquidmetal meets 3D printing

Apple's Liquidmetal ambitions have been making waves in recent months, and a handful of new patent filings published this week reveal that Cupertino could implement some form of 3D printing with the technology.

Patently Apple has the spot on some new Apple patents published by the US Patent & Trademark Office, all of which revolve around the company's future plans for implementing the super-strong Liquidmetal alloy.

With earlier patent filings suggesting next year's rumored iPhone 6 could utilize bulk metallic glasses (BMG, the technical term for Liquidmetal), Apple's most recent patent filings hint at other possible uses.

Published November 20, the latest round focus on how Liquidmetal might be used to improve devices such as future iPhones, the next iPad or even TV (ahem, iTV) and computer monitors.

A new dimension

3D printing comes into play by allowing Apple to use "computer-generated design data" to create enclosures for devices where size and space constraints might make them impossible to fabricate using other methods.

The report noted that 3D printing can be faster and cheaper than traditional methods of producing prototype or molded parts.

One such patent filed in May 2013 titled "Layer-by-Layer Construction with Bulk Metallic Glasses" describes how BMG could be applied in layers and even intermixed with layers made of non-BMG material.

Liquidmetal would allow Apple to construct parts for such devices using a layer of BMG powder capable of being fused to other layers through laser or electron beam heating to arrive at the desired shape(s).

Could the iPhone 6 or iPad 6 be the first Apple products made with 3D-printed Liquidmetal parts? We should know sometime next year.