Along with a job listing for a bug tester for iWork, Apple is advertising for a mechanical engineer with experience in dealing with Liquidmetal, fuelling speculation that Apple may ramping up its use of the alloy for use in the iPhone, iPad or MacBook.
According to a Softpedia report, Apple is seeking a Mechanical Engineer with a "Broad understanding of materials and manufacturing process such as joining (press lamination, gluing, heat staking)," as per the job posting on Apple's web site.
A search for Press Lamination brings up two Mechanical Engineer - DFx roles, one posed in April, one posted on 14 May, and one Mechanical Engineer - iPad role posted in April, hinting that the iPad could be one of the products to gain this expertise.
According to one of the inventors of Liquidmetal, Atakan Peker it's unlikely the whole case of a MacBook would be made from Liquidmetal. "It’s more likely in the form of a small components such as a hinge or bracket," he said, back in May 2012. However, he didn't rule the idea out entirely, suggesting: "A MacBook casing, such as a unibody, will take two to four more years to implement."
That prediction could suggest that it is feasible that liquidmetal casing could be seen as early as next summer.
Apple could also use Liquidmetal for the next iPhone. This time last year reports were circulating suggesting that liquidmetal could replace the glass back of the iPhone 4S.
The technology is already used in the SIM card ejector pins that used to ship with iPhones.
What is Liquidmetal?
Liquidmetal is a lightweight but durable alloy made from a mix of titanium, nickel, copper and zirconium, among other metals. It was developed by team at Caltech (where the characters in Big Bang Theory work) and is marketed by Liquidmetal Technologies.
It offers high tensile strength, excellent corrosion resistance, very high coefficient of restitution and excellent anti-wearing characteristics (e.g. it's resistant to scratching), while also being able to be heat-formed in processes similar to thermoplastics, according to a Wikipedia description. Liquidmetal is not liquid at room temperature, though crucially, the alloys have relatively low softening temperatures, allowing casting of complicated shapes without need of finishing. One of the first commercial uses of Liquidmetal was in golf clubs.
This video (here) highlights the potential of the Liquidmetal technology.
Does Apple own Liquidmetal
Last June a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that Apple has extended its agreement with Liquidmetal Technologies, giving it an exclusive license to all of the company’s Intellectual Property until February 2014.
Apple apparently paid at least $10.9 million in licensing fees to Liquidmetal Technologies to use Liquidmetal exclusively.
This isn't the first time Apple has sought expertise in the field. Back in 2010, Apple was seeking a number of experts on amorphous metals.