On November 21, 2013, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a new series of five liquidmetal patent applications from Apple. While all of the five patents are highly technical in nature, two of the patents focus on 3D printing.
One of Apple's inventions published today relates to methods of constructing a part using bulk metallic glasses (BMG - Liquidmetal) layer by layer. In one embodiment, a layer of BMG powder is deposited to selected positions and then fused to a layer below by suitable methods such as laser heating or electron beam heating. The deposition and fusing are then repeated as need to construct the part layer by layer. One or more layers of non-BMG can be used as needed. In one embodiment, layers of BMG can be cut from one or more sheets of BMG to desired shapes, stacked and fused to form the part. Apple's primary example of this invention focuses in on 3D printing.
According to Apple, 3D printing may be used to produce parts directly from computer-generated design data. 3D printing uses layering techniques to build three-dimensional parts. Such parts may be formed by forming successive thin cross-sections of the desired part. The individual cross-sections are formed by bonding together adjacent grains of a granular material on a generally planar surface of a bed of the granular material. Each layer is bonded to a previously formed layer to form the desired three-dimensional article at the same time as the grains of each layer are bonded together. 3D printing can be quicker and less expensive than machining of prototype parts or production of cast or molded parts by conventional "hard" or "soft" tooling techniques that can take from a few weeks to several months, depending on the complexity of the part.
3D printing may be useful in design-related fields for visualization, demonstration, and mechanical prototyping. It may also be useful for making patterns for molding processes. 3D printing techniques may be further useful, for example, in the fields of medicine and dentistry, where expected outcomes may be modeled prior to performing procedures. Other fields that may benefit from rapid prototyping technology include architectural designing, as well as others in which visualization of a design is useful.
One application of 3D printing is production of parts such as enclosures for consumer electronics. Parts for consumer electronics may have small sizes, tight constraints on their dimensions and complex shapes, which can make traditional subtractive manufacturing method difficult or expensive.
Another application of 3D printing is in the medical field. For example, replacement human body parts such as artificial bones may be created with 3D printing. Other examples may include scaffolds for tissue engineering, including but not limited to scaffolds that facilitate cell attachment and migration, delivery and retention of cells and biochemical factors, delivery and diffusion of cell nutrients and cell-expressed products, etc.
The final application of 3D printing is in the field of individualized consumer goods. For example, 3D printing can be used to create individualized interfaces to human body, such as customized ergonomic handles that fit each individual's hands.
All five Liquidmetal patents published today include the same list of potential products as noted below:
A telephone, such as a cell phone, and a land-line phone, or any communication device, such as a smart phone, including, for example an iPhone, and an electronic email sending/receiving device. It can be a part of a display, such as a digital display, a TV monitor, an electronic-book reader, an iPad, and a computer monitor.
It can also be an entertainment device, including a portable DVD player, conventional DVD player, Blue-Ray disk player, video game console, music player, such as a portable music player (e.g., iPod), etc. It can also be a part of a device that provides control, such as controlling the streaming of images, videos, sounds (e.g., Apple TV), or it can be a remote control for an electronic device. It can be a part of a computer or its accessories, such as the hard drive tower housing or casing, laptop housing, laptop keyboard, laptop track pad, desktop keyboard, mouse, and speaker. The article can also be applied to a device such as a watch or a clock.
Apple credits Christopher Prest, Joseph Poole, Joseph Stevick, Theodore Waniuk and Quoc Tran Pham as the inventors of patent application 20130309121 which was originally filed in Q2 2012. See Apple's patent titled "Layer-by-Layer Construction with Bulk Metallic Glasses" for more details.
The other four liquidmetal related patent application published today include "Layer-by-Layer Construction with Bulk Metallic Glasses" 20130306198, "Amorphous Alloy Component or Feedstock and Methods of Making the Same" 20130306197, "Bulk Metallic Glass Feedback with Dissimilar Sheath" 20130306199 and "Manipulating Surface Topology of BMG Feedstock" 20130306196.
To Review other Liquidmetal patents, visit our Liquidmetal Archives.
A Note for Tech Sites covering our Report: We ask tech sites covering our report to kindly limit the use of our graphics to one image. Thanking you in advance for your cooperation.
Patently Apple presents a detailed summary of patent applications with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application should be read in its entirety for full and accurate details. Revelations found in patent applications shouldn't be interpreted as rumor or fast-tracked according to rumor timetables.
About Making Comments on our Site: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit any comments.
New on Patent Bolt this Week