Looking into One of Apple's Special-Purpose Liquidmetal Projects
Before there was even a Master Agreement signed between Apple and Liquidmetal Technologies, there was an Apple patent describing the use of such technology. In June 2010 we posted our original report titled "Behind Apple's Stunningly Crafted iPhone is a Patent." In May 2011 we pointed out how Apple updated their trademark to cover precious metals and their alloys for such things as watches and other interesting items. Then this past Saturday, AppleInsider's Daniel Dilger reported on Liquid Metal Technologies 10-K filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. After reviewing the statements related to Apple in their 10-K filing form, we wanted to investigate this a little further. The end result was the discovery of a pair of interesting patents related to Apple's relationship with Liquidmetal Technologies. In March we posted a report about Apple researching methods of waterproofing iOS devices and lo and behold, one of the key projects between Liquid Technologies and Apple was about "Forming a Hermetic Seal" for waterproofing. Today's report fills you in on the details.
Liquid Metal Technologies 10-K Form: Crucible Intellectual Property
The following information is a segment of Liquidmetal Technologies 10-K form as made public by Yahoo! Finance:
"On August 5, 2010, we entered into a license transaction with Apple Inc. ("Apple") pursuant to which (i) we contributed substantially all of our intellectual property assets to a newly organized special-purpose, wholly-owned subsidiary, called Crucible Intellectual Property, LLC ("CIP"), (ii) CIP granted to Apple a perpetual, worldwide, fully-paid, exclusive license to commercialize such intellectual property in the field of consumer electronic products, as defined in the license agreement, in exchange for a license fee, and (iii) CIP granted back to us a perpetual, worldwide, fully-paid, exclusive license to commercialize such intellectual property in all other fields of use. Additionally, in connection with the license transaction, Apple required us to complete a statement of work related to the exchange of Liquidmetal intellectual property information. The Company recognized a portion of the one-time license fee upon receipt of the initial payment and completion of the foregoing requirements under the license transaction. The remaining portion of the one-time license fee was recognized at the completion of the required statement of work.
Under the agreements relating to the license transaction, we are obligated to contribute all intellectual property that we develop through February 2012 to CIP."
The keys found in this document relate to the work done by a "special-purpose" subsidiary of Liquidmetal Technologies called Crucible Intellectual Property who was to provide Apple with a specific "statement of work." According the filing, the agreement was to be in effect until the end of February 2012. So whatever that project was to be completed in that time frame has likely now been accomplished.
Legally speaking, a "statement of work" is a formal document that captures and defines the work activities, deliverables and timeline a vendor must execute in performance of specified work for a client. You could find a very specific outline of what is typically addressed by a formal statement of work at Wikipedia.
While we may never know the full specifics of the "statement of work" that Apple laid out for Liquidmetal, we can in-part understand that it would have included patent filings that the subsidiary filed under this special purpose project. Our report now turns to providing you with some of the key points found in one of Crucible Intellectual Property's patent filings regarding the use of Liquidmetal as a sealant.
Applications/Devices Utilizing this New Sealant
This particular patent is about a water proofing sealing process that they describe as being an interfacial layer and seal. The intimate contact provided by this interfacial layer and seal can be used for a variety of applications. The interfacial layer/alloy can function as solder mass, case sealing, electrical lead for air tight or water-proof application, rivet, bonding, fastening parts together.
An interfacial layer and seal can be a part of an electronic device, such as, for example, a part of the housing of the device or an electrical interconnector. For example, in one embodiment, the interfacial layer or seal can be used to connect and bond two parts of the housing of an electronic device and create a seal that is impermeable to fluid, effectively rendering the device water proof and air tight such that fluid cannot enter the interior of the device.
So what kind of Apple applications could utilize this sealing process? The patent states that it applies to a telephone, such as a cell phone, and a land-line phone, or any communication devices, such as a smart phone, including, for example an iPhone. Other listed devices include an electronic email sending/receiving device or 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 used in an entertainment device, including portable DVD player, conventional DVD player, Blue-Ray disk player, video game console and a music player such as an iPod and so forth.
It can also be a part of a device that provides control, such as controlling the streaming of images, videos, sounds such an 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 seal can also be applied to devices such as a watch or a clock.
Forming an Interfacial Layer/Seal
The patent's FIG. 1 below provides an illustrative flow diagram showing the process of forming an interfacial layer/seal; FIG. 2 provides a schematic of an exemplary embodiment of a process of making a seal/interfacial layer between two parts.
A Wide Variety of Sealing Options for Manufacturing
About Apple's Patent Figures: Apple's patent FIGS. 3(a)-3(b) provide two schematics showing two parts being joined together by an interfacial layer. The two parts need not be aligned; FIGS. 4(a)-4(b) provides two schematics showing a seal can be formed on a recessed surface of a part; FIGS. 5(c) and 5(d) illustrate the formation of a second interfacial layer and its relationship to the two parts and the first interfacial layer in two embodiments.
More on FIG. 5(c): Alternatively, the second interfacial layer 4 need not be disposed over the first interfacial layer 2. For example, the second seal/interfacial layer can also be disposed on the side that is perpendicular to the first interfacial layer 2. In other words, in this embodiment, the second interfacial layer/seal can provide a seal in another direction. The second layer 4 can be on one side or both sides of the first interfacial layer 2, and the second interfacial layer 4 can further be contact with the first part 1, the second part 3, or both.
A Seal between a Protruding Wire and Hollow Cylinder
In patent FIG. 6 we see an illustrative flow diagram showing the process of forming an interfacial layer/seal. The process includes a step of making the amorphous alloy composition shape; FIG. 7 provides a schematic showing an embodiment of the interfacial layer in the form of a seal between a protruding wire and a hollow cylinder.
The interfacial layer formed on a surface of a part, or several parts can create an effective seal between the surface of the part and the interfacial layer itself. In one embodiment, the interfacial layer is at least partially impermeable, such as at least substantially impermeable, such as completely impermeable to fluid, including water (i.e., "waterproof") or air (i.e., "air-tight").
The seal can simultaneously function as a bonding element that bonds the two parts together. In one embodiment, the seal can be a hermetic seal. A hermetic seal can refer to an airtight seal that is also impermeable to fluid or microorganisms. The seal can be used to protect and maintain the proper function of the protected content inside the seal.
The Liquidmetal Video
Apple's updated trademark filing for "Apple" covered such things as precious metals and their alloys along with horological and chronometric instruments, watches, clocks," and much more. This particular patent likewise lists a watch as one of the possible products that could use their technology. In that vein, we conclude this report with Liquidmetal Technologies video on the making of a high-end watch with their technology:
This particular patent relates to the Apple-Liquidmetal Technologies agreement that formed the company "Crucible Intellectual Property" to handle the IP for Apple's special-project outlined earlier in this report. To review the details of this patent, see patent application 20110163509. Crucible Intellectual Property LLC originally filed their patent in January 2011. It was published by the US Patent and Trademark Office in July 2011.
Notice: 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. Apple's patent applications have provided the Mac community with a clear heads-up on some of Apple's greatest product trends including the iPod, iPhone, iPad, iOS cameras, LED displays, iCloud services for iTunes and more. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.
It makes one wonder, with this company being so small, why didn't apple just buy it?
Posted by: melgross | April 02, 2012 at 07:51 PM