Why Apple loves plastics(digest from PlasticsToday)

By Doug Smock 
Published: September 3rd, 2013

It's no wonder that Apple keeps bulking up its materials' engineering capabilities. New types of plastics and molding capabilities keep emerging, creating opportunities for high-end consumer electronics applications. Given Apple's demand for the highest-possible quality, and willingness to pay for it, high end materials' science is a perfect fit for the company.

Apple, for example, has been a leader in looking for applications for injection molded metallic glass. Apple tested the material in the SIM card eject tool for the iPhone 3G.

The U.S. Patent Office recently awarded a patent  to Crucible Intellectual Property (a JV of Apple and Liquidmetal Technologies) for bulk amorphous alloy sheet forming processes. The development excited the stock penny crowd enough to boost the sagging share prices of LMT, which has also been working on a unique injection molding process developed by Engel. In fact, the stock price rose enough to allow LMT to pay off a senior debt note that was due Sept. 1.

It is not clear how Apple might use the "liquid" metal sheets. Apple is famously secretive about its materials technology and design development.

While Apple has been a leader in development of specialty metals and glass for its consumer electronics devices, plastics clearly are in its gunsights . Apple loves plastics because they are lightweight, strong, can be cost-effectively mass produced, and can be injection molded into complex shapes that combine functionality. Component integration boosts reliability and cuts costs.

Breakthrough materials of interest to Apple include thermoplastic carbon composites for housings.  That's the same material now used in the latest designs of aircraft fuselages and wings...

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