Apple's "special event" scheduled for next week (and probably heralding the arrival of a new iPod Touch) is intended to excite consumers, but it is yesterday's Apple news that's sure to capture the imagination of industrial designers.
As reported by Cult of Mac, Apple has or will soon have "the most advanced manufacturing machine on the planet," a prototype injection molding machine designed to accommodate Liquidmetal, the new material recently licensed by Apple. (The photo above is a "similar" machine made by the same company, Switzerland's Buhler Group.)
What this machine can do, from a production method perspective, is make parts like this in a single shot:
While that may not seem terribly sexy to the layperson, a designer or engineer could tell you that that part would typically require a host of processes to produce it--cutting, drilling, threading, milling, not to mention the finishing processes like deburring--whereas the new process can pump it out of a mold in one go, just like with plastic injection molding. The reduced number of processes and lack of machining needed translates to an enormous time and cost savings; it's like the difference between doing a batch of laundry by hand, then hang-drying and ironing each piece, versus throwing the whole load in a combo washer-dryer and hitting the button.
We can't wait to see what Ive and co., after playing around with this machine and future versions of it, are able to produce. Read more about Liquidmetal and its manufacturing processes at the full article.