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Tech Forecast

The Next Revolutionary IPhone Could Be 3-D-Printed

Remember Liquidmetal, the revolutionary manufacturing material? Apple just filed a big list of patents for using it.

The Next Revolutionary IPhone Could Be 3-D-Printed

[Image: Flickr user ellenm1]

New patents suggest Apple is planning to use Liquidmetal technology for 3-D printing. As Apple explains: "3-D 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," and the speed and cheapness also allow for individual product customization.

But what is Liquidmetal? It's an amorphous metal alloy that can have a relatively low melting temperature. This means it can be easily worked, or even extruded into molds the way you would a plastic material. It is also resistant to cracking and it can be stronger than high-strength steel or some composite materials.

The implications of this are huge. 3-D-printed iPhones could be both stronger and cheaper to make, and the production technique itself could mean we see phones with new unique shapes.

Of course, Apple has been known to take bold steps to make its products with innovative production line technology; the upcoming Mac Pro as a great example. Check out the luxurious video below about how the metal iPhone 5 is machined.