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What is Liquidmetal?

Liquidmetal is an amorphous metal alloy that combines a number of desirable properties — including high tensile strength, corrosion resistance, coefficient of restitution, and anti-wear characteristics. Liquidmetal can also be heat-formed in processes and precision levels similar to thermoplastics.

Developed at Caltech, Liquidmetal was introduced for commercial applications in 2003. It was the first of a series of experimental alloys that could achieve an amorphous structure at slow cooling rates. Low softening temperatures allow Liquidmetal to be cast into complex shapes with no finishing required.

Liquidmetal's properties immediately after casting are superior to those of conventional metals. The alloy is malleable at low temperatures and can be molded with a near-zero shrink rate (0.4%). Due to its non-crystalline (amorphous) structures, Liquidmetal is harder than Titanium or Aluminum alloys. The Zirconium and Titanium base of Liquidmetal achieves yield strength of 1723 MPa — nearly twice the strength of conventional Titanium alloys and similar strength as high-strength steels.

How Does Liquidmetal Work?

Production casting of customized Liquidmetal parts occurs in five stages:

1. Raw Material

After Liquidmetal is alloyed, it is crushed into a gravel-like condition for use in our molding machine. The alloying process does not control the cooling rate of the alloy, so it is received in a crystalline state.

2. Melting

An induction heating coil is used to melt the alloy in a controlled environment under vacuum. A single batch of material is pre-measured so just enough is melted to fill the cavities of the tool.

3. Injection

This image shows a mold that has opened after the parts have cooled. The injection port in the center has runners that directed the alloy to four separate cavities to produce the parts.

4. Eject

The mold is designed to hold the parts on a specific side of the mold when it opens. Ejector pins are activated to assist a robotic arm to remove the parts as they are still connected to the remnant of the injection port and the runners.

5. De-gate

Liquidmetal is at full physical properties after it cools in the mold, so the part cannot be detached from the runner system during part ejection like other molding processes. A secondary operation such as laser or waterjet cutting is used to remove the part.

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Advantages of Liquidmetal

Liquidmetal offers several advantages over other manufacturing processes:

  • CNC machining: Lower cost and higher efficiency production, with comparable part-to-part consistency

  • Metal injection molding / die casting: improved precision without post-machining, faster time to market

  • Plastic injection molding: higher strength, precision, hardness, and wear resistance

Liquidmetal's unique as-cast properties include:

  • Dimensional control within ± 0.002 inches

  • Stronger than Titanium at 1250 MPa

  • Hardness comparable to hardened Steel at 47 HRC

  • Elasticity three times higher than Steel at 1.8%

Liquidmetal Materials

The vast majority of Liquidmetal parts are produced in LM106c — a non-ferrous alloy made of:

  • Zirconium

  • Copper

  • Nickel

  • Niobium

  • Aluminum

Liquidmetal Applications

Liquidmetal is used in a wide range of industries and products. Some examples include:

  • Consumer: Sporting knives, multi-tools, golf clubs, skis, baseball and softball bats, tennis rackets, musical instruments

  • Energy: Solar wind collector arrays, protective coatings for petroleum drill pipes and power plant boiler tubes, kinetic energy penetrators

  • Industrial: Custom springs, locking mechanisms, pressure sensors, load cells, precision gears, high-strength brackets / hinges / linkages

  • Medical: Surgical instruments, end effectors, drive mechanisms, pacemaker enclosures, handheld device housings

  • Technology: Wearables, smartphone components, USB flash drive casings, electric vehicle components

Liquidmetal Manufacturers

Liquidmetal Technologies

Industry Association

Liquidmetal Resources

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