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Advanced Materials Fueling Innovation for Apple, B2B Manufacturers

March 13, 2015

Apple is currently making headlines around the world with details of its soon-to-be-released Apple Watch. But of particular interest to manufacturers should be the behind-the-scenes detail that the deluxe edition of the watch will be manufactured from a patented gold alloy. The new material will make the watch lighter, stronger and more scratch-resistant than ordinary 18 karat gold.

"As manufacturing technologies and processes continue to improve, so too do raw materials," said J.P. Donlon, editor-in-chief of Chief Executive Magazine. "Alloys are increasingly playing a large part in this innovation in both B2B and B2C applications, helping everyone from niche manufacturers to consumer giants like Apple innovate."

Advanced materials are also making significant strides on the B2B side. One example is IBC Advanced Alloys Corp.'s Beralcast, a beryllium-aluminum casting alloy that is currently being used in the aerospace industry. "Beryllium is the second-lightest material in the world, and when alloyed with aluminum, it is very stiff with a very low coefficient of thermal expansion," said Anthony Dutton, president and chief executive of the firm.

By combining beryllium and aluminum into a single alloy, "it can handle extreme changes in temperature and climate without changing shape, which is very important for fighter jets in the Persian Gulf," Dutton says. "They can be on aircraft carriers in sweltering heat and within a few minutes be 50,000 feet up in freezing cold. For those temperature extremes, you want to have a material that is as stable as possible."

Materials innovation doesn't necessarily come easily. Machined parts containing both beryllium and aluminum, for instance, are expensive to make as the two materials are very difficult to work together, according to Dutton. The metallurgical differences, such as different melting points, make the alloying of the materials challenging.

Dutton will speak on the topic, "Advanced Materials for Advanced Manufacturing," at Chief Executive's 2015 Smart Manufacturing Summit, "Reinventing American Manufacturing for the 21st Century," April 28-30 in Indianapolis.

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