After months of anticipation, the Apple Watch is finally here and with it all the new interactions and technologies that let you do familiar things more quickly and conveniently as well as some things that simply weren’t possible before.
From a Precision Ceramics point of view, it was interesting to discover from Apple CEO Tim Cook’s Keynote that the back of the new watch is made from Zirconia and that the material covering the LCD is made of a single crystal of Sapphire.
Zirconia has long been part of the extensive range of technical ceramics available from Precision Ceramics and following a recent major investment in manufacturing facilities at our main headquarters in Birmingham, we are now capable of producing advanced Yttria Stabilised Zirconia 3YSZ ‘In-House’.
So why have Apple used Zirconia (above right) for the back of the watch? There are three main reasons…
1. In order to make charging the watch as easy as possible, and to make the design features as clean as possible, Apple has opted for inductive charging. Devices that use inductive charging must have a non-conductive section that will not interfere with the wireless charging. This means that metal could not be used on the back of the watch.
2. Apple is well renowned for its products being made from premium materials. Zirconia can be polished to a very high finish and has been used in prestigious watches for many years.
3. Zirconia has very favourable mechanical properties and has often been called the ‘ceramic steel’. Super sharp ceramic knives made from zirconia as an alternative to steel are nowadays widely available. Of all the potential ceramic options that Apple could have used in this application, Zirconia makes the best sense because it offers excellent wear resistance and ultimate toughness.
In developing their new watch, Apple needed a material that was not electrically conductive, had a premium feel and offered mechanical properties that could withstand the rigors of day to day use. There was only one real answer – Zirconia.