updated 01:08 am EST, Thu January 31, 2013
Also hints at 'novel' uses for plastic in future products
Apple has posted a pair of new job listings in the last week that suggest the company will be making further use of plastics in future products, supporting rumors that have circulated about the company producing a lower-cost iPhone that would prominently feature plastic in the body of the device. The job listings themselves suggest Apple is looking more for engineers that can help it push forward in "non-traditional" ways of using, shaping and controlling the material on behalf of suppliers as well as itself.
Although the company is known for its industry-inspiring use of metal and glass, the company continues to use plastic for an array of other product such as its Airport and Apple TV products. It also uses plastic in parts of other products like the Magic Mouse and cables, keyboard keys and power cords among others.
In its earlier posting for a "Tooling Engineer" in plastics, the company described the position as leading "the development of new plastic injection tooling projects" and helping "Apple suppliers to design and produce world-class plastic tooling" as well as "take a leading role in driving the improvement of productivity and quality of plastic part manufacturing" as well as other duties. On Wednesday, the company added a position for a Manufacturing Design Engineer specializing in advanced plastic tooling and process.
The successful candidate would "identify, develop and launch new tooling and process capabilities in support of new Apple product developments." Given that the rumors of a lower-cost, plastic-based iPhone have the device launching later this year, it is unlikely that these positions would have anything to do with such a unit and instead will focus on allowing Apple to make new and better plastic-based accessories to help support existing and new products in the same way it presently does. Both positions mention travel to Asia as part of the duties.
The listings may also lead to speculation that Apple is working on new manufacturing processes to use plastic in ways not usually considered. Several years ago, Apple licensed the exclusive rights to Liquidmetal technology to use in parts found in iPhones and other devices, but to date has not leveraged the technology extensively. It is possible that the company is turning to innovative plastic tooling techniques to supplement existing and future Liquidmetal uses.