For a company that is known for its design, it may be surprising to hear that Apple is facing difficulties in the design process for its rumored iWatch, a wearable smartwatch. According to a report on DigiTimes, the problem with the design rests in how companies like Apple are applying surface treatments on the metal injection molded, or MIM, chassis.
“Several wearable devices such as Apple’s iWatch and Qualcomm’s Toq are reportedly seeing less than 50% yield rates due to difficulties applying surface treatments on their metal injection molded (MIM) chassis,” DigiTimes published, citing sources from the supply chain. “The MIM process is often used in the mass production of high-precision products with complicated industrial designs as it allows components to feature special shapes, but still maintain rigidness.”
The MIM process used to only be applied to components inside products, but in recent years MIM has also been applied to the product’s overall external design. In essence, clients like Apple and Qualcomm have to choose between demand (volume) or quality of the overall product, and most component manufacturers are finding difficulties in meeting both criteria.
This wouldn’t be the first time that Apple is finding difficulties securing components. It was reported that the Retina Display on the iPad mini with Retina Display also suffered from low yields as a result of challenges in creating the LCD panel.
The market for wearable computing is heating up in 2014 despite more limited successes in 2013. Samsung, Sony and Pebble already have smartwatches on the market today and LG is rumored to be entering this category as well. Samsung and Sony have already pledged bigger pushes in the wearable computing space. Smartwatches must also compete against other types of wearables, including devices like Google Glass.