Mobile Technology

HTC toughens One S smartphone with space-technology

HTC toughens One S smartphone ...
HTC One S has a matte black finish due to a microarc oxidation process it undergoes (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
HTC One S has a matte black finish due to a microarc oxidation process it undergoes (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
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The HTC One family includes the S, X and V (Photo: HTC)
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The HTC One family includes the S, X and V (Photo: HTC)
The back of the HTC One S, shown at CTIA 2012 (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
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The back of the HTC One S, shown at CTIA 2012 (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
HTC One S has a matte black finish due to a microarc oxidation process it undergoes (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
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HTC One S has a matte black finish due to a microarc oxidation process it undergoes (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
The HTC One S in operation (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
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The HTC One S in operation (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
Stages of processing the aluminum to create the HTC One S (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
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Stages of processing the aluminum to create the HTC One S (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
The aluminum is cut and prepared for microarc oxidation (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
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The aluminum is cut and prepared for microarc oxidation (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
The aluminum is rough cut and trimmed for antenna and button controls (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
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The aluminum is rough cut and trimmed for antenna and button controls (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
The finished HTC One S chassis after microarc oxidation (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
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The finished HTC One S chassis after microarc oxidation (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
The HTC One S chassis is prepped and ready for microarc oxidation (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
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The HTC One S chassis is prepped and ready for microarc oxidation (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
The microarc oxidation process takes six steps (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
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The microarc oxidation process takes six steps (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
A piece of aluminum is stamped in the rough shape of the HTC One S (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
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A piece of aluminum is stamped in the rough shape of the HTC One S (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
Shaping and initial holes are rough cut in the stamping (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
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Shaping and initial holes are rough cut in the stamping (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
The final matte black finish of the HTC One S (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
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The final matte black finish of the HTC One S (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
Holes are cut in the stamping for the antenna and other control buttons (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
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Holes are cut in the stamping for the antenna and other control buttons (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
The stamping goes through several stages before it completes the micro oxidation process (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
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The stamping goes through several stages before it completes the micro oxidation process (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
The aluminum goes through several stages before the microarc oxidation process (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
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The aluminum goes through several stages before the microarc oxidation process (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
The chassis is almost ready to become an HTC One S (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
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The chassis is almost ready to become an HTC One S (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
The final step before the microarc oxidation process (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
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The final step before the microarc oxidation process (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
Microarc oxidation, leaves a matte black finish on the HTC One S chassis (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
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Microarc oxidation, leaves a matte black finish on the HTC One S chassis (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
Getting the chassis ready on the HTC One S handset (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
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Getting the chassis ready on the HTC One S handset (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
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HTC is looking to NASA to improve the durability on its latest slimline smartphone. The aluminum housing on the HTC One S is treated with a process called microarc oxidation - an electrochemical surface treatment process used on many NASA satellites that results in a housing three times stronger than stainless steel.

The HTC One S is part of the company's new One series announced at Mobile World Congress in February. It is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor with up to 1.5GHz dual-core CPU’s, has a 4.3-inch Gorilla Glass touchscreen and at 7.9 mm (0.31 inches), it's HTC’s thinnest phone yet. But it was the microarc oxidation process used to create the phone's unibody housing which caught our attention at CTIA wireless in New Orleans this week.

The microarc oxidation process takes six steps (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)
The microarc oxidation process takes six steps (Photo: Enid Burns / Gizmag)

The microarc oxidation process is similar to conventional anodizing but the substrate metal, in this case aluminum, is subjected to 10,000 volts. This gives the aluminum a matte black ceramic finish with a super-dense crystalline structure that HTC says is four times harder than anodized aluminum and three times stronger than stainless steel.

And the point of all this? You don't need the extra bulk of a case to protect the phone.

The HTC promo video below takes us through the microarc oxidation process.

Source: HTC

Micro Arc Oxidation on HTC One S

View gallery - 20 images
7 comments
Slowburn
Is that "three times stronger than stainless steel" hardness, and or tensile? And is that by weight or volume?
Mr Stiffy
Well it's probably just DC welding with the part Electrode Negative to etch the surface and then electrode positive in an oxygen atmosphere to convert the aluminum layer, to black saphire. 10,000V is not the amazing bit, it's just the chosen voltage to jump the gap.
Still it should be a VERY hard wearing surface.
Gautam Gupta
Its more of a show-off than of practical use. Like they said in the end... it so cool.
L1ma
It would be impressive if an HTC phone can be designed to survive the nightmare of a toddler trying to flush it away.
After all with wireless charging and touchscreen is there a need for openings in a phone anymore?.
Richard Chesher
Is this available now?
ff
I am certain by strength, they mean hardness... which makes sense. Ceramic is usually harder than metal. (the surface is no longer aluminum, but aluminum oxide) It is possible that the material is stronger, but i doubt it. Also, it would be less tough as compared to steel (eg chips easier on impact)
I am curious how deep the surface treatment goes.
innov8ive
If you would like to know a little more about anodizing and depth of treatment you could investigate the Patents of a Dr Patel (US resident) and Microplasmic Corporation, his (some Russian 'prior art') technologies claim to use about 800V ac (instead of the far lower voltage dc current usually used for anodizing!) and his site "used to" claim that this Voltage/ac combination exceeds the 'breakdown threshold' of the ceramic as it begins to form and enables 'full through conversion' of up to 2mm (from my memory, many many moons ago!)
Though his site is down, another struggling inventor, like me, there are numerous reputable references including Matweb!