In a recent blog post we revealed that only 100 units of the Mercury Silver Mi 6 will be available on Mi.com in China. The Mercury Silver Mi 6 is extremely difficult to produce and is an outcome of Xiaomi’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of materials technology.
This video is an interview with Anthony Howe, the design consultant for the Mercury Silver Mi 6. Anthony is good at using metals and shaping them into artistic pieces. For him, the Mercury Silver Mi 6 was “almost an impossible task”. However, Xiaomi made the idea come true.
Let’s take a deeper dive into this one-of-a-kind masterpiece!
Two different techniques
There are two methods to make silver mirror-like surfaces. One is film coating, which is used by other big smartphone makers. This method can be simply understood as pasting a special, light sensitive film to the back of the transparent glass cap that produces a silvering mirror-like effect.
The other method, PVD electroplating, is what the Mercury Silver Mi 6 adopts. It is a special electroplating method in an entirely vacuumed environment. Simply put, this method is time intensive and technically challenging, but the results are worth the wait.
Compared to electroplating, the film coating technique results in higher yield rates and does not require vacuum surroundings, so it can easily apply to mass production. So why do we insist on using a more time intensive and difficult method with limited production capacity? Because through this technique we’re able to produce a one-of-a-kind unit that has a better mirror-like surface, making the device completely smooth and bright.
Three elements of PVD electroplating
As noted, the first key element is an entirely vacuumed environment. Even a single speck of dust will ruin the whole glass batch. Since the body of a smartphone can’t be accomplished at a single plant, we have to make sure that the whole transportation process is dust-free.
The second part of the process is to make sure that the whole mirror surface has unified color and luster. The electroplating process applies hundreds of millions of very tiny silver particles evenly on the interior of glass in a vacuum environment.
One particle is 0.34 nm, and to give you an idea of how small that is, 1 nm is about one 60,000th of the diameter of a single hair strand. And to achieve perfect coating effect, one layer is not enough. That means this time intensive process has to be repeated for several times, and we do it eight times!
Lastly, perfection must be achieved on the inside as well as the outside. We wanted to use a unique material that would deliver the mercury silver effect, yet didn’t shield the phone signal. We tested a wide variety of materials to achieve the effect we wanted and found one that is extremely unique, but we are keeping this material top-secret! Very James Bond-like, right?
The Mercury Silver Mi 6 truly embodies the relentless exploring spirit of Xiaomi. Recently, we gifted the Mercury Silver Mi 6 to four significant people who embody this same spirit. The recipients include Franky Zapata, the inventor of Flyboard, the jet-powered hover board; Alan Stern, the principal investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto; David Reitze, Director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) experiment at the University of Florida; Buzz Aldrin, a former astronaut on Apollo 11 and one of the first two humans to land on the Moon.
We salute these leaders with the Mercury Silver Mi 6 in a shared spirit of love for innovation and exploration!