When the Xperia XZ spec sheet dropped into our inbox back in September something unusual caught our eye. It seemed HQ had created an entirely new metal for this smartphone.
“The back is made from high purity ALKALEIDO™ metal” it read, “adding depth, shine and brightness to the finish.”
Suitably intrigued, we made it our mission to track down the creator of this rare material. Would we find them deep in the bowels of a Japanese ALKALEIDO™ mine? Or was it perhaps the result of some complex form of alchemy?
Turns out, not quite. Our search led us instead to Shinji Kanada, a Mechanical Team Group Leader based in Sony’s mechanics department in Tokyo.
Konnichiwa Kanada-san. We’ll come straight out with it, what exactly is ALKALEIDO™?
It is an entirely new form of aluminium. The Xperia XZ was the first time it was used in a smartphone.
Right, and how do you go about creating whole new forms of metal then?
You need the right partners. We joined with Kobe Steel who have been working with Japanese steel for over a century. We discussed with them the kind of material we were looking to create, the properties it would need. Looks, strength, and so on.
And are you pleased with the results?
Yes. Typically, after the anodizing process, you can still see slight lines from the material showing through on the surface. With ALKALEIDO™, this situation is much improved. This gives it a shiny, ‘shimmery’ look that we think is beautiful from every angle. It is really challenging to create glossy aluminium, especially a large part like the full back section of the Xperia XZ, and in high volumes.
Got it. The name is quite unusual, what does it mean?
We were inspired by a kaleidoscope for the shiny, beautiful look we wanted to create.
Aluminium + Kaleidoscope = ALKALEIDO™
Seems obvious now. What do you do when you are not forging new metals?
I’m mostly in Tokyo, designing, discussing projects with my team and so on. Also, a lot of travelling to suppliers.
Can you tell us what you are working on next?
The next generation of Sony smartphones!