The Process of Making Silver Mercury Mi 6
Silver Mercury Mi 6 and its mirror reflection looks pretty good. The disappointment is Xiaomi could only offer only 100 units of the phones in this announcement as the production proved to be hard. Xiaomi’s CEO had admitted that the production yield of the mirror reflection is only 6 percent. But why is it so hard to produce ? Today we had got the explanation from the material supplier in Shenzhen.
First, we have to understand that there are two options to implement reflective texture. The first one is to apply film to the transparent material. The film is a photosensitive material that reflect the light like mirror. This process is used with Sony Xperia XZ Premium and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (As seen in this DIY Video). While this process didn’t give perfect mirror-like reflection, its more practical since the yield of sticker production is higher and the cost of applying to the surface is not very high for flat surface.
Another type of process involved metal plating called Physical Vapor Deposition, or PVD. It’s a vacuum coating process that produce a brilliant decorative finish that used in watch and accessories industry. Xiaomi had choose this process for silver Mi 6. The process involve electroplating hundred millions of nano-particles ion in vacuum environment to make it attached to the glass surface that intended to have mirror effect, with the cost of complexity and much lower production yield.
But … Why Xiaomi choose to go this hard way ?
While the process is very complicated, there are two big reasons for Xiaomi chose to go for PVD. The first is the nature of the 4 corners curved shape in the back side of MI 6 made it hard to perfectly apply the film as the air bubble can not be left in any curved corner. This make the film a non-reasonable choice consider the design used in Mi 6. Another important reason is the quality of the reflection. Compared to film, PVD coating give more realistic reflection quality. This made reflection of body in Mi 6 look more like mirror than what Samsung and Sony had offered before. As we can see in this sample hand on.
Another complications that Xiaomi need to face in order to produce silver reflection is preparing vacuum environment. Since the absolute vacuum on earth is not possible, the manufacturer can only try their best to make the environment dust-free. Another problem that lies in production is that it’s hard to balance the particle over the curved surface, as the small imbalance can ruin the surface. And finally the choice of material that used in the coating. It’s not possible to use the metal that been used in other industries as they can greatly block the radio transmission used for cellular and WiFi. Also, the material color must also be silver. Its had been speculate that Xiaomi chose Indium in this process.
In conclusion, it is technically true that Xiaomi can not provide plenty supply of Silver Edition Mi 6 even though they want to do it. However, Xiaomi is still looking forward to improve the process to increase the yield which would finally lead to the mass production scale. We hope Xiaomi can find the way to improve their PVD process and finally sell this fascinate mirror design in affordable price to all of us.