Ultrabook makers turn to plastic as Apple controls unibody aluminum supply

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Comments

  • Reply 41 of 93
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    That would be with a general purpose mill too. A custome built machine would likely be faster.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JoeBean View Post


    There is no way it takes 3 hours in machine time to make a unibody frame. With anodizing and other finishing work, maybe it'll take 3 hours total. But machine time? 30 minutes tops. And that would be slow by todays standards.



    More importantly Apple can't control access to all of the aching shops on the planet. This idea that there are no alternatives is simply BS.

    Quote:

    But yes, Apple obviously controls supply, and that's affecting these other guys. Frankly I'm glad. My sides were hurting from all the laughing at Acer et. al's attempts to clone the MBA.



    Apple controls nothing in this technology area. As I see it the other manufactures are just looking for excuses or aren't willing to commit to the development of the required infra structure.
  • Reply 42 of 93
    Apples competitors lack the monetary funds to secure the machines and raw materials to compete.
  • Reply 43 of 93
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by zindako View Post


    Apples competitors lack the monetary funds to secure the machines and raw materials to compete.



    They need government bailouts.
  • Reply 44 of 93
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Apparently it is easier to make a counterfeit Rolex than to copy a MacBook Air.
  • Reply 45 of 93
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mstone View Post


    Apparently it is easier to make a counterfeit Rolex than to copy a MacBook Air.



    That's food for thought.
  • Reply 46 of 93
    evilutionevilution Posts: 1,399member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by iVlad View Post


    What other materials can they turn to except plastic?



    Carbon composites.



    Other companies will get their chance with aluminum when Apple move on to carbon fiber.



    4 hours to mill a unibody chassis, no chance. The right side of 20 minutes maximum.
  • Reply 47 of 93
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member
    I wouldn't be surprised if PC makers start making their laptops out of recycled garbage!



    That would suit them and their customers perfectly.



    Introducing the newest Macbook Air clone, using a new and revolutionary material called plastic! This plastic originally came from the city's dump, and it's mostly comprised of old 2 Liter Coke bottles. Get your Mac clone today! Don't hesitate!
  • Reply 48 of 93
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Evilution View Post


    Carbon composites.



    Other companies will get their chance with aluminum when Apple move on to carbon fiber.



    4 hours to mill a unibody chassis, no chance. The right side of 20 minutes maximum.



    Carbon fiber looks shabby.



    Producing a chassis involves a little more than just milling. The original rough cutting of the stock, perhaps two or three mountings in the CNC, several QC steps, polishing, machine clean up between runs, and there may also be a few defects thus the 8 per day per machine may actually be realistic. Furthermore you can't cut it too quickly otherwise you may end up with distortions from heat even though it is being cooled. The really tight tolerances and thin clearances require slower cutting.
  • Reply 49 of 93
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


    More like 10 minutes - I've done plenty of CNC milling.



    Why do they even bother listening to Digitime? They're wrong 99% of the time. Not to mention that it doesn't make any sense. There are tens of thousands of shops that can to CNC milling of aluminum. I could find 30 shops within 15 miles of my house. There's no way Apple has the entire industry locked up.



    I agree. Just go to any of the major machine shop forums online, most of which are dominated by North American machinists, and you'll see plenty of production shops desperate for work. And then there's the fact that the machines that any sane shop would buy to run these processes are nearly entirely automated, including robotic loaders, so one guy can run dozens of machines.



    And that same equipment is available all over Asia.



    So if, for example, Dell or Acer really wanted to have aluminum unibodies I'm sure they'd have plenty of shops begging for the work. The real issues are:

    1) They're too cheap to pay for it, and

    2) They didn't/don't want to commit to a large enough production run to justify a company buying machines for it.



    Machine orders from most major manufacturers these days have lead times of 6+ months, so while it may be true that they can't get them made right now they could have if they acted 6 months or a year ago, and they could have it in the future if they wanted.



    Sounds like it's a simple matter of nobody wanting to risk taking on Apple, and so are leaving the premium market to them. Which is probably a very sound business decision.
  • Reply 50 of 93
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sranger View Post


    IMHO, I think Apple has pushed the Aluminum based chassis about as far as they can.



    I agree with this. While Unibody Aluminum based chassis is currently the best technology, I don't see much, if any, future improvement down that road. A year or 2 from now Apple will have to ditch Aluminum to further improve their cases.
  • Reply 51 of 93
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mstone View Post


    Producing a chassis involves a little more than just milling. The original rough cutting of the stock, perhaps two or three mountings in the CNC, several QC steps, polishing, machine clean up between runs, and there may also be a few defects thus the 8 per day per machine may actually be realistic. Furthermore you can't cut it too quickly otherwise you may end up with distortions from heat even though it is being cooled. The really tight tolerances and thin clearances require slower cutting.



    While it's true that there's more than the milling involved in producing the chassis, most of the rest of what you say is not current for any production environment.

    1. No production shop is going to require "2 or 3 mountings" to machine something this simple. Each section may have to be flipped once, which would be handled robotically by the machine. No manual resetting required.

    2. Most cleanup of the machine is going to be done by the machine. Material is removed by conveyor or other means. Even tooling will be replaced automatically on modern production machines as the spindle load increases or it reaches it's hour-life. Occasionally the machine will have to be inspected and possibly cleaned/serviced manually, but this would be more like once a month.

    3. QC would be done at different stages during the process, with most of it being done by machines as well. Surface finish, cracking, etc. can all be measured by machines better than by people. One part out of X many would be taken to manually inspect, but this wouldn't slow production. Anodizing and polishing would be the final steps. Some extra time would be eaten up here, but minutes not hours.

    4. You'd be surprised how fast Aluminum can cut. It's not true that you "can't go too fast". Major heat buildup in aluminum comes when you cut too slow, not too fast. Modern machines are limited in their cutting speeds only by how fast you can physically move the cutter or table, and the required HP to sling that much metal.

    5. The tolerances and "clearances" are not even remotely tight. For starters, really tight tolerances would require other machining methods than milling.
  • Reply 52 of 93
    dluxdlux Posts: 666member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    How did IBM & Lenovo do it for Thinkpad shells? For that matter, Compaq business notebooks? I've had several that were die cast shells.



    Really? I wasn't aware that castings could hold up to impact, but I haven't had to deal with that sort of thing in a while.





    Quote:

    Before the Unibody, Apple used a lot of die cast parts inside their machines.



    Inside, certainly.





    Quote:

    I have a ten year old business notebook still in occasional use with a die cast shell that is not showing signs of such cracks. I have three other machines of similar construction that don't show the problem. It's a valid concern, but it seems to me to be a manageable problem.



    I'm wondering if we're talking about the same material and process. Everything I've seen as a casting has generally been somewhat brittle in an impact. Are you sure you're talking about cast metal? (As opposed to plastic or composite, which are actually molded in most cases.)
  • Reply 53 of 93
    dluxdlux Posts: 666member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mstone View Post


    Apparently it is easier to make a counterfeit Rolex than to copy a MacBook Air.



    Well, consider the quality expectations of the respective buyers...
  • Reply 54 of 93
    dluxdlux Posts: 666member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dlux View Post


    I'm wondering if we're talking about the same material and process. Everything I've seen as a casting has generally been somewhat brittle in an impact. Are you sure you're talking about cast metal? (As opposed to plastic or composite, which are actually molded in most cases.)



    Ok, following up to my own post, I'm looking at my old TiBook. The lighter-colored band inside the 'sandwich' certainly looks cast, but as far as I can tell it appears to be painted plastic. Meanwhile, the hinges for the screen are almost certainly die-cast metal (probably zinc). The large panels themselves are presumably Titanium, which is a difficult material to work with, and probably too costly to continue which is why Apple no longer uses it. But the Ti holds up well to impact (I'm looking at a few dents here), this its appropriateness for use as an enclosure.



    Bear in mind that aluminum can be cast as well as rolled and machined from stock. The current MacBooks are obviously machined, whereas earlier versions used sheet aluminum as shells. I'm still curious to hear that anyone has used cast aluminum as a shell, though.
  • Reply 55 of 93
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,951member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JoeBean View Post


    I agree. Just go to any of the major machine shop forums online, most of which are dominated by North American machinists, and you'll see plenty of production shops desperate for work. And then there's the fact that the machines that any sane shop would buy to run these processes are nearly entirely automated, including robotic loaders, so one guy can run dozens of machines.



    And that same equipment is available all over Asia.



    So if, for example, Dell or Acer really wanted to have aluminum unibodies I'm sure they'd have plenty of shops begging for the work. The real issues are:

    1) They're too cheap to pay for it, and

    2) They didn't/don't want to commit to a large enough production run to justify a company buying machines for it.



    Machine orders from most major manufacturers these days have lead times of 6+ months, so while it may be true that they can't get them made right now they could have if they acted 6 months or a year ago, and they could have it in the future if they wanted.



    Plastic molds are a minimum of 3 months for a simpler product, I wouldn't be surprised if it's a 6 month turnaround for a complicated chassis.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dlux View Post


    Are you sure you're talking about cast metal? (As opposed to plastic or composite, which are actually molded in most cases.)



    I'm pretty sure. It's not a new idea for notebook chassis and shells. I really don't care to disassemble one of the computers in question to demonstrate it.
  • Reply 56 of 93
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JoeBean View Post


    4. You'd be surprised how fast Aluminum can cut. It's not true that you "can't go too fast". Major heat buildup in aluminum comes when you cut too slow, not too fast. Modern machines are limited in their cutting speeds only by how fast you can physically move the cutter or table, and the required HP to sling that much metal.

    5. The tolerances and "clearances" are not even remotely tight. For starters, really tight tolerances would require other machining methods than milling.



    Perhaps I chose the wrong term. Slow. Actually I meant less material removed with each pass resulting in more passes. With respect to tolerances. You do realize that the metal is milled so thinly at one point, that an LED can shine light through the metal without any opening. Personally I don't have much experience with CNC other than helping to produce a documentary and educational video on the subject. My only other knowledge about it is from a close friend who designs and programs CNC parts for aerospace, which is where I learned about the warping from heat caused by cutting. May not apply but just suggestions as to why the article states that so few are able to be produced in a day.
  • Reply 57 of 93
    dluxdlux Posts: 666member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    I'm pretty sure.



    News to me!



    Quote:

    I really don't care to disassemble one of the computers in question to demonstrate it.



    No need to do that. I've just never heard of castings used for this sort of application (especially with such thin walls as used for the top & bottom of a laptop.)



    Every non-Mac laptop I've ever seen has been plastic, but there again I don't come across many (most of my friends use Macs) or look at them closely at stores.
  • Reply 58 of 93
    dluxdlux Posts: 666member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mstone View Post


    You do realize that the metal is milled so thinly at one point, that an LED can shine light through the metal without any opening.



    The ones I'm aware of (such as the Apple wireless keyboard) uses tiny laser-cut holes for the LED to shine through. In that case it's not because of thinness.
  • Reply 59 of 93
    z3r0z3r0 Posts: 238member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    "...all the internal parts will be made from plastic stuck to metal parts using glue," the report said."



    Wait plastic and glue? Can't wait till these puppies literally melt in your hands!
  • Reply 60 of 93
    moxommoxom Posts: 326member
    Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce to you the new



    Mimetic Poly-Alloy MacBook Air
    !!












    Excuse my basic Photoshop skills...
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