Apple details new MacBook manufacturing process

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
Apple's new MacBook and MacBook Pro feature precision unibody enclosures milled from an extruded block of aluminum, allowing them to get even thinner while retaining rigid durability and a stronger, cleaner, and more polished design. Here's a detailed overview of the process, illustrated with photos.



In a press release touting the new manufacturing process, Steve Jobs said, ?Apple has invented a whole new way of building notebooks from a single block of aluminum." (Watch the video)



Jonathan Ive, Apple?s senior vice president of Industrial Design, noted that, "Traditionally notebooks are made from multiple parts. With the new MacBook, we?ve replaced all of those parts with just one part?the unibody. The MacBook?s unibody enclosure is made from a single block of aluminum, making the new MacBook fundamentally thinner, stronger and more robust with a fit and finish that we?ve never even dreamed of before.?



CNC unibody fabrication



The previous MacBook Pro uses a thin, bowl-shaped shell that has an internal skeleton to hold the internal parts together. The top bezel lays on top and is screwed in place on the sides and back edge. These pieces allow for some tolerance, requiring plastic gaskets to fit the components together snugly.



The new 15" MacBook Pro, along with its nearly identical 13.3" MacBook version, start with an extruded block of aluminum that is carved out using CNC or "computer numerical control" machines in a process used by the aerospace industry to build mission critical, high precision components.



The process starts with raw aluminum, selected for its favorable strength to weight ratio and the flexibility it offers in processing and finishing.











Extruded aluminum sheets are cut into blocks that undergo 13 separate milling operations.







Apple uses CNC to precision cut keyboard holes from the face of the slab (below top), mill out the "thumbscoop" that provides enough of a recession to open the display lid comfortably without putting too much pressure on the lid, machine out complex patterns from the inside (below middle) and perforate the speaker grill holes using lasers (below bottom).















A portion of the front edge is milled thin enough that a laser can be used to micro-perforate the metal to allow light from the sleep indicator LED to pass through the metal. When the sleep indicator is off, the metal appears to be solid. Apple has already used this process on the MacBook Air and the Bluetooth Keyboard that shipped last fall alongside the aluminum iMac.



Once the inside is precision cut (below top) leaving a design that is, as Ive observed, "in many ways more beautifully internally than externally", the edges are rounded and polished (below bottom).











The environmentally-friendly recycled bits



The material machined from the aluminum block is collected and recycled. Jobs noted that the new MacBooks "are the industry?s greenest notebooks.?



Apple says the entire new MacBook line meets stringent Energy Star 4.0, EPEAT Gold and RoHS environmental standards, and leads the industry in the elimination of toxic chemicals by containing no brominated flame retardants, using only PVC-free internal cables and components, and using energy efficient LED-backlit displays that are mercury-free and made with arsenic-free glass.



Glass-faced, LED backlit display



The environmentally-friendly LED backlit display also offers other advantages; it turns on instantly when the display is opened as there is no warm up time required by a conventional cold cathode fluorescent lamp backlight.



It also requires less energy, allowing for 30% better efficiency while providing a brighter, more vivid display, or in the words of Bob Mansfield, Senior Vice President of Mac Hardware, "what you notice as a customer is that the color has a lot more pop."



Unlike the existing MacBook Pro, which houses the display recessed into an aluminum frame, the new design fits the display into a thinner lid and the entire inside face of the panel is covered with a single glass panel similar to the face of the iPhone, with a black margin around the display (below).







The new MacBook and MacBook Pro are detailed in:



Apple unveils new 13" MacBook

Apple debuts new 15" MacBook Pro
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 109
    Bad ass. Good coverage. I love the part about indicator lights looking like solid metal. Sweet.
  • Reply 2 of 109
    teckstudteckstud Posts: 6,476member
    Are they any lighter though?
  • Reply 3 of 109
    Sure, you can make notebook computers this way, and sure, people are going to like it.



    But what Apple needed to do, above all else, was lower the production cost of their computers, especially their notebook computers, to make them more competitive with other notebook computers that run Microsoft's OS.



    Instead, THEY DID EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE OF THE ONE THING THAT ABOVE ALL ELSE, THEY NEEDED TO DO!!!!!!!!!



    THIS DOES NOT MAKE A WHIT OF SENSE!!!!!!!!!!!!



    IT IS A FIASCO OF INESTIMABLE MAGNITUDE!!!!!!!!!!!



    WHAT IN HEAVEN'S NAME WERE THEY THINKING?????????????



    IT IS JOBS MENTAL HEALTH, NOT HIS PHYSICAL HEALTH, THAT PEOPLE SHOULD BE QUESTIONING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



    ANYONE AND EVERYONE WHO HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH THIS SHOULD BE FIRED IMMEDIATELY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!
  • Reply 4 of 109
    HOLY COW!



    The good thing is that prices can be dropped. Rarely can they be raised.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kaiser_soze View Post


    sure, you can make notebook computers this way, and sure, people are going to like it.



    But what apple needed to do, above all else, was lower the production cost of their computers, especially their notebook computers, to make them more competitive with other notebook computers that run microsoft's os.



    Instead, they did exactly the opposite of the one thing that above all else, they needed to do!!!!!!!!!



    This does not make a whit of sense!!!!!!!!!!!!



    It is a fiasco of inestimable magnitude!!!!!!!!!!!



    What in heaven's name were they thinking?????????????



    It is jobs mental health, not his physical health, that people should be questioning!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



    Anyone and everyone who had anything to do with this should be fired immediately!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!



  • Reply 5 of 109
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kaiser_soze View Post


    Sure, you can make notebook computers this way, and sure, people are going to like it.



    But what Apple needed to do, above all else, was lower the production cost of their computers, especially their notebook computers, to make them more competitive with other notebook computers that run Microsoft's OS.



    Instead, THEY DID EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE OF THE ONE THING THAT ABOVE ALL ELSE, THEY NEEDED TO DO!!!!!!!!!



    THIS DOES NOT MAKE A WHIT OF SENSE!!!!!!!!!!!!



    IT IS A FIASCO OF INESTIMABLE MAGNITUDE!!!!!!!!!!!



    WHAT IN HEAVEN'S NAME WERE THEY THINKING?????????????



    IT IS JOBS MENTAL HEALTH, NOT HIS PHYSICAL HEALTH, THAT PEOPLE SHOULD BE QUESTIONING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



    ANYONE AND EVERYONE WHO HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH THIS SHOULD BE FIRED IMMEDIATELY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!



    Right, because Apple has been hurting so bad by making products that are more expensive than their PC counterparts. If they can keep the momentum going with this lineup and continue to out sell PCs (Y.O.Y. % gain) they are set. I think with these offerings they might not gain quite as much tho - I do think those 999 MBs are going to continue to fly off the shelves.



    You should stay away from the RedBull by the way...
  • Reply 6 of 109
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kaiser_soze View Post


    Sure, you can make notebook computers this way, and sure, people are going to like it.



    But what Apple needed to do, above all else, was lower the production cost of their computers, especially their notebook computers, to make them more competitive with other notebook computers that run Microsoft's OS.



    Instead, THEY DID EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE OF THE ONE THING THAT ABOVE ALL ELSE, THEY NEEDED TO DO!!!!!!!!!



    THIS DOES NOT MAKE A WHIT OF SENSE!!!!!!!!!!!!



    IT IS A FIASCO OF INESTIMABLE MAGNITUDE!!!!!!!!!!!



    WHAT IN HEAVEN'S NAME WERE THEY THINKING?????????????



    IT IS JOBS MENTAL HEALTH, NOT HIS PHYSICAL HEALTH, THAT PEOPLE SHOULD BE QUESTIONING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



    ANYONE AND EVERYONE WHO HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH THIS SHOULD BE FIRED IMMEDIATELY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!



    I totally agree.



    The MacBooks are now *more* expensive. Aren't much lighter (half a pound less).



    Perhaps they are stronger...but really...the process of carving the frame out of a block of aluminum is quite expensive.
  • Reply 7 of 109
    quinneyquinney Posts: 2,528member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kaiser_soze View Post


    Sure, you can make notebook computers this way, and sure, people are going to like it.



    ...



    WHAT IN HEAVEN'S NAME WERE THEY THINKING?????????????



    That's a head scratcher all right
  • Reply 8 of 109
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kaiser_soze View Post


    Sure, you can make notebook computers this way, and sure, people are going to like it.



    But what Apple needed to do, above all else, was lower the production cost of their computers, especially their notebook computers, to make them more competitive with other notebook computers that run Microsoft's OS.



    Instead, THEY DID EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE OF THE ONE THING THAT ABOVE ALL ELSE, THEY NEEDED TO DO!!!!!!!!!



    THIS DOES NOT MAKE A WHIT OF SENSE!!!!!!!!!!!!



    IT IS A FIASCO OF INESTIMABLE MAGNITUDE!!!!!!!!!!!



    WHAT IN HEAVEN'S NAME WERE THEY THINKING?????????????



    IT IS JOBS MENTAL HEALTH, NOT HIS PHYSICAL HEALTH, THAT PEOPLE SHOULD BE QUESTIONING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



    ANYONE AND EVERYONE WHO HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH THIS SHOULD BE FIRED IMMEDIATELY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!



    No matter what you say, Apple will never satisfy you and your eight-year old Sony pc desktop.
  • Reply 9 of 109
    Damnit to hell, this method for mass production of notebook computers is utter insanity!!



    It is one of the most absolutely ludicrous things that i've ever heard of!



    If it weren't true, and someone told me that apple was going to try to remain competive in the notebook computer market by milling the cases out of billet aluminum, i would assume that it was a joke, because that is how utterly preposterous this is.



    If his goal was to run the company completely into the ground, this is exactly the sort of thing that would promote that goal!



    But if the goal is to compete in the notebook computer market and continue to take market share from wintel while not lowering margins, this is the worst imaginable thing that they could possibly have come up with!! It's absolutely insane!



    There are no words to adequately convey just how utterly asinine this truely is. These people have completely lost their minds, and they should be removed from their positions and replaced by people who have a modicum of sense before they completely run Apple into the ground. I don't care how long Jobs has been running this company or how many smart decisions he has made. This insanity has got to be brought to an end.
  • Reply 10 of 109
    aaarrrggghaaarrrgggh Posts: 1,608member
    I always heard that a job shop would get killed having anything more than 50% scrap metal out of the process. Can you do centrifugal casting on aluminum and then just tool the remaining features that can't be cast? Seems so wasteful from an energy perspective.
  • Reply 11 of 109
    Yes, it's about half a pound (~225g) lighter compared to the now still available 13" white polycarbonate MacBook.



    In other economic times, the importance of this technology would be better appreciated. Unfortunately, price and "value for money" (i.e. features) rule the roost now.



    Still, from an engineering stand-point, it is impressive. Not sure if it's revolutionary if Apple's hyperbole is to be believed. The manufacturing techniques are well known and applied to other military grade components (e.g. avionics modules on fighter aircraft) for years, but not necessarily a "consumer grade" notebook computer.



    Will this new aluminium MacBook be any more tougher than the polycarbonate one? On paper should be, but we'll have to wait for some real-world tests, erm... accidents.



    -YipYipYipee
  • Reply 12 of 109
    In this age of massively mass production (cutting corners), I greatly value a company that is willing to go to these lengths. Craftsmanship and attention to detail are what sets apple apart. I don't truly believe in my heart that they are overtly interested in attracting the sub-$1000 notebook crowd.



    Regarding the amount of aluminum lost during milling...it's aluminum! One would think they'd have set up shop to reclaim most of that and return it to the process. I'd be interested in knowing if that's not feasible or possible.
  • Reply 13 of 109
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,311member
    Some people fail to understand that a major reduction in the number of pieces a notebook case is made out of leads to a significant reduction in rework, scrap, and quality issues. Case flex is very very bad for lead-free solder joints. They are very brittle and hate movement.



    The tighter a notebook feels, the better quality it will have. Any aluminum bits or damaged cases will be recycled into new housings eventually. No waste.



    No where does it say this process is more expensive than the old way. I see easier assembly and an totally automated process. This means lower cost.



    No plastic bits to break. No crappy edges. No thin housings that dent easily. This is a good thing. Way to go, Jobs. Now release the Aluminum billet iMac!
  • Reply 14 of 109
    This is terribly simple. Some of you don't get it, and Jobs obviously does not get it, but he has obviously gone insane. So let me spell it out to you in black and white:



    1. The investment community has factored into the price for Apple's stock, the assumption that Apple will continue to gain market share.



    2. In order for Apple to continue to gain market share, there is virtually unanimous agreement within the investment community that Apple must reduce the production cost of their computers, particularly their notebook computers, because whereas the price for notebook computers of the Wintel variety has declined considerably in recent years, the price for Apple notebook computers has remained practically the same.



    3. In order for Apple to reduce the production cost of their notebook computers, they need to migrate to lower-cost manufacturing processes. Instead, they moved to a higher-cost manufacturing process, and one that is not just a little bit higher than the process used by the competitors, but one that is much, much higher than the process used by the competitors.



    Now, what part of this is it exactly that all of you brave defenders of Jobs and company disagree with? To me, it is about as simple as it could possibly be, and I cannot help but conclude that this is one of the absolute worst business decisions that I have ever witnessed. It ranks right up there with some of the stuff that AT&T did right after the breakup in the mid '80s, when they wasted tons of capital trying to sell computers that no one wanted, and when they subsequently acquired NCR and then ran that company into the ground as well. I've seen lots of really good business decisions, and lots of really bad ones. The bad ones all have a very bad smell about them, that people too close to it can't smell because they all suffer from olfactory fatigue and because the people in control form a tight circle and exclude anyone who might be inclined to tell them that they've lost their minds.



    THEY HAVE LOST THEIR MINDS!!! IN ORDER FOR APPLE'S STOCK TO APPRECIATE IN VALUE, IT IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY THAT THEY START MANUFACTURING AND SELLING NOTEBOOK COMPUTERS WHERE THE PRODUCTION COSTS HAVE BE REDUCED, NOT INCREASED! WHAT APPLE HAS DONE HERE, SIMPLY DOES NOT WORK FOR APPLE! PEOPLE WHO HAVE PURCHASED STOCK IN APPLE HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO DEMAND THAT APPLE MAKE DECISIONS THAT ARE ORIENTED TOWARD INCREASING MARKET SHARE AND INCREASING PROFIT, SO THAT THE VALUE OF THE STOCK WILL INCREASE! IT IS THE RIGHT OF STOCKHOLDERS TO DEMAND THIS, AND MOST CEO's UNDERSTAND THIS AND TAKE IT FOR GRANTED. INCREDIBLY AS IT SEEMS, JOBS EVIDENTLY DOES NOT UNDERSTAND THIS, AND THAT IS WHY HE SHOULD BE FIRED IMMEDIATELY!
  • Reply 15 of 109
    dr_lhadr_lha Posts: 236member
    kaiser_soze: Yes we get the point, stop posting the same rant over and over.
  • Reply 16 of 109
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by teckstud View Post


    Are they any lighter though?



    I think so. From searching the MacBook was 5.2 pounds, now 4.5 pounds. The 12" PB was 4.6 pounds.
  • Reply 17 of 109
    leonardleonard Posts: 528member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kaiser_soze View Post


    This is terribly simple. Some of you don't get it, and Jobs obviously does not get it, but he has obviously gone insane. So let me spell it out to you in black and white:



    Your the one that doesn't get it. This manufacturing process will likely reduce costs. Machines make things cheaper than people and make things consistently (less chance for screw-ups.



    Besides, Apple has had no problem increasing market share with the laptops at the price they are and with all the features. Even the PC magazines say they are the best and fastest PCs to run Vista, which is totally ironic, considering they're sold to run MacOS.
  • Reply 18 of 109
    Isn't it that when we consider the cost of this kind of tooling we are automatically thinking about it being done in the "west". May be the Chinese shops are getting to a level of sophistication where they can deliver this kind of product ... hence the cost of it is a fraction of what would be consider norm. Anyway ... I am not an engineer and know very little about this stuff.
  • Reply 19 of 109
    philipmphilipm Posts: 240member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by dr_lha View Post


    kaiser_soze: Yes we get the point, stop posting the same rant over and over.



    Once again, Apple is doing what they want, not what everyone else says they should do.



    Perhaps this sort of experiment would make sense on a premium product but not the entry level. No wonder they are keeping the plastic model going at a lower price. I suspect the latter move was out of necessity because of the economic meltdown. I would not be too surprised if making the new model came out more expensive than expected and Jobs insisted on it anyway.



    Sometimes, Apple has been right and everyone else wrong. I have my doubts this time.
  • Reply 20 of 109
    yvo84yvo84 Posts: 84member
    Kaiser, seriously -- not everyone has bought stocks in Apple. Couple that with the fact that this economic problem is not going to last forever and Apple is going to sell lots of computers no matter how many times you demand Job's resignation and quite frankly, you just come across as annoying.



    I'm finally going to update my computer from 2004. Many people are. And for all the money savers out there, you've got the sub-1000 notebook also available. Apple is catering to everyone and also progressing technology forward. Quit with your doomsday talks, just because you've got some Apple stock. If you haven't noticed, all stocks have plummetted. All of them.
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