Apple may turn to carbon fiber for lighter MacBook Air

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  • Reply 21 of 154
    I owned an EEE PC 701. This was the netbook to start it all off, and it was succesful because despite it's small size and incredible (at the time) price, it didn't make too many sacrifices.



    1. Three USB ports, two on one side and another on the other. Ideal for mouse on right and other attachments on the left. Well thought out.

    2. WiFi - and much more sensitive and reliable than any Apple portable I have owned, probably thanks to the plastic ase.

    3. Very robust case.

    4. Incredibly light.

    5. Full set of usable applications.

    6. Video output that drove my Philips 20" LCD monitor at GREATER than 1680 x 1050 resolution with just one Linux hack.

    7. Never crashed, unless one ran out of memory. (I could have upgraded it.)

    8. Excellent audio quality from the built in multi format media player.

    9. Powerful enough processor to watch videos, although not of DVD quality, but then for £250, it was not expected.

    10. 3 hour battery if used sensibly.



    There is NO excuse technically or other for Apple to not be able to produce a practical and fairly powerful netbook. The Atom processor and the same phenomenal design that went into the iPod Touch could easily lead to a sub £600, possibly even £500 Apple netbook.



    The single reason Apple are not doing this is because they make a lot of money from the iPhone - from both hardware sales to app store and airtime income. However, for all it's wonders, the iPhone cannot be used to lengthy text entry and the screen is too small.



    I am willing to challenge any decent hardware designer that one could produce a powerful, lightweight Apple OS X powered 'netbook' with a full size keyboard and a multitouch touch screen for under £500. (That's $800 or so.)



    If Apple do not do this, Microsoft's Surface and other technologies are going to spawn a huge number of affordable and very usable devices that will almost instantly invalidate the otherwise justified usability advantage OS X offers today.



    Evidence: Play with Google Earth on a desktop machine - and then try it on an iPod Touch or iPhone - and notice how much more intuitive it is. And then try a spreadsheet, a graphics application and many more. Touch is the future and an oversized iPod Touch (with mechanical keyboard!) is the future, so help me Stevie...



    BFN!



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Kultist View Post


    Damn, do you people live in a parallel universe with different laws of physics or are you just trying to be funny? How can you even EXPECT to get MORE stuff crammed in LESS space AND a device that weights LESS and cost LESS? Are you even serious? Do you really think you can get USB x 2, FW, full keyboard and screen and at the same time a notebook that's lighter than one that does not have those specs and cost less? You can't get ultraportable without sacrifices. Get real please.



    If you want an ultraportable notebook, you have to be prepared to give up some ports and specs and to pay for it. Miniaturization has a price you know.



  • Reply 22 of 154
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by macFanDave View Post


    Look like an exercise in diminishing returns. A 7-8% weight drop? Is that really worth the effort?



    Also, what about the environmental aspect of such a switch? I believe you can cut aluminum with environmentally friendly coolants and recycle the shavings easily. On the other hand, forming composites involves some chemical reactions and I don't know how polluting those are.



    Maybe someone can fill us in.



    To make something from CF, the usual practice is to use epoxy resin to bind the fibres together. Epoxy is comprised of two components, a resin and a hardener, which in most cases are mixed in a 2:1 ratio. The resulting liquid then hardens. It gives of some odour and invisible fumes in very small quantities. These should be vented away from workers. But apart from these very slight fumes, essentially all of the two original components go to forming the final plastic, so the environmental effects are negligible.



    If Apple really wants to be cutting edge in the weight saving stakes they could look at using Dyneema for large area panels where high stiffness is not required.



    Dyneema is also called spectra in some markets. It has a density less than that of water yet is 15 times stronger than steel by weight. It is lighter than CF and is transparent to radio frequencies so that would be a double edged sword. It is not as stiff as CF though.
  • Reply 23 of 154
    mcarlingmcarling Posts: 1,106member
    I hope that Apple make both the bottom cover and the rear bezel from carbon fiber. I also hope for 4GB of ram -- at least with the faster processor version.
  • Reply 24 of 154
    Umm why not make the whole notebook out of carbon fiber? Why only just the bottom? I have been curious as to why Apple has taken up this uni-body aluminum production when it appears that shaving down aluminum is more expensive than building the notebook out of carbon fiber instead?
  • Reply 25 of 154
    Ugh, I f*cking hate the netbook evangelists, almost as much as I hate the xMac evangelists.



    If Apple had wanted to make an underpowered, profitless netbook with a claustrophobic screen and carpal tunnel-inducing keyboard, they would have. They didn't and they aren't going to. GET OVER IT!



    Anyway, if this carbon fiber rumor turns out to be true, I hope they include the buttonless trackpad as well and (maybe) the black-rimmed, glass display.
  • Reply 26 of 154
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DHagan4755 View Post


    Umm why not make the whole notebook out of carbon fiber? Why only just the bottom? I have been curious as to why Apple has taken up this uni-body aluminum production when it appears that shaving down aluminum is more expensive than building the notebook out of carbon fiber instead?



    The cost. Carbon fiber is extremely expensive.
  • Reply 27 of 154
    ssassa Posts: 47member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Kultist View Post


    Damn, do you people live in a parallel universe with different laws of physics or are you just trying to be funny? How can you even EXPECT to get MORE stuff crammed in LESS space AND a device that weights LESS and cost LESS? Are you even serious? Do you really think you can get USB x 2, FW, full keyboard and screen and at the same time a notebook that's lighter than one that does not have those specs and cost less? You can't get ultraportable without sacrifices. Get real please.



    If you want an ultraportable notebook, you have to be prepared to give up some ports and specs and to pay for it. Miniaturization has a price you know.



    I will agree with you that ultraportable notebooks require sacrifices, but a single USB port that is recessed so that you need an extension cable of some type to even use the USB port is an absolutely unneccesary sacrifice.



    There are plenty of netbooks(<10") that have a smaller chassis that have >1 USB port. Heck, many of them still offer ethernet as well and a few like the HP mini managed to get more USB ports, ethernet, AND an expresscard/34 slot into a 9" laptop. If HP stuffed all that into a 9" how is it that Apple can't get half of that into a 13"? Weight certainly isn't a big factor. After you subtract the weight of hole in the body and add a USB connector and a little solder on the logic board how much weight does a USB port add? 2-3 grams maybe? USB connectors are only a few grams so after you subtract the weight of the hole adding USB ports shouldn't add much mass to the laptop.



    There are some genuine sacrifices that need to be made in an ultraportable(smaller keyboards, lower power CPUs/GPUs, etc.), but any Apple apologist that claims that there wasn't enough space for an ethernet jack or another USB port or an Expresscard/34 slot clearly hasn't looked around much. Heck, at about the same weight, Apple could have included an optical drive, 3 USB ports, and an ethernet port like Lenovo did with the X300. Dropping the optical drive, the ethernet port, and the USB ports didn't make the MBA much lighter, but took away quite a bit of functionality in the process. For a machine without an optical drive the MBA should really be a lot lighter than it is! Not moving to a carbon fiber body like many of Apple's competitors have done with machines to cut down on weight seems like a serious oversight for a machine that is supposed to be really light. The MBA should really be closer to 2.5lbs than 3.0lbs if they really wanted to gloat about it being light.



    Good industrial design follows the mantra that form follows function, but at Apple it seems that form must limit function in order to meet Steve Jobs visions(eg. Apple III, Mac Cube, Macbook Air, etc.). Jonathan Ives and his industrial design team have made some nice designs, but the MacBook Air isn't one of them.
  • Reply 28 of 154
    In my search for "carbon fiber notebook," it yielded this article from earlier this year...

    http://www.electronista.com/articles...iber.notebook/
  • Reply 29 of 154
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hodgkin View Post


    CF is used extensively in the pro cycling industry, with frames and most of the structural parts of these high performance frames built out of the stuff. I think there are places on high performance cars that use CF as well. It would not be unreasonable to create the entire LCD panel rear out of CF, though that may give them a design headache figuring out how to get the aesthetics down.



    <pedantic mode>

    I assume by pro cycling you mean the road/track cycling industry. Aluminium still plays the predominant role in MTB frame technology. Super light XC bikes often being the only place for CF and or Titanium frames.



    Formula 1, GP2, Formula Renault etc all use full carbon fibre chassis and body panels. Motorsport was one of the main pioneers for CF technologies. Lots of supercars sport full carbon fibre bodies, some including the Pagani Zonda have full CF chassis too. That's without going into track day orientated, but still road legal cars like Radicals and the new KTM X-Bow which are all carbon fibre too.



    It goes without saying that most performance cars life Ferrari and Porsche use CF for interior trim and external aero components.

    </pedantic mode>
  • Reply 30 of 154
    Been there... done that...



    Carbon Fiber Macbook Air:

    http://blog.makezine.com/archive/200...C-0D6B48984890
  • Reply 31 of 154
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Kultist View Post


    Damn, do you people live in a parallel universe with different laws of physics or are you just trying to be funny? How can you even EXPECT to get MORE stuff crammed in LESS space AND a device that weights LESS and cost LESS? Are you even serious? Do you really think you can get USB x 2, FW, full keyboard and screen and at the same time a notebook that's lighter than one that does not have those specs and cost less? You can't get ultraportable without sacrifices. Get real please.



    If you want an ultraportable notebook, you have to be prepared to give up some ports and specs and to pay for it. Miniaturization has a price you know.



    I think you need to get real. The PowerBook G4 12" has a smaller footprint than the MacBook Air and it offered EVERYTHING! I would rather have a notebook that is 1 inch thick with everything, than a notebook that is 3/4 of an inch that offers bascially nothing.



    The PowerBook G4 12" was popular, the MacBook Air is an overpriced Dud! Who cares if it is thinner and lighter, you still can't open one up easily in coach-class on an airline. The Air would have been more popular with a 12" screen and footprint.
  • Reply 32 of 154
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,298member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by macFanDave View Post


    Look like an exercise in diminishing returns. A 7-8% weight drop? Is that really worth the effort?



    Also, what about the environmental aspect of such a switch? I believe you can cut aluminum with environmentally friendly coolants and recycle the shavings easily. On the other hand, forming composites involves some chemical reactions and I don't know how polluting those are.



    Maybe someone can fill us in.



    It hardly seems to be worth the effort, esp. if the price would have to go up.



    If they could bring the weight to 2.5 pounds, that would be different.



    Like Wonderkid has mentioned, I've thought that while the thin edges look good, they are a waste in space and in material. It may not look as thin, but get rid of that.



    And as someone else has also mentioned, this uses either epoxy, or polyester resins. I work with this stuff, and it ain't pretty!



    Also, this stuff must be trimmed, which leaves waste that is unusable, and not recyclable.



    Then the question is what to do with the edges. Unlike aluminum, the edges are raw, and must be finished, or hidden.
  • Reply 33 of 154
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,298member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DHagan4755 View Post


    Umm why not make the whole notebook out of carbon fiber? Why only just the bottom? I have been curious as to why Apple has taken up this uni-body aluminum production when it appears that shaving down aluminum is more expensive than building the notebook out of carbon fiber instead?



    Quality carbon fiber material is even more expensive than aluminum machined from a block.



    And then we are back to molds, etc. this eliminates the most important feature of CNC machining. Fast, cheap, design turnaround.
  • Reply 34 of 154
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Adjei View Post


    Oh so you work at Apple to know how well their products are selling mate?



    It is pretty obvious that the Air is not selling well. Jobs himself said the MacBook is the best selling of all the portables. Pro would be next, then the Air. You don't need to work at Apple to figure that one out.
  • Reply 35 of 154
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,298member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DHagan4755 View Post


    In my search for "carbon fiber notebook," it yielded this article from earlier this year...

    http://www.electronista.com/articles...iber.notebook/



    What came of it?
  • Reply 36 of 154
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,298member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hillstones View Post


    It is pretty obvious that the Air is not selling well. Jobs himself said the MacBook is the best selling of all the portables. Pro would be next, then the Air. You don't need to work at Apple to figure that one out.



    That doesn't mean it's not selling well. Do you know the sales goals for the machine? I don't!
  • Reply 37 of 154
    foo2foo2 Posts: 1,077member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hillstones View Post


    The Air would have been more popular with a 12" screen and footprint.



    Not that I disagree with you, but the Air likely shares the same display as the MacBook, so Apple can benefit from volume pricing and an economy of scale (e.g., simpler quality control and an ability to divert components where they're needed most).



    On a side note, 500 GB drives probably aren't offered as an option yet on the MacBook and MacBook Pro because there's currently only a sole source (Samsung), which reduces bargaining power and would wreak havoc on sales if the manufacturer couldn't meet demand.
  • Reply 38 of 154
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Wonderkid View Post


    I owned an EEE PC 701. This was the netbook to start it all off, and it was succesful because despite it's small size and incredible (at the time) price, it didn't make too many sacrifices.



    1. Three USB ports, two on one side and another on the other. Ideal for mouse on right and other attachments on the left. Well thought out.

    2. WiFi - and much more sensitive and reliable than any Apple portable I have owned, probably thanks to the plastic ase.

    3. Very robust case.

    4. Incredibly light.

    5. Full set of usable applications.

    6. Video output that drove my Philips 20" LCD monitor at GREATER than 1680 x 1050 resolution with just one Linux hack.

    7. Never crashed, unless one ran out of memory. (I could have upgraded it.)

    8. Excellent audio quality from the built in multi format media player.

    9. Powerful enough processor to watch videos, although not of DVD quality, but then for £250, it was not expected.

    10. 3 hour battery if used sensibly.



    There is NO excuse technically or other for Apple to not be able to produce a practical and fairly powerful netbook. The Atom processor and the same phenomenal design that went into the iPod Touch could easily lead to a sub £600, possibly even £500 Apple netbook.



    The single reason Apple are not doing this is because they make a lot of money from the iPhone - from both hardware sales to app store and airtime income. However, for all it's wonders, the iPhone cannot be used to lengthy text entry and the screen is too small.



    I am willing to challenge any decent hardware designer that one could produce a powerful, lightweight Apple OS X powered 'netbook' with a full size keyboard and a multitouch touch screen for under £500. (That's $800 or so.)



    If Apple do not do this, Microsoft's Surface and other technologies are going to spawn a huge number of affordable and very usable devices that will almost instantly invalidate the otherwise justified usability advantage OS X offers today.



    Evidence: Play with Google Earth on a desktop machine - and then try it on an iPod Touch or iPhone - and notice how much more intuitive it is. And then try a spreadsheet, a graphics application and many more. Touch is the future and an oversized iPod Touch (with mechanical keyboard!) is the future, so help me Stevie...



    BFN!



    An Apple MacBook Air-based Netbook with smaller screen--yes. A smaller screen could cut weight. Yes, maybe lose something else but a Mac portable that is usable when sitting in coach and the person ahead of you reclines the seat all the way without warning is worth more than a Eee PC to me. Less expensive than the MacBook Air is reasonable but not essential.



    However, carbon fiber composite may be a mistake. I work in high-tech manufacturing and I was shocked when I saw my first F-16 in the factory. It has wings and other parts that are carbon fiber composite and they urged us to not touch these parts.



    When I asked why, the General Dynamics supervisor said the composites were very susceptible to impact. I then asked if one could be shot down with a low tech bow and arrow and they said yes but they did not intend to fly that low!



    If the US Air Force has to worry about carbon fiber composite impact, then how would laptops survive abuse?
  • Reply 39 of 154
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,951member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by macFanDave View Post


    Look like an exercise in diminishing returns. A 7-8% weight drop? Is that really worth the effort?



    Also, what about the environmental aspect of such a switch? I believe you can cut aluminum with environmentally friendly coolants and recycle the shavings easily. On the other hand, forming composites involves some chemical reactions and I don't know how polluting those are.



    Maybe someone can fill us in.



    As far as I've heard, CF + resin is not recyclable. It has to be burned or dumped.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DHagan4755 View Post


    Umm why not make the whole notebook out of carbon fiber? Why only just the bottom? I have been curious as to why Apple has taken up this uni-body aluminum production when it appears that shaving down aluminum is more expensive than building the notebook out of carbon fiber instead?



    Carbon fiber is labor intensive, the CF material is expensive, and is not yet well suited for mass production. It is better suited for lower volume high cost items, such as aircraft and exotic cars and such. There are people trying to automate the process but it's not there yet. It's a bit more of an elaborate art/craft than an industrial process.
  • Reply 40 of 154
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,298member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    As far as I've heard, CF + resin is not recyclable. It has to be burned or dumped.







    Carbon fiber is labor intensive, the CF material is expensive, and is not yet well suited for mass production. It is better suited for lower volume high cost items, such as aircraft and exotic cars and such. There are people trying to automate the process but it's not there yet. It's a bit more of an elaborate art/craft than an industrial process.



    This is like fiberglass, it's almost impossible to recycle. But with fiberglass thay can grind it down for certain uses.



    Also these carbon nanotubes used for some of the newest, most exotic stuff, which is expected to become much cheaper (it's mucho times more expensive than the stuff used for bikes and cases), is considered to be a health hazard.
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