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  • Apple Supply Chain Forcing Ultrabook Competitors to Find Metal Alternatives



    Apple's ability to throw around its massive cash horde and exercise some truly incredible purchasing power has forced MacBook Air competitors to find alternatives to metal for their ultrabook chassises.

    Earlier this year Intel released guidelines to producing ultraportable laptops (ultrabooks), with a major part of the guidelines being a "unibody-based magnesium-aluminum chassis." To do this Apple and other producers depend on computer numerical control lathes (CNC). Apple has dibs on the two largest suppliers of the CNC lathes, Foxconn and Catcher. This has left other laptop makers frantically searching for an alternative chasis material.

    So far the most promising alternative has been rapid-heat-cylce-molding-based fiberglass. It's less expensive than metal, and a light, moldable, resilient mixture of fiberglass and plastic. But, moving away to a new unproven material will be risky especially with the traditionally nitpicking IT community. Saving $100 on a laptop wont mean much if the device has a noticeably shorter life span.

    Source: InfoWorld [via PCWorld]
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Apple Supply Chain Forcing Ultrabook Competitors to Find Metal Alternatives started by Phillip Swanson View original post
    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Poseidon79's Avatar
      Poseidon79 -
      What ever happened to "liquid metal" that Apple got an exclusive license for?
    1. Mes's Avatar
      Mes -
      ^^^ Yeaaa... I want liquid metal Obviously plastic is cheaper
    1. Phillip Swanson's Avatar
      Phillip Swanson -
      Good question. That would essentially allow designers to imagine anything and produce it. However, I imagine the costs of doing such would be rather astronomical.
    1. raduga's Avatar
      raduga -
      Quote Originally Posted by Poseidon79 View Post
      What ever happened to "liquid metal" that Apple got an exclusive license for?
      Apparently a big PITA to work with.
      Its not (easily) machinable. You can't cut or grind or bend or poke holes in it.

      Very hard, a bit lighter than steel but heavier than most other metals;
      elastic and fairly tough. To use the stuff you need a license from the (sole) vendor, and they want to make all the tools, casts and molds for you. LiquidMetal (inc.) probably has its hands full with Apple- and it would take years for something like this to make its way from design into a product.

      It has crap heat conductivity, so cooling could be an interesting question.
      http://www.liquidmetal.com/userfiles...arison9803.pdf

      Quote Originally Posted by Phillip Swanson View Post
      Good question. That would essentially allow designers to imagine anything and produce it. However, I imagine the costs of doing such would be rather astronomical.
      Well... its not quite what you might think.
      Its "liquid" in the same way glass is liquid; a disordered non-crystalline solid.
      A better name would be "GlassMetal" but probably not as marketable

      I'd guess costs would be high because the top of the supply chain Liquidmetal - Amorphous Metal Alloys - Product Design & Development looks like an extremely "high-maintenance" vendor. Plus, lack of machinability.

      Benefit to users: durability and resistance to cosmetic wear.
      But a laptop could be noisy.... because of ventillation issues.
    1. reanimationxp's Avatar
      reanimationxp -
      Quote Originally Posted by raduga View Post
      Apparently a big PITA to work with.
      Its not (easily) machinable. You can't cut or grind or bend or poke holes in it.

      Very hard, a bit lighter than steel but heavier than most other metals;
      elastic and fairly tough. To use the stuff you need a license from the (sole) vendor, and they want to make all the tools, casts and molds for you. LiquidMetal (inc.) probably has its hands full with Apple- and it would take years for something like this to make its way from design into a product.

      ...
      One of the more intelligent posts I've seen on MMi. Thank you.