Intel's "breakthrough" in plastic chassis design should lead to cheaper Ultrabook laptops

Intel's "breakthrough" in plastic chassis design should lead to cheaper Ultrabook laptops

Summary: The chip giant says it has discovered the means to make cheaper plastic chassis without sacrificing the rigidness and design chic of metal ones.


Recently, Intel suggested that making plastic chassis as thin and sturdy as aluminum versions would be a key way to lower the prices on Ultrabooks. Now the chip giant is saying that it has discovered the means to make such cheaper plastic chassis without sacrificing the rigidness and design chic of metal ones.

Intel has announced that it has created a concept chassis made of plastic that is "a fraction of the cost and equivalent in quality to existing machined aluminum and die cast metal solutions." According to Reuters, the new process, borrowing techniques from the aerospace and auto industries, could shave $25 to $75 off the price of Ultrabooks, which have been hindered by higher sticker prices than most mainstream laptops.

Intel calls the innovation the result of "structural reduction analysis," which Reuters describes in far simpler terms as essentially changing the layout of components like hard drives and motherboards to improve the structural strength of the plastic case. As a result, no new materials are required to gain the advantages Intel expects.

But don't look for these new plastic chassis in the very near future. Intel says that it will be sharing its discovery with laptop manufacturers, and that Ultrabooks using the new chassis design will start appearing next year after further refinement of the process.

[Via Engadget]

More Ultrabook coverage on ZDNet:

  • First peek at Intel's Ivy Bridge chips for upcoming Ultrabooks
  • Free Wi-Fi could boost Ultrabooks in business laptop market
  • Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon aims to lead corporate ultrabook charge
  • Laptop manufacturers planning cheaper clones of high-priced Ultrabooks
  • Topic: Intel

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    • The beginning of the end

      Intel's prices are too high, and this is the proof. It also a snapshot of the one-way ticket to Hell that PC OEMs bought when they allowed Intel and Microsoft to siphon all the profits out of their industry.

      Why is this kind of R&D being done by a semiconductor fab company instead of the companies that actually make and sell PCs? Because Intel has the money to do it. And they don't. And that's because Intel and Microsoft have had them by the hairs for so long that they have been reduced to little more than contract manufacturers of the very worst sort: the kind of contract manufacturer that outsources its work to contract manufacturers.

      So now, in addition to being dependent on Intel's R&D for processors, they will henceforth also be waiting for Intel to come up with reference designs for the machines they build, and the materials from which to build them. At what point do HP and Dell simply churn out 'white boxes' labeled "Intel Outside"?
      Robert Hahn
      • Devil's advocate

        If Intel didn't do the R&D, knowing they make more profits, Intel would ultimately stand to lose money, too. That's part of the responsibility for being a driving force.

        Fittingly, I won't put an Intel processor or video card into my computer because I find AMD is a better value (performance/dollar).

        The part I find ironic is that you can find a quality case that will last for years with neon lights, futuristic looking fans, tons of variety, etc., but only a small percentage of the population know how to acquire one, let alone that they exist. Those companies don't advertise in the mainstream and pass that savings on to you.

        I also really hope you aren't as bitter as you sound. Unless you're using a custom-built computer using a free distro of Linux, based on your tone, you hate your computer and don't want it. Unless you're going to convince billions of people otherwise, Intel, Microsoft, Apple, and a number of other big vendors are going to continue to charge "too much" for the products people buy.
        • I thought it a silly rant. He has no idea why Intel has this division

          only that it's bad.

          Does everyone else get off scott free for doing the same thing, is my question.
          William Farrel
        • Hate schmate

          C'mon, Dell in its heyday was spending 3 and 4 percent of revenue on R&D. The whole industry was expecting Intel and Microsoft to drive all the innovation while they did none themselves. That's how they ended up in the state they're in, making commodity boxes for near-zero margins. Here was HP, the world's largest PC vendor, seriously considering leaving the business altogether. Why? Because all they're doing is washing money: take it in, pay it out, earn nothing. Dell's in the same straits. If you allow your suppliers to drive your product line, you'll never make any money because all your competitors have the same suppliers, and hence the same products.
          Robert Hahn
      • Because sometimes companies stumble over these things

        while looking for something else, or mabye a fab company like Intel or AMD has a department that creates casings for custom made fabrication lines and machines?

        But no, it's because [i]Why is this kind of R&D being done by a semiconductor fab company instead of the companies that actually make and sell PCs? Because Intel has the money to do it. And they don't. And that's because Intel and Microsoft have had them by the hairs[/i] Yet you're (purposelly?) leaving out that [b]many[/b] companies have depts, or research on things like this, not just Intel. (GE should just make lightbulbs, why the heck are they making jet engines and trains?) It's called diversification.

        If this is indeed related to other operations, and it's a fact that they can move that technology and sell it in a related segment of their market would just make sense.
        William Farrel
        • Intel's future?

          So, you expect that Intel's CPU business is failing and they are preparing to be an PC builder, with chips from AMD and ARM? :-)

          You don't eat your customer's lunch or next time you look around there will be nothing to eat.

          Besides, in this particular case, things are a'la Microsoft "wait for the bright future". It is also complete junk that contains both "we have found new materials", "we have found new ways", "re reshuffled the stuff we give you, inside and now you can do ti with current material and claim it's superior". This kind of nonsense.
    • Have no idea what 'structural reduction analysis' might be.

      Are there patents involved? Top down design approach?
      • It means they performed FEA on laptop chassis design.

        Finite Element Analysis was performed on 3D models of laptop chassis to find areas where material could be reduced, needed reinforcement, or just needed to be re-designed. They may be able to patent special designs or material.
    • Intel is backtracking on all its own requirements for Ultrabooks

      Forgive me if I'm cynical but this sounds more like marketing BS to me than any real engineering. Reshuffling internal components inside a laptop case to make it stronger sounds like something any stone-age craftsman could've come up with, let alone engineers from the aerospace or automotive industries. You don't need computer modeling for this.

      Basically it sounds like Intel is worried about the cost of its laptops, so it's dropping the idea of having metallic cases. It's also dropping the idea of equipping these things with SSD's only, and is now allowing hard drives. What's the next minimum design requirement that will fall by the way side? That they no longer have to be thin? So how does that make them different than existing laptops? Also it looks like they are heading towards embracing the same decisions that their competitor AMD decided on right from the start with their ultrathin design requirements: they said plastic cases are fine, and hard drives are fine too. But even if Intel embraces all of the same design requirements as AMD, there will still be a $150 price gap between the AMD and the Intel laptops: the remaining price gap lies within the Intel chips. The AMD laptops will also be a bit more capable at playing games than the Intel laptops will be, because AMD uses their own advanced graphics processors.
      • Not enough initial intelligence data

        It seems, when Intel decided to rob Apple off the Macbook Air line, they looked only at the surface and so spec'd their "Ultrabook" initiative. However, the Macbook Air is not just a masterpiece of engineering, it's also masterpiece of the Apple's supply chain and their marketing. It is also an integral part of the complete "personal computer" offering Apple has. If taken alone, the Air is not that impressive.

        This time (again) Intel were stupid enough. They set certain expectations, failed to meet them and thus did two things, indirectly:
        - confirmed the Macbook Air is an excellent produce, to be taken as example by everyone else (thus putting penalty on their vendor's other designs);
        - make the AMD solution way more appealing, especially as it's more cost effective
    • Recyclable

      Whats the carbon footprint compared to Aluminium?
    • why "discovery?"

      makes it sound like these boxes were there all along and Intel stumbled across one while it was hanging out the laundry