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Aluminum Laptop idea..

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Hey Overclockers,

Ive got an idea to create an aluminium housing for my laptops internal components, essentially replicating/reproducing the original plastic frame which surrounds it. My intention was to produce the casing with aluminium and a cnc milling machine (I am able to program so this shouldnt be a problem), but I had some questions.

My laptop is a: Dell Inspiron 15R SE

Would Aluminium in anyway act as a conductor and cause components to short circuit etc? would it be viable to to produce this casing in terms of cost of the material (I know its a bit of a random question but never ask, never know). Would the replacement to aluminium make the laptop heavier. Would the casing need redesigning? and would it be possible to assemble the laptop with the keyboard facing down. Has this been done before that you know of?

Thanks in Advance
post #2 of 9
1.) Many laptops have a metal sub-frame under the plastic, so your idea isn't crazy. Yes, aluminum is a conductor. Anything on the circuit board that is a ground connection needs to be "grounded" to the aluminum chassis. Anything that you don't want grounded, you can solved by covering that part of the aluminum with a thin layer of tape or thin plastic.. They use thin plastic or tape to cover a metal frame to prevent circuit circuiting in the electronics industry all the time, it's a fairly common practice.

If your not familiar with how grounding works (and designing good grounds) on laptops and circuit boards, you should read up on the subject before you attempt this project.

2.) Does this laptop have wi-fi or bluetooth? You will have to re-design how the wi-fi / bluetooth antenna is mounted. If you entire laptop is aluminum and grounded it will act as a shield and block your signal. This Wikipedia article explains it pretty well. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_shielding Your all metal laptop would shield the electronics from any outside interference,....but completely block any signals you WANT to receive.

There should be a non-conductive cover (like plastic) over the wi-fi / bluetooth antenna. One solution is to make the whole frame metal, but with a separate plastic compartment for the antenna. Another solution if you want a all metal laptop is to use a external USB wi-fi adapter.

You can actually buy tiny pre-made plastic enclosures that you could integrate into your all-metal laptop.

On a side note, your case acting like a shield would likely give you better sound quality.

3.) Yes, replacing plastic with aluminum would make the laptop heavier. Metal weighs more than plastic.

4.) There is many different types and alloys of aluminum. Unless you go with something really exotic, it is cheap and easy to CNC. Just don't go with anything too soft.

5.) What do you mean "the keyboard facing down"?
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post #3 of 9
The keyboards in laptops are connected by a thin flexible flat cable. There is a small amount of movement allowed by this, but flipping it over entirely or placing it in a significantly different spot in the case it not going to work without some serious elite soldering skills.

For shielding it from shorting out, use kapton tape. It's that super thin yellow stuff you find in electronics everywhere. Rolls of it are available online just about anywhere.

Yes, an all aluminum enclosure will definitely be heavier, and by a significant amount. You'll probably add about a pound. Consider thinning out the material as much as possible wherever you can, leaving only thicker supporting webs near areas of stress (around the edges, board and drive mounts, and especially the screen hinge mounts).

Any thoughts to surface finish? Dead flat, milled pattern, ball milled? Anodizing?
post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thank you both for your information that has been more then helpful to me. The finish I would try and achieve would be something similair to the apple macs, but im not sure of the termanology of how it is finished. Either that or a brushed effect on the aluminium. I am interrested in doing this prodject but I havent really got a good understanding of grounding techniques and applications. My laptop does infact have both wifi and bluetooth.
post #5 of 9
You are looking at one of two processes. Either sand it very smooth (or have it bead blasted) and have it anodized (smooth but frosty finish), or pass it through a belt sander and have it anodized (coarse brushed finish). You should contact a local company that does anodizing and see what they offer as far as part surface preparation. They will be able to give you expert advice for getting your parts ready to go.
post #6 of 9
he he you could intergrate a touch screen and have the keyboard slide out underneath it so something.

the keyboard is connected by a ribbon so i would practice on a old cheap laptop keyboard cutting the ribbon and extending them.
post #7 of 9
Do not rely on a single thin layer of tape to prevent shorts, the legs on devices can easily poke through after a bit of movement. (Portable computer) All the solder blobs need to be roundish, uses thicker cardboard or plastic as isolation INCASE it comes in contact. Do not intentionally design it that way, give yourself a few mm.
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post #8 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by TLHarrell View Post

The keyboards in laptops are connected by a thin flexible flat cable. There is a small amount of movement allowed by this, but flipping it over entirely or placing it in a significantly different spot in the case it not going to work without some serious elite soldering skills.

Elite soldering skills to solder a ribbon cable? It's not a 0402 SMT part. You don't need a microscope to solder it. If you have really good lighting, a steady hand, and a lot of patience you could solder a longer cable on. It will be hard, but certainly achievable! The hard part will be locating a longer cable. I'm a electronics engineer, and locate really hard to find parts all the time so i can help with this.

I'll give you grounding 101

There is 3 types of ground

- Earth ground - This ground is eventually connected to pole that goes into the earth. This is what the ground outlet on your wall receptacle is connected to.

- Chassis ground - This is making "ground" the metal frame that everything is connected too. In a desktop, which has the metal frame is chassis ground. In your laptop, your want the metal frame to be chassis ground.

- Floating ground - This is basically saying the ground is "isolated" from the other grounds. It is not directly connected to any other ground. A isolated ground in a plastic frame isn't so bad, because plastic is a insulator and will not conduct electricity. On a metal frame, the frame itself will pick up all sorts of electronic interference and electronic noise and should be grounded.

The little metal rings on the circuit board where it screws into the standoffs are connected to ground. For example: If the motherboard is screwed into one piece of metal, and the keyboard is screwed into a separate piece of metal.....these two piece of metal need to have good electrical conductivity. If not, your create a ground loop which can cause weird electrical problems.

So basically, if a circuit board screws into it....make sure it has a good electrical connection to any other pieces the circuit board screws into. It's pretty simple.

The motherboard and other devices are grounded through the PSU as well,...so the world won't end if it isn't grounded perfectly. It will still work. It's just a "best practice" type of thing. It helps reduce electrical noise, ect...
Edited by crimsontears809739 - 12/11/12 at 10:02am
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post #9 of 9
Get some CAD drawings posted, and hopefully we will be able to give you a more in-depth critique.
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