Mission Perhaps Possible: Rugged Notebooks Made of Plastic

Intel Calls for Rugged Plastic Notebooks

by Anton Shilov
06/03/2012 | 04:00 AM

Intel Corp. has announced that it had managed to create an ultrabook case made of plastic. The company claims that a new way of making plastic makes as rugged as metal. The world's largest maker of microprocessors calls makers of notebooks to create devices using the new material it invented.


The material was created by borrowing "engineering methodologies from the automotive and aerospace industries". Intel engineers have created an ultrabook concept chassis that is "a fraction of the cost and equivalent in quality" to existing machined aluminum and die cast metal solutions in the market today. Intel disclosed no details about the new alloy; it also did not show a photo of its concept device in its public release. Intel's closest partner Asustek uses aluminum to create its top-of-the-range UX ultrabook series.

Intel said the breakthrough, which involved "structural reduction analysis" to achieve added strength using existing plastics widely available today, would help lower the cost of ultrabooks in the near future. The company said it would be sharing the results of its work with its ecosystem partners, and that ultrabook systems using the new chassis designs would likely become available next year after further refinements in engineering and design.

Intel is trying hard to decrease the cost of notebooks by any means. For a reason, the company believes that the market of expensive notebooks is limited to 10% - 15% of the market, which is true when only Apple MacBook and Lenovo ThinkPad and some others are in the consideration. In fact, there are numerous expensive models from HP and Dell that are quite popular despite of their price.

Intel asserts that its material is as strong as metal, but that has to be proven on actual devices. Intel did not show a picture of such prototype product in its press release, which means that the material is barely ready for mass production.

The materials of which contemporary PCs are made are a big discussion. Apple makes its PCs from aluminum, but the full-body aluminum cases do not only cost a lot, but are hard to make since milling process takes a long time. One - like Lenovo Group on ThinkPad - could use magnesium alloys, but those are quite expensive and do not look exactly good on pricy notebooks. Another - like Samsung Electronics - uses glass-fibre plastic to make its laptops look properly and be rugged enough. Intel did not disclose any characteristics of its material.