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Acer, Asus Using Fiberglass to Keep Ultrabook Cost Low

By - Source: DigiTimes | B 37 comments

Acer plans to release a 15-inch ultrabook with a fiberglass body in early 2012. Asus also plans to use fiberglass in future ultrabook models.

Industry sources report that Acer plans to launch a 15-inch ultrabook in early 2012 built with a fiberglass chassis manufactured by Mitac Precision Technology. Acer was originally scheduled to ship the ultrabook in Q4 2011, but reportedly chose to stall its release due to "unfavorable market conditions."

Asus, Acer and other companies have complained for months about the cost of manufacturing Intel's proposed new form factor while keeping the consumer price tag at the projected sub-$1000 point. The biggest obstacle they face thus far is the price of Intel's processors, but so far the company hasn't offered any kind of subsidy.

According to sources, the price of a fiberglass chassis will be $5 to $10 less expensive than those built using aluminum alloy, and will supposedly knock $20 off the cost of manufacturing the entire ultrabook. Fiberglass will also make the ultrabooks more lightweight than using aluminum. Sources said Acer plans to outsource these fiberglass ultrabooks to Compal Electronics.

In related news, Asus is also expected to use fiberglass cases from the same supplier for future ultrabook models. Currently the company is slated to officially introduce the aluminum-based UX21 and UX31 at a big event next week in New York City. Notebook Italia reports that these will be called "Zenbooks" based on the name provided in the title of the information request form on the ASUS UX countdown site. Since that report, the information request form has been removed.

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  • 15 Hide
    amdwilliam1985 , October 7, 2011 6:45 PM
    Or if they make the fiber glasses crystal clear so we can see through the casing and into the components, I know I want one.
Other Comments
  • 2 Hide
    klavis , October 7, 2011 6:40 PM
    I'd be concerned about the fragility of a fiber glass case. I would imagine a case that thin would be prone to cracking.
  • 15 Hide
    amdwilliam1985 , October 7, 2011 6:45 PM
    Or if they make the fiber glasses crystal clear so we can see through the casing and into the components, I know I want one.
  • 7 Hide
    Yuka , October 7, 2011 6:47 PM
    Intel is going to lose bad on this one... Why do they have to be so stubborn with pricing?

    Cheers!
  • 7 Hide
    RazberyBandit , October 7, 2011 6:50 PM
    I can't imagine just how much machining actually goes into an aluminum notebook chassis. Choosing to use molded fiberglass should definitely prove cheaper, but I'm unsure it would provide the same level of strength.

    If only carbon-fiber were cheaper...
  • 3 Hide
    LuckyDucky7 , October 7, 2011 7:11 PM
    I don't know what the big deal is about durability.

    Because even aluminum chassis Ultrabooks will bend and break if you sit on them- once the frame's bent the Macbook Air (or any other notebook) is toast.

    You don't buy an Ultrabook if you want durability. If you want a thin-and-light durable, you get a ThinkPad X301 or a business-class thin-and-light. They're not as thin, but you can throw it around and stand on it without too many problems.
  • -6 Hide
    sethusmaximus , October 7, 2011 7:11 PM
    __-_-_-__i have a solution. its called AMD.


    AMD is too fat
  • 4 Hide
    LuckyDucky7 , October 7, 2011 7:15 PM
    Quote:
    AMD is too fat


    And yet Brazos APUs (E-350/E450) still appear in tablets.

    And almost all the mobile APUs (not the MX parts) are 35W parts, just like the standard power Sandy Bridge processors are. Except that they're actually competent in processor graphics whereas Quick Sync is a one-trick pony (not to discount its usefulness yet, however).
  • 1 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , October 7, 2011 7:16 PM
    I say fiberglass is a lot better than those cardboard pc's that someone tinkered with a few years ago.
  • 3 Hide
    halcyon , October 7, 2011 7:23 PM
    I think I'd be willing to pay $20-$50 more for an aluminum chassis than a fiberglass chassis.

    Salesman:
    "Hey, these two computers are identical but this one cost $40 more because the chassis is aluminum. Of course if you get the less expensive one you can buy a nice wireless mouse too for the same total money or just save it."

    Customer:
    "Wow, that's a doozy, umm.......ummm..."
  • 3 Hide
    dextermat , October 7, 2011 7:25 PM
    If the fiber glass is good quality : fiber glass FTW if not = fail
  • 6 Hide
    burnley14 , October 7, 2011 7:39 PM
    Seems like they will have some serious problems with heat since aluminum helps conduct the heat away, whereas fiberglass is an excellent insulator. The components are going to fry.
  • 3 Hide
    bystander , October 7, 2011 7:52 PM
    The cost difference doesn't seem worth the compromise, unless the end result is negligible.
  • 2 Hide
    mianmian , October 7, 2011 7:53 PM
    LuckyDucky7And yet Brazos APUs (E-350/E450) still appear in tablets.And almost all the mobile APUs (not the MX parts) are 35W parts, just like the standard power Sandy Bridge processors are. Except that they're actually competent in processor graphics whereas Quick Sync is a one-trick pony (not to discount its usefulness yet, however).

    Intel ultrabook platform need 17W CPU. Mobile Liano is 35W which is too hot. Brazos APU has lower TDP but it is aiming cheap/low-performance market. It won't sell if using expensive ultrabook cases.
  • 7 Hide
    cybr , October 7, 2011 7:55 PM
    I'd rather pay the extra $40-60 for aluminum (if manufacturers are reading this).
  • 3 Hide
    warezme , October 7, 2011 8:11 PM
    They are saving $5 to $10, so how is this going to help them when they all start being returned for cracked bodies? Penny wise, dollar foolish.
  • 3 Hide
    spentshells , October 7, 2011 8:11 PM
    If manufacturers are reading this If I wanted a macbook air Id buy one.
  • 2 Hide
    steelbox , October 7, 2011 8:31 PM
    RazberyBanditI can't imagine just how much machining actually goes into an aluminum notebook chassis. Choosing to use molded fiberglass should definitely prove cheaper, but I'm unsure it would provide the same level of strength.If only carbon-fiber were cheaper...

    None machining i think, it's all cut and bend for fast production by presses. Carbon fiber is overkill for an laptop, unless you plan to go to war with it and use it as protection.
  • -1 Hide
    reptileken , October 7, 2011 8:40 PM
    I'm concerned that if this type of fiberglass enclosure becomes very popular, this might become an issue with recyclers. Many plastics and aluminum can be recycled, But I'm not sure fiber-and-resin-based materials could be. I think it's high time we start being more serious about the importance of making electronics so that most all of the materials can be recycled. The toxic dumps in India, China, and elsewhere is atrocious, and the whole idea of completely throwing away electronics is ridiculous. For instance, I just had a MFC printer go bad because the print head went south. A new print head cost $50. The printer itself probably was barely worth that, if I sold it today in working condition. But I couldn't stand the idea of just dumping/recycling a perfectly fine large unit, just because a small part went bad. So I bought the new part and the unit now works fine. But if I had just dumped it or recycled it, who knows if it would have just ended up in some dump in India. Or even a local landfill. Companies and consumers need to start thinking of ways to lengthen the life of products and truly recycle them where possible. Throw away products like cell phones and laptops are bad. There is no easy way to lengthen the useful life of the product because most of the hardware cannot be upgraded.
  • 2 Hide
    slabbo , October 7, 2011 9:33 PM
    You know what else Acer and Asus should use besides fiberglass to keep Ultrabook prices low? AMD CHIPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , October 7, 2011 9:41 PM
    i have no idea why folks think fiberglass has durability issues, if were talking about hand laid hobbyist grade fiberglass matts maybe, but technology has comes leaps and bound from there, fiberglass, if fabricated right with the correct stabilizer and UV protection can be a high grade material

    @steelbox
    i highly doubt they would make a laptop chassis out of sheet metal aluminum (in the main presses are used in sheet metal fabrication) might work for an iPhone4 but not a laptop, it would be a pressure die cast aluminum chassis and no matter how good a process you got your still going have to do some machining for interface fit and holes

    cost is rarely on material alone, fabrication time and tooling cost is a factor too, if we talking about 10's of 1000's of parts then fiber glass makes sense, but if we talking about 100's of 1000's of parts the the high cycle time for die cast aluminum becomes more cost effective

    @burnley14
    the chassis should never be designed as a heatsink, it's primary role is to absorb and dissipate stress loads, using it as a heat sink would diminish it's ability to handle stress loads
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