Industrial Designer: Rumored ‘Brick’ Process Doesn’t Add Up

Industrial Designer: Rumored ‘Brick’ Process Doesn’t Add Up

Image via Accufusion

The Apple Blogotubes are a-buzz with boffo Interblag bloviating at a rumor from 9to5mac.com that Apple’s rumored “Brick” product was actually a nickname for a new manufacturing process that will use “lasers and jets of water to carve the MacBooks out of a brick of aluminum.” More, it’s a “game-changer;” “totally revolutionary;” “Apple’s biggest innovation in a decade.”

…Yeah, maybe not.

As Adam Richardson, an industrial designer at consultancy frog design and CNet blogger, points out, lasers and waterjets have been used in manufacturing for ages — by Apple.

The glowing LED that appears behind a “solid” front face of the MacBooks is apparently achieved with laser-cutting to thin out and partially perforate the wall in that one area.

Richardson also speculates that the existing iPod Shuffle is manufactured using a similar process, and even the MacBook Air has some telltale signs that it draws on really interesting and unusual manufacturing techniques. But would Apple actually carve an entire laptop out of one block of aluminum? And would it save any money?

On such a small product this is do-able. On a large product like a laptop this would typically result in a massive amount of waste (so kiss your green credentials goodbye). And the notion that this is somehow cheaper than stamping thin sheets or molding plastic is completely wrong – it’s much more expensive.

Yeah… no.

I’ve been talking with other industrial designers about this issue, and they all agree that the reasoning behind the current Brick rumor doesn’t add up. One friend of mine guessed it would add up to $50 in manufacturing costs and might not be any stronger or lighter than more traditional manufacturing approaches.

Does Apple have a game-changing laptop in the wings that will reinvent the MacBook and MacBook Pro design language? For their sake, they’d better. Will it be milled from a single block of aluminum? Not in this lifetime.

Matter/Anti-Matter

Related
  • jbilgihan

    Aluminum is completely recyclable so why can’t the “waste” just be re-used to create more “bricks” of aluminum.

    James

  • nak

    When Steve Jobs introduced the aluminium iMac he said something along the lines of it’s the only computer carved from a single piece of aluminium. I own one, I’ve taken it apart, and it certainly looks like what he said is true. So why can’t that be true of a MacBook?

  • ford

    MacBooks do not glow through thinned metal, they glow through a readily visible window.
    iBooks glowed (sleep light) through an otherwise solid case.
    You should know better.

  • Simon

    They’re talking about the indicator light beside the camera on the MacBook Pro and the led on the bluetooth keyboard.
    You should know better retard.

  • Ronakyle

    What is that LED behind the Macbook? What is the use of that?

    R. Kyleproduct design company

About the author

Pete Mortensen

Pete Mortensen is a design strategist for consulting firm Jump Associates and the co-author of Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy, a book and blog that are significantly more interesting than you might initially think. Pete's particular Apple avocations are both around design--interface and industrial. Follow him on Twitter!

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