September 29, 2023


Think spectacular technology

The Most Common Materials Used in the Manufacturing of Laptop Computer Shells

If you are currently researching your next laptop computer to purchase or rent, have you given any thought at all as to what the shell of your new laptop candidate is made of? Do you even care, so long as it just looks nice? These days you might care, especially given everyone’s effort to be politically correct and “green” these days. Also, the material that is used to make a laptop computer shell can affect the price of that computer almost as much as the technology found inside.

Computer laptop shells are almost always made of either metal or plastic materials. Since plastic materials are light weight and relatively easy to mold into shape, many computer manufacturers prefer to use them when making laptop shells. Even within the plastic category, there are several types, and here we will explain a few of those options.

ABS engineering plastics are the most commonly used materials in the manufacturing of laptop shells. The driving reason for that popularity is the low cost of ABS plastic, which is really an alloy of PC (polycarbonate) and ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene). ABS is the same recyclable thermo-plastic that NFL football helmets are made of, so think of how strong that must be.

On one hand, the PC + ABS plastic compound has the superior heat resistance of PC. Plus, it is impact and weather resistant, and retains its shape extremely well. On the other hand, it also has rather poor thermal conductivity and is just plain heavy. However, in this case, the positives overcome the negatives because of the low cost associated with using ABS engineering plastics; because of that low cost, ABS engineering plastics are very popular among laptop computer manufacturers.

Carbon fiber material is an attractive, high-quality material. It looks like normal ABS plastic, but it durability and heat conductivity is far superior to the ABS plastic. Since carbon fiber is also a conductive material (it conducts electricity), a laptop shell made of this material can perform similarly to a metal shell. In fact, IBM recognized the favorable attributes of carbon fiber as early as April, 1998 and introduced the first laptop computer shell made of carbon fiber that year. The major drawback to using this material is its high cost.

Carbon Fiber is also much more difficult to form than common ABS plastic. Because of the difficulty associated with its use in manufacturing,the mere incorporation of carbon fiber in a laptop computer shell can almost double the cost of the device. Hence, computer and laptop renta l become more expensive.

Some other manufacturers use a polycarbonate plastic material, which resembles metal, but that is not very common. Fujitsu is just one of the computer manufacturers that has been known to use polycarbonates in their laptop shells.