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Modbook R&D Labs – The Inside Track, Issue No.20

MB_RnDLabs_TheInsideTrack-No20-0225sIMGHello my fellow Töpferlgucker (?).

The team is still putting finishing touches on the system’s electronics, cabling, and integration of the pen tablet system. There is also work going on for the rear-mounted Keybars and Keyboard Stand.

Examples: adjustments and changes to system

Over time as we’ve developed the Pro X, each subsequent prototype or pre-production iteration has added improvements over the previous version. Sometimes, when you compare versions you can see the changes taking shape.

For example, here’s a comparison shot of an internal component on the Pro X called the Master Frame, a part of the UIPanel Assembly that includes the display. At left (in white) is an early 3D-printed version, and at left is the latest and expected-to-be-final version (in black), produced by one of our U.S. manufacturing partners.

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At a glance they look similar, but on closer inspection there are differences. The newest version has a redesigned lower edge that’s much narrower to allow for the installation of a heat transfer component for improved heat management of the backlight system of the Pro X’s Retina display.

In the close-up comparison below, the attachment points at the top of the Master Frame have been re-engineered for a more secure and precise registration of underlying display and tablet components during assembly/production.

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In another example, below you can see the right top corner of one of the most recent Pro X pre-production units with the 3D-GripFeet and antenna cover installed.

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And for comparison here is a brand new production Alphabody and Back Cover for the Pro X manufactured in the last week. This latest version now incorporates a small new feature that’s not on the previous pre-production unit: an attachment point on each side of the top of the device (red arrow) into which small, unobtrusive 3D-GripFeet will be installed.

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These small feet will support the device when the MonoProp is attached and the device is inverted (with OS X rotated using Modbook’s QuickFlip utility) for use in presentation mode, as discussed in our last update and shown below.

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Not only do these feet function as part of the heat management system by improving the aiRflow at the point where they’re attached, they also help protect both the device as well as the surface it is being placed on from scratches.

A Window Into production ramp-up

Here’s a quick peek behind the scenes at few aspects of the ongoing production ramp-up for the Pro X.

Shown below is an egg carton (hey, they work perfectly and they’re free :-)) holding pre-cut blanks that will become internal MonoProp Mounts for the Pro X. Three recent iterations of pre-production mounts are shown. Parts we produce are immediately measured and tested for proper dimensions, fit and quality. If a part doesn’t meet our rigorous specifications, it is marked in red so it can’t accidentally end up in production. Some of these parts are later refined if they can meet our spec, but most do not enter production and are recycled so the raw materials can be re-used. (Wherever possible, we recycle unused parts and excess raw materials, which not only lowers costs but minimizes waste and environmental impact.)

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Here are a Back Cover, Top Bezel and Alphabody (Pro X internal components) as they come fresh out of the computer numerical control (CNC) machine(s). They are sitting on top of raw blanks of aluminum which are being used to produce more of them. You can see how much larger the blanks need to be for our parts to be properly mounted during production. As mentioned above, all excess material, including the shavings, is collected and returned to specialized aluminum recyclers (not the kind where you return used soda cans!).

We use high-quality, aircraft-grade aluminum for strength and durability, which has proven itself to be very effective in the current Modbook Pro.

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Shown below are a stack of high-grade thermoplastic bars (at left) for use in the Pro X antenna cover, with a half-completed cover in the middle and a completed cover to the right. Testing equipment like the device shown in the photo provide a quick confirmation of the dimensions and thickness of parts at our supplier with sufficient precision to ensure that the parts meet our rigid tolerances. Of course, at this point we still remeasure critical key dimensions of all parts in-house at a much higher resolution at our coordinate measuring machine (CMM) station. (In later stages of production when all processes have been dialed in, we usually measure samples out of every batch.)

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To manufacture parts which are sometimes extremely complicated, we’ve also had to invent a number of fixtures and mounts that will enable us to efficiently produce the parts we need. We’ve spent a great deal of time on this hidden aspect of physical production, because we’ve learned from past experience that we do not want problems arising in the middle of production that are the result of not thinking through how parts should be made.

In the example below, an Alphabody is under construction in a CNC machine. It is held in place by one of a series of specialized jigs that are designed to expedite production and to ensure parts are up to spec.

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Until next time,
Andreas & the Team

The Modbook Pro X is a one time, small production volume project to create a tablet mac computer solution based on Apple’s 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro notebook. While only backers of the project will be able to receive the Pro X, we’ll be sharing insights and updates as we advance the project. Follow us on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/modbook/ for notifications our next posts.

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Disclaimer
The Modbook Pro and Modbook Pro X are enclosure conversion kits that transform an original Apple MacBook Pro notebook-style computer into a tablet-style computer. Apple Inc.'s warranty on the MacBook Pro base system is voided by the conversion and replaced with the Modbook Protection Plan, which covers the entire hardware solution, including the base system.