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Student Designs Cardboard Computer Case 329

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the hope-it-burns-clean dept.
SpaceGhost writes "The Houston Chronicle has a story on a Grad student at the University of Houston who has designed a cardboard case for a computer. This is not a new concept, but this one is meant to be used in manufacture. The idea is that it will be faster and easier to produce (no fasteners for example) and dramatically easier to recycle."
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Student Designs Cardboard Computer Case

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    But its probably not recyclable after it catches on fire from my overclocked processor

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by carolfromoz (1552209)

      ..after it catches on fire ..

      Still cool?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hadlock (143607)

      Not to mention the lack of Faraday cage-like effect a traditional metal case provides.

      • by MightyYar (622222) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:30PM (#29455763)

        You could probably glue a thin sheet of aluminum foil to the inside of the case, so I wouldn't worry about the Faraday cage.

        At least now the ultra-low-end Dells will look on the outside just as crappy as they are on the inside :)

        • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:54PM (#29456125)
          You could probably glue a thin sheet of aluminum foil to the inside of the case, so I wouldn't worry about the Faraday cage.

          So now my cardboard computer case needs a tinfoil hat?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by coolsnowmen (695297)

        Not mine, Enough of mine is made out of plastic for it to be completely worthless. But even if it wasn't, Depending on the frequencies you are trying to shield, your current computer case is a pretty horrible fariday shield as it is. Every hole, slit and opening for ventilation or other purposes allows EM to radiate or re-radiate out of it at a wavelengths of that size.

        • by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash.p10link@net> on Thursday September 17, 2009 @04:20PM (#29459153) Homepage

          Proper building is important, e.g. in most cases you will find there are metal blanks behind the plastic blanks on drive bays, theese make up part of the shielding but are often not replaced (or even can't be replaced) when moving drives arround (PC manufacturers don't really care about this, they only care about meeting the interference regulations when the machine leaves the factory).

          Remember even a 10GHz (that would about the third harmonic of the clock of a 3GHz CPU) electromagnetic wave has a wavelength of a few centimeters so small slits aren't that much of a problem.

          They don't build PC cases out of metal (or occasionally metal lined plastic) for fun or to make them cheap, they do it because they need the shielding to meet interference regulations.

    • by Locke2005 (849178) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:26PM (#29455701)
      Actually, the ashes from this case will make an excellent soil supplement for your garden... pity about the rest of your house, however.
    • I think modern hard drives rely on transferring some of their heat through the metal of a case. I remember Seagate back when they introduced the 10k drives where saying that they could reduce the heat of these drives by 5-10 degrees by using better case mounting that ensured the heat was transfered to the case.

    • by Urkki (668283) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @02:44PM (#29457891)

      But its probably not recyclable after it catches on fire from my overclocked processor

      No worries. I think the melting point of solder is lower than ignition point of cardboard. So there's an automatic safety mechanism: solder melts, electric connections break, heating stops.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by theelectron (973857)
        So you are saying that electronics don't start fires? You forget about sparks that can fly off the circuit boards and components that can fail and burn before the leads do. Also, liquid solder will still keep an electronic connection. Cardboard just sounds like a dangerous idea without some kind of fire retardant in the cardboard, which generally makes it unrecyclable.
  • by EkriirkE (1075937) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:13PM (#29455475) Homepage
    What's that burning smell?
  • Some pictures?

    My imagination is running wild.

  • by maroberts (15852) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:14PM (#29455491) Homepage Journal
    When I spray coke over it like I normally do when reading Slashdot?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:14PM (#29455495)

    http://www.engadget.com/2009/02/05/recompute-a-closer-look-at-the-sustainable-cardboard-pc/ for a better description and better pictures

  • MUJI speakers!
  • grounding? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by virmaior (1186271) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:15PM (#29455513)
    is grounding no longer a problem? I haven't built a computer in a while, but I'm not sure if cardboard makes a good ground.
    • by Hyppy (74366)
      Is environmental grounding required? I thought that most components made use of the power supply's ground wire directly. Otherwise, it's pretty pointless to have a case that doesn't have a direct conductive circuit to the power supply, which many don't.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by geekoid (135745)

        Almost all of them do. In fact I am unaware of any case that doesn't.

        devices(CD-Rom. hard dirve, etc) use their case for grounding, and you attach metal screws to old them onto the case, and most likely have other contact. You do not want to start having different 'ground points' in a case. That will casue drift and multiple different potentials.

        This is why you should leave the computer plugged IN, but turned off at the power supply when working on them, also maintain contact with them usually via a strap.

        T

    • Re:grounding? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:26PM (#29455693)

      Grounding has always been via the power supply primarily, the power supply always has a ground plug for that reason. The case was just a handy secondary ground when working on the computers. I imagine that lame grounding strap will be more important for this case, but really grounding isn't a big risk unless you are in a very dry area and producing a large static buildup in your body.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by wsanders (114993)

      What needs to be grounded? There are ground return paths in all component connections, and that is desirable over having random ground currents circulate in the case.

      Having debugged a few interference problems on PCs myself, as far as RFI is concerned, radiation is primarily from external cables. The main problems with PCs are 1) Reradiation from the external power, peripheral, and network cables, 2) Pickup of stray radiation on cables inside the case itself.

    • Your case shouldn't be your primary ground circuit. Plastic computer cases exist and aren't grounded either. The fact that it isn't grounded isn't what makes this a stupid idea. The fact that cardboard doesn't handle dampness, dirt, insects, etc is what makes this a stupid idea. Coating it with something to protect it, would make it no more recyclable than a plastic case.

  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:15PM (#29455529)

    The case is either Al or steel sheet metal, easily recyclable. The toxic sludge and heavy metals in the PCB, capacitors and solder are the problem. Call me when they invent cardboard solder.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dogtanian (588974)

      The case is either Al or steel sheet metal, easily recyclable. The toxic sludge and heavy metals in the PCB, capacitors and solder are the problem. Call me when they invent cardboard solder.

      Bingo. And what about the energy and resources involved in producing the internal components? Apparently these are very high (e.g. in terms of water, etc.)

      I don't want to sound too much like I'm attacking an idea which may well have been intended as no more than an interesting concept (albeit one that's been done and reported on Slashdot on at least one previous occasion). Still, it smacks of those feelgood/sounds-good prominent but tokenistic green efforts that are all too commonly the focus of bandwagon

  • Silverfish (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ub3r n3u7r4l1st (1388939) * on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:16PM (#29455543)

    I bet the case will be all eaten in a year or so.

  • EMC Nightmere (Score:4, Insightful)

    by distilate (1037896) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:17PM (#29455549)

    Not again.

    This is not the first time we have seen this idea

    cardboard does not act as a Farady cage and the computer will leak large amounts of radio frequency interference so will not be legal in most countries.

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      cardboard does not act as a Farady [sic] cage. Neither does the plastic most computers are now made of. I assume the solution for cardboard is the same as the solution for plastic: spray a metallic coating on the inside and ground it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by shaitand (626655)

        Apparently you haven't opened one. There aren't many plastic cases around. There are aluminum cases with plastic molding on the outside.

    • by Quothz (683368)

      cardboard does not act as a Farady cage and the computer will leak large amounts of radio frequency interference so will not be legal in most countries.

      That's pretty easy to solve with a few cents worth of aluminum.

      • by pecosdave (536896) *

        I saw we split open soda cans and beer cans! When we open these babies up for a RAM upgrade we can get and advertisement from Budweiser and Mountain Dew.

      • Re:EMC Nightmere (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jedidiah (1196) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @01:19PM (#29456589) Homepage

        While you are at it, just a remarkably smaller volume and mass for the aluminum of the outside of the case.

        This has got to be one of the DUMBEST "self-nuke" ideas to come along here in a long time.

        Take a tower PC that's likely going to be mostly encased in metal to begin with.
        Take that very trivially recyclable component and then go out of your way to
        REPLACE it with something that is probably going to cause more harm to the
        environment when you try to recycle it.

        Replacing plastic with paper is not the answer.

        This is not the grocery store.

  • Re: (Score:5, Funny)

    by coolmoose25 (1057210) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:18PM (#29455569)

    Call me when they invent cardboard solder.

    They did. It's called "Duct Tape"

  • by pecosdave (536896) * on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:19PM (#29455575) Homepage Journal

    I've used very early AT cases all the way into the socket 7 era - I even built an ultra rare P-II era system into an early AT case once. Then, when I went to ATX I kept reusing cases. Hurricane Ex Wife stealing everything followed by Hurricane Ike put a stop to that reuse chain, but I do intend to start reusing cases again.

    The biggest "need" for a cardboard case comes from big name manufacturers that insist on making proprietary boards and cases instead of sticking with industry standards. I understand why, you don't want people gutting an HP, putting an ECS main board in it and reselling it as an HP at a flea market, but I'm sure there's other ways to deal with that particular issue.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

      The biggest "need" for a cardboard case comes from big name manufacturers that insist on making proprietary boards and cases instead of sticking with industry standards.

      I've got a newsflash for you, but the big name manufacturers are the ones who created the inudstry standards, and they certainly stick to them. That you (and most hobby computer builders) prefer an old, outdated standard like ATX is not something to hold against the industry, which has been trying to move on for years.

      One of the best case formats out there is BTX, the layout greatly improves airflow while at the same time reducing case size in most applciations significantly, all without sacrificing power

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hairyfeet (841228)

        We don't want the damned things because the bastards are knuckle busters. you ever have to work in one of those damned HP or Emachines "minicases"? By the end of the day your knuckles are gonna look like you have been punching a brick wall. And i hope you don't want to add anything weird like....ohh I don't know...a second HARD DRIVE!

        Being a PC builder with 15 years in the biz i can tell you there are plenty of those little bastard Emachine, HP, and Dell cases that the ONLY way to keep those bastards from

      • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @02:05PM (#29457357) Homepage

        There are plenty of computers out there which don't adhere to those standards. Something like the Dell gx270, for instance, which uses an odd ATX-wire-compatible cigar shaped power supply. Vendors seem to love making proprietary, difficult to service cases: seems like every generation of each vendors' products results in a different, difficult to service case design (including different-headed screws).

        BTX is a bad design. It's not Athlon 64 or i7 compatible. ATX is. That's part of the reason hobbyists aren't interested. The fact that BTX power supplies and boards aren't as good, inexpensive, or available also has a lot to do with it - it's not the hobbyists who have nixed BTX, it's the producers. Hobbyists will move to whatever works well for the application, at a good price range.

        Mini-ITX (which is what I assume you were referring to) does have a fairly broad hobbyist adoption. Why? It isn't a bad case design which limits adoption in multiple applications.

        What are the applications for which ATX does not work well? And/or why do they not work well? What about the design sucks? "Clipping it to your belt" isn't exactly a valid (or honest) criticism. There's mini-ATX, as well as a variety of spec diversions - and from what I've seen, they're upwards- and cross- compatible (ie mini-ATX will work in a full-size ATX case). That works well for everything from "small desktop" on up through full-size low-end server.

    • by natehoy (1608657)

      Right, and since you build your own machines you'll probably pony up a few more bucks and want a metal case.

      But the average computer consumers of the world aren't going to reuse a case. They are going to buy a machine that costs as little as possible to fulfill their computer needs for 5 years or so, then when it gets too slow or no longer supports the titles they want to buy on the shelf they will throw it away or give it to a charity, and go out and buy a new one.

      Plus, have you seen the cases that the li

    • by British (51765) <british1500@gmail.com> on Thursday September 17, 2009 @01:00PM (#29456211) Homepage Journal

      I remember playing Tribes 2 on my AMD system many moons ago. It kept locking up about 12 minutes in due to overheating. Finally switched over to an AMD-approved case, and the overheating problems went away. While it would have been nice to keep an old case & keep putting better systems inside, I had no choice on that one.

      I don't miss the old AT cases where to access anything inside meant having to unbolt the side-top-side u-shaped cover. The switch to individual removable sides was a good one.

  • by coolmoose25 (1057210) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:20PM (#29455577)
    ... and the cardboard box came in metal shipping crate.
  • TFA is light on details, but I wonder: how does this deal with interference? For consumer electronics, that's a big deal. Aluminum foil? What about flammability?

    I think this is a neat way of thinking about a case. The "spill" issue unfortunately makes it a non-starter where I work... let's just say that many of the people I work with are idiots. For my own personal projects, I prefer a nice case that I reuse for a long time (like a Lian-Li).
    • by Hatta (162192) *

      If you spill something on your computer, the case is the least of your worries.

  • by bcmm (768152) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:20PM (#29455595)
    As others have pointed out, the case is not difficult to recycle or toxic.

    And who the hell throws away a case? It's the part that goes obsolete slowest, and several computers might occupy a case before it needs to be replaced.
    • by tick_and_bash (1256006) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:32PM (#29455801)

      The people most likely to throw away a case are those who don't build their own computers. Not everyone has the know how or desire to do so. It's much easier to just order already made.

      • by bcmm (768152)
        I would hope they don't landfill their computers. Here in the UK that would probably be illegal. You take it to a council dump, and they send it for recycling. In Oxford at least, some parts may go for re-use if they still work. I would hope cases would be recovered at this point.
    • by Radish03 (248960)
      It's the part that goes obsolete slowest, and several computers might occupy a case before it needs to be replaced.

      That depends on the case. My parents gave me their old Gateway a few years ago, which I used as a media center PC. When I decided to upgrade it, I was frustrated to discover that instead of the standard rectangular hole with removable motherboard-specific rear panel cover, the back was a solid piece of steel with holes machined out specifically for that computer's motherboard's port arran
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rich0 (548339)

        Yup - almost any OEM case is nearly useless to reuse. Other issues:

        1. Compact designs often only work with specific board layouts (including assumptions of the height of various components on the board and their position.

        2. The case might or might not have a full set of screw-holes for various board formats.

        3. The connectors for USB/power/reset/speaker/etc often use fancy connectors that are non-standard, rather than just individual connectors. There might even be primitive daughterboards involved.

        4.

  • by geekoid (135745) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `dnaltropnidad'> on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:21PM (#29455613) Homepage Journal

    why the hell are desktop cases so damn expensive?

    I used to have up right computer cases becasue glass monitors were getting so damn big, and thus heavy. Now with LCD monitors, I would think the desktop would come back.

    It saves more space then the tiny uprights Dell sell that stand next to the monitor, and makes room on the floor.

    Obviously, the people on slashdot that get in and out of there case is probably a higher proportion then most people so I can see why some of you wouldn't want one.

    • by damburger (981828)
      Hear hear. I don't know why desktops became so unfashionable either, because from what I saw most people didn't have a big enough monitor to cause problems before they switched over to flat panel.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Thanshin (1188877)

      Obviously, the people on slashdot that get in and out of there case is probably a higher proportion then most people so I can see why some of you wouldn't want one.

      Out? What do you mean by out?

      The case has a transparent side and ventilation for a reason.

    • by tepples (727027)

      I used to have up right computer cases becasue glass monitors were getting so damn big, and thus heavy. Now with LCD monitors, I would think the desktop would come back.

      Then put the upright behind the monitor. Hey, it works for Apple (iMac) and HP (TouchSmart).

  • carry your iPhone 3G in style [case-mate.com]... recession style.

    Why this case is a fail: The metal is an RF shield, it helps ensure proper operation of both computer and surrounding equipment.

    Grounding is NOT an issue here; the power supply is grounded, there are grounds (usually multiple!) running to disks and whatnot. RF is very much an issue, however. The grounding is way secondary to the shielding.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by damburger (981828)

      They could easily add a thin layer of foil to the cardboard for RF shielding, without it being a metal case (where the metal is also structural and thus much thicker than you need for shielding). However, I imagine this would scupper the ability to recycle the thing

      Anecdotally, I have run many computers without a case (normally when I have been modifying something, or for brief periods when my existing case has insufficient ventilation for new components but I haven't been able to change it. I've not notice

  • by int69h (60728) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:27PM (#29455719)

    Finally a use for is_computer_on_fire()

    http://www.eeggs.com/items/15121.html [eeggs.com]

  • I seem to have got some notion somewhere that paper products such as cardboard burns at around 451 Fahrenheit (thats about 232 centigrade in proper units). If any part of your computer in contact with the case is anywhere close to that temperature, there is plenty of stuff that has already failed.

    In any case, your current computer likely has a thin, metal case, which will conduct heat very nicely. If it is heated to 232 centigrade, then it will likely heat the floor/desk beneath it to almost the same tempe

  • by tetsukaze (1635797) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:31PM (#29455775)
    The price of computers coming down is definitely a good thing and making them easier to recycle is great. Unfortunately there is growing trend of waste due to these cheap computers. As a consumer desktop technician I would see people replacing perfectly good hardware due to software issues. They are just so cheap and labor can be be pretty expensive, that it would be stupid to do anything else. The con is that a lot of cheap computers are going to the dump. Things would be perfect if people could learn the basics. Something as basic as backing up files and reinstalling the OS is beyond the scope of most consumers.
  • Pizza Box Linux Server ...

    http://slashdot.org/story/99/09/10/1621242/Steaming-Heap-of-Quickies [slashdot.org] http://www.linuxtoday.com/news_story.php3?ltsn=1999-08-25-014-10-PR

  • FCC Part 15 class B (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Spazmania (174582) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:34PM (#29455823) Homepage

    Pretty sure a cardboard box with a modern motherboard inside doesn't quite meet the FCC Part 15 class B regulations for unintentional radio emissions needed for residential use. That's why computer cases are usually metal instead of plastic.

  • magic elixir [minwax.com] and that case will hold up to a lot more.

    Won't replace shielding though. Maybe snip some tinfoil from your hats?

  • Now we can just print the electronics http://www.gizmag.com/go/4749/ [gizmag.com] directly on the cardboard box and just re-use the shipping crate for the computer and capacitive touch sensing keyboard. Now if we could just invent a switching power supply and power cord made entirely of paper it would be almost completely recyclable. Maybe Organic LED printed solar panels instead? Hmmmm, it better not rain much...
  • by shaitand (626655)

    This dude does know that cases are normally made of aluminum and recycling them is profitable and kills no trees like his cardboard does right?

  • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@gmaiWELTYl.com minus author> on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:55PM (#29456129) Journal
    I've seen cat carriers made of corrugated plastic (just like cardboard, but with flexible plastic sheeting, it's a good bit stronger than cardboard) and that would seem like a much better choice of material. Liquids aren't an issue and it's still fairly easy to recycle, plus the plastic can be made with different colors and opacities so it would look nicer too.
  • "expects arguments about whether the case is really sustainable, given that it seems designed to be easily disposable."

    Disposable is sustainable. The problem is not that things are disposable, it's that they aren't disposable enough.
    I get a disposable coffee cup, I drink my coffee in 15 minutes and the plastic lid is going last 1000 years, that's hardly disposable.
    My coffee cup should last only as long as I need it too. A disposable coffee cup that would start degrading with in 2 days would be a fine timefr

  • A computer case? Check out my HOUSE!

    http://www.sweetawesometours.com/photos/003portland03/box-house.jpg [sweetawesometours.com]
  • Cardboard PC Case by Lupo [ubergizmo.com].
    Another article, from Gizmodo [gizmodo.com].

    PC cases are one thing, but please don't take it too far [techeblog.com]!

  • Is anybody familiar with what it takes to make a good wood case?

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @01:15PM (#29456539) Homepage

    a 100% aluminum or steel case is 100% recyclable. This "cardboard" thing is a gimmick. In fact most computer cases metal components are always recycled as the metal has the highest value.

  • by Aphoxema (1088507) * on Thursday September 17, 2009 @01:19PM (#29456603) Homepage Journal

    Catching on fire
    Getting wet
    Condensation
    Humidity
    Supporting other objects
    Stress
    Changing structure
    Changing composition
    Bacteria
    Mold
    Bugs getting inside, getting them back out
    Mites
    Unwashable
    Overheating
    Weight of components
    EM interference to internal components
    EM interference to external appliances (possible FCC violation)
    Grounding
    Reusability/longevity
    Papercuts
    Transportability
    Modification
    Static
    Security
    Looking stupid

    Did I miss anything?

  • Dust (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tdawgless (1000974) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @01:28PM (#29456753)
    Working in a large Data Center, we explicitly prohibit staff and customers from bringing cardboard onto the DC floor because of dust. Not only does cardboard have a habit of carrying dust from the outside, it's a huge contributor of dust as the cardboard breaks down. Hopefully they plan on treating the cardboard to mitigate this decomposition.

It was kinda like stuffing the wrong card in a computer, when you're stickin' those artificial stimulants in your arm. -- Dion, noted computer scientist

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