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Hardware Hacking Portables

Bloom Laptop Designed For Easy Disassembly 151

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the hack-on-that dept.
Zothecula writes "It's a given that we will one day be discarding our present laptop computers. It's also a given that e-waste is currently a huge problem, that looks like it's only going to get worse. While most of the materials in a laptop can be recycled, all of those pieces of glass, metal, plastic and circuitry are stuck together pretty tight, and require a lot of time and effort to separate. What is needed are laptops that are designed to be taken apart, for easy recycling – that's why a group of graduate students from Stanford University made one."
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Bloom Laptop Designed For Easy Disassembly

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  • by Stregano (1285764) on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:21PM (#34162824)
    If the price is right, this may have double use. I know that one issue with me personally not owning laptops is that when they break, it sucks really bad to do some of the repairs/replace parts. If a laptop is brought to mass market with easy to disassemble parts, maybe we can get lucky and get more 3rd party support for swapping out pieces
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shikaku (1129753)

      Small, easily disassembled, cheap: pick 2.

      • by Daengbo (523424) <daengbo@gmSTRAWail.com minus berry> on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:35PM (#34163012) Homepage Journal

        Take a look at the Nohrtec Edubook, which is completely modular [youtube.com], mod'able, and which is often shipped to clients disassembled for them to assemble themselves. Mike Barnes intentionally created a netbook computer that can be torn down and repaired easily, targeted at developing countries. Very interesting model. Uses rechargeable AAs, too.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mcrbids (148650)

        Small, Easily Disassembled, cheap, proprietary.

        Pick any three. (FTFY)

      • by couchslug (175151)

        "Small, easily disassembled, cheap: pick 2."

        Not necessarily. Desktop case form factors were both standard and cheap.

        Nonstandard cases are good for vendor lock and to deter upgrades though. Anyone remember the Packard-Bell cases shaped like an inverted "T"? :)

        • by beelsebob (529313)

          Not necessarily. Desktop case form factors were both standard and cheep.

          But not small, even MiniITX can't get down to the sorts of sizes of things like an eeeBox or MacMini without a significant amount of expensive custom parts.

          So you've only validated the GP's point – you chose cheap and easily disassembeled, but lost small.

        • by pecosdave (536896) *

          Anyone remember the Packard-Bell cases shaped like an inverted "T"?

          Yes, and I can't fathom WHY Packard-Bell is no longer sold in the US.....

          Oh yeah, that and the fact they sucked otherwise....

      • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Monday November 08, 2010 @01:20PM (#34163568)

        Small, easily disassembled, cheap: pick 2.

        Why?

        The proper pattern is: Powerful, High Quality, Cheap, pick two.

        The "easily disassembled" part is a function of a good design. As such, it falls under high quality. Small is also a function of the design, and as such falls under the high quality.

        So you can have a small, easy to disassemble, powerful laptop, but it won't be cheap. You can have a small, easy to disassemble laptop for cheap, but it won't be powerful. You can have a cheap, powerful laptop but, depending on exactly how cheap it is, it won't be small or easy to disassemble or both.

        The real trick here will be to get manufacturers to play along. Desktops are easy, having lots of space is a good thing. Laptops are harder, because leftover space is a bad thing, and a standardized format will invariably lead to wasted space for many designs.

        In the long run, though, things would be a lot cheaper. We'd be spending $50 for a laptop case, $150 for a motherboard, $300 for that kickass new processor, and $150-$400 for the screen. We'll get a custom laptop market similar to the custom desktop market, and that will be very, very cool. In this scenario you could build a reasonably powerful laptop for $300-$400 if you chose last gen's components instead of the latest and greatest.

        If we could get some kind of standardization in the laptop market it would be wonderful in my opinion.

        • The "easily disassembled" part is a function of a good design. As such, it falls under high quality. Small is also a function of the design, and as such falls under the high quality.

          Not necessarily. Apple's machines are generally very well designed but are generally a pain in the ass to dissemble and service. Similarly, there have been many crap machines that have been really easy to disassemble and service that I've owned with terrible designs.

          The two are rarely related in terms of functional design and ease of disassemble when it comes to the average user.

          • Not necessarily. Apple's machines are generally very well designed but are generally a pain in the ass to dissemble and service.

            That depends on what you mean by "well designed". Apple's offerings look good, and are decently sturdy, sure. They aren't designed with serviceability in mind, though. If anything they're designed to be a pain in the ass to service, so that noone besides Apple service points will want to touch them.

            There should be no reason why a laptop couldn't be well designed like an Apple, and easy to service. These are in no way mutually exclusive, which was the GP's point.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by drsmithy (35869)

              There should be no reason why a laptop couldn't be well designed like an Apple, and easy to service.

              When you say "easy to service", do you mean "easy to service by a trained individual with a proper toolset and work environment", or "easy to service by some random person who put a computer together once with a philips screwdriver and a kitchen table" ? Because these are *very* different design constraints.

          • by NorbrookC (674063)
            Exactly. It's a problem across many industries - just ask any auto mechanic. The people designing the product aren't thinking in terms of servicing the product. I've had to disassemble an entire laptop just to replace a case fan. I had to buy specialty tools just so I could remove and replace the hard drive on another laptop. Those are just some of the examples I've had to deal with - and yes, each of them have been "top of the line" laptops. What was frustrating was that it shouldn't have required th
            • by drsmithy (35869)

              Exactly. It's a problem across many industries - just ask any auto mechanic. The people designing the product aren't thinking in terms of servicing the product.

              Yes they are, they're just considering it as a secondary (well, tertiary or lower) priority to things like size, weight, battery life and "can pull it apart with nothing more than a pocket knife".

              Which is generally a good engineering decision, when a machine spends 99.99% of its time as a laptop and 0.01% of its time disassembled on a workbench.

        • by hedwards (940851)
          The problem always has been heat and power consumption as much as form factor. They can get away with standardization in desktops because those aren't particularly hard problems. Since it's always plugged in, the only reason for energy efficiency is not wanting to waste power, the thing isn't just going to go dead from that alone. And form factor, you can make it as big as you like without a whole lot of trouble, adding a fourth or fifth 5.25 bay isn't much of an issue.

          OTOH Laptops a few ounces do make a
        • by Lumpy (12016)

          And all that added up to be more than my Quad core i5 18" Nvidia gfx card monster I bought from toshiba.

          Laptops are delicate, I dont want modular, I want cheap to replace. Otherwise I'd buy Panasonic toughbooks.

        • Replying to undo accidental moderation
        • by drsmithy (35869)

          In this scenario you could build a reasonably powerful laptop for $300-$400 if you chose last gen's components instead of the latest and greatest.

          You can buy a reasonable powerful laptop today for $300-$400, with the added bonus that it's probably had at least a modicum of engineering effort put into making sure the whole package works together (cooling, power draw, etc)

          There is only one type of person for whom building a computer vs buying something off the shelf is cheaper: those who have the requisite

    • by rjstanford (69735)

      As long as laptops are judged almost exclusively on power-for-pound (or power-for-cubic inch), where power could refer to battery life or processor speed, this just plain won't happen.

      Look what happened when Mac moved away from "standard" (if mac-specific) form factors for things like batteries - you get computers like the one I'm typing on, where I have 4.5 hours of development time, unplugged, without an increase in size or weight.

      That's valued a lot more at the moment than disassembly is, rightly so - I

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Americano (920576)

        Good point. If someone getting paid minimum wage has to spend an extra hour breaking down my old laptop *once* for recycling, and I get an extra hour or two a day of productive IT work at much-more-than-minimum-wage out of it for three years of use... focusing on saving time at the breakdown point presents a skewed vision of the value of the time involved in manufacture, use, and disposal of the laptop.

        Number of times I've had to crack open whichever laptop I've owned during the ~9 years I've owned one: 2

        • by hedwards (940851)
          Not much point in that. Just do what we did in WA state. Make the manufacturers pay for the cost of recycling. Sure it gets passed on to the consumer, but the manufacturers are usually in the best position to minimize waste being produced.

          It's one of the few areas where market forces actually works. You just have to make sure you keep an eye on how their disposing of the waste.
          • by Americano (920576)

            That works too. The point I was making was mostly that I'm more interested in getting more productive usage out of the system over its multi-year lifetime than I am concerned with an extra few hours of assembly/disassembly/maintenance time during the life of the device. I'll happily pay a little extra to cover the extra hassle of assembly/disassembly if I get more power & functionality in a smaller footprint.

        • by IICV (652597)

          On the other hand, I've disassembled my current laptop all the way down to the motherboard in order to replace the heatsink/heatpipe/fan assembly. It was a $60 part and ~1 hour of my labor to save a $2000 laptop, so it was definitely worthwhile.

      • by Qubit (100461)

        That's valued a lot more at the moment than disassembly is, rightly so - I work on my machine every day. I feel like breaking it down maybe once every two years.

        I know what you're trying to say, but your words are (amusingly) confusing. It kind of sounds like you work on (as in, modify, tweak) your machine each day, and you have a dance party on about a bi-annual (talk about your confusing words) basis. :-)

        Perhaps:

        "I use my machine for work every day. I feel like opening my machine and replacing parts only about once every two years."

        (Why yes, I have been doing a lot of proofreading lately. How did you guess?)

    • by AltairDusk (1757788) on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:48PM (#34163130)
      If shooting for ease of recycling is what gets us easily upgradeable laptops then I'm all for it. I'm willing to accept not having the lightest, thinnest design if it allows me the degree of flexibility currently only found in a desktop for hardware components.
    • Not only that, but this might finally be a way to not being forced to pay the M$-tax on laptops. At least in this country it's currently - for all practical purposes - impossible.

      Also, I used to work for a computer repair shop. We would have eaten these things up. We really hated the typical laptops which were a RPITA to work with, and almost impossible to fix even when you discovered the problem. I've really been looking forward to something like this.

    • by TheLink (130905)
      I think that's the only use of "easily disassembly" as per the article - for repair and reuse.

      Not for recycling.

      If you are recycling stuff from an old laptop you don't really care that much if some stuff has to break in the process. By the time it hits the dump, hardly anyone would be reusing the parts as is. Costs too much to check if stuff is still working well enough.

      Maybe someone should come up with a more environmentally friendly mining system that mines and processes certain types of landfills :).

      When
      • by hedwards (940851)
        In some parts of the world, they've got machines the size of a house, which are hermetically sealed. In them they grind up and separate the component metals and particles for use elsewhere. Very little labor involved and quite a bit safer for the environment. You really don't want to have people exposed to the electronics as their recycling them. It's gotten better with newer standards, but there's still a lot of nasty stuff in the waste stream.
    • by hitmark (640295)

      Shuttle was showing of what they hoped would become a laptop motherboard standard at a recent trade show.

  • Easy recycling? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:26PM (#34162876)
    How about easy repairing so we don't toss them out so quickly in the first place?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Haedrian (1676506)
      I'm pretty sure with the fact that they can be disassembled, anything you break (or want to upgrade) could be slotted in easily.

      I wonder why nobody else thought of this concept before. Size matters?
    • Re:Easy recycling? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:30PM (#34162946)

      How about easy repairing so we don't toss them out so quickly in the first place?

      The large laptop manufacturers will resist this because it conflicts with their "built in obsolescence" design principles. If you can keep the main laptop and only swap out keyboards, LCDs, motherboards, etc as needed you'll do it instead of buying a brand new one with a new MS license associated to it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Rivalz (1431453)

        They already require computer manufactures to meet certain epa guidelines for materials used. Why not just go one step further and force them to adopt a 5 point disassemble guideline.
        If a laptop can be disassembled by blindfolded a 5 year old Chinese child it passes the test.
        Still I just see this style of design as a natural step in the evolution of computers.

      • You don't need to have a glued-together piece of kit to have planned obsolescence. All you need to do is discontinue the parts or make them so expensive as to make repair impractical.
        • by c.r.o.c.o (123083)

          I used to own a Vaio SR490 that took a small bump when I crashed my motorcycle. It still worked just fine, but one of the screen hinge caps broke and the DC plug was exposed.

          I wanted to replace it, and the cheapest I found that little piece online was $40+shipping. Cheapest I found it from Sony? $60+tax+shipping. It's a small piece of molded plastic, that even after manufacture, storage, etc cannot cost more than a few dollars.

          I could have continued using the laptop as is, but it was bugging the hell out of

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by maeka (518272)

            I wanted to replace it, and the cheapest I found that little piece online was $40+shipping. Cheapest I found it from Sony? $60+tax+shipping. It's a small piece of molded plastic, that even after manufacture, storage, etc cannot cost more than a few dollars.

            I'm sure manufacture, storage and inventory were only a few dollars. So were the manufacturing, storage, and inventory costs for the dozens of parts which never got sold.

            The parts business is one of statistical inventory. Cheap prices OR large inventory

    • We should be making laptops modular. The screen should be replaceable. Keyboards should have standard mounting configurations. Internal fans should be standardized. MBs should have come in standard sizes with standard mounting holes, and standard I/O port locations to allow swapping MBs.

      I think that the problem with Laptops is that they are not upgradable at all. If something dies, most of the time, the whole laptop needs to be replaced. Sure, you can order specialty pieces to replacement, wait for t
      • by rwa2 (4391) *

        Meh, I've been fairly happy with Dell laptops for that sort of thing. Just try to stick to parts that are used with their corporate laptops. Most of their midrange Inspiron lines are compatible with parts from their long-support-cycle Latitude corporate line.

        I've replaced plenty of keyboards, and upgraded CPUs and even a GPU in some of my Dell laptops. Plus if you're friendly with your IT guys from work, they might even let you grab some extra parts from them ;-P

      • by arivanov (12034)

        I have been repairing and upgrading laptops for ages. Some are more difficult to maintain than others. All in all, once you get the knack to work on them and have the right tools, most are not that much different from a branded desktop. This especially valid for the corporate series from all manufacturers.

    • It's about time there was the laptop equivalent of a PC case, where you can use standard components inside the case, and repair or upgrade what is in the case.
    • by Darinbob (1142669)
      How about desktops? Easily recyclable, very customizable, and in exchange for being cheaper you get more performance. Whereas a laptop gives you the advance of... letting everyone know that you're desperately trying to look cool or are a middle management goon?
  • by Antony T Curtis (89990) on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:28PM (#34162914) Homepage Journal

    Back in the 1990s a Taiwanese manufacturer, Clevo, made "kit" laptops so that OEMs can pick and choose which parts they want for their laptops.

    These laptops were incredibly easy to assemble and disassemble. As an OEM, you can choose what kind of screen and what resolution/size, what motherboard, what cpu, what kind of battery, choose between trackpad, mini trackball or trackpoint... It also made it somewhat easy for people to upgrade their laptop. Even a choice of docking station all the way up to sophisticated docking stations which can have PCI/ISA cards installed.

    Computers just aren't as customizable nowadays.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by magarity (164372)

      Several of Clevo's models are still like that, especially the larger ones. Shop outside the box and you can find lots more options in laptops.

    • by mlts (1038732) *

      Sager used to use Clevo as the OEM, and those were quite customizable. Want three HDDs? Go for it. A slot with a generic MP3 player? Yep. The laptop could even use desktop chips (say b-bye to your battery life, but for LAN parties, it was essentially desktop performance.)

      I also miss standardized docking stations. IBM, HP, and Dell used to have nice docking stations which could not just allow for USB connections to be done, but additional PCI cards, better video, and would provide decent security again

  • .. build a machine that's capable of disassembling laptops (or other electronic waste) into its component materials for recycling.

    Bonus: The technology would be worth millions, because there's many years of old electronic (and other) waste sitting around to be had for the taking, including in landfills and other locations. The problem with trash is that no one likes to separate out the organics from the recyclables from the re-usables. We humans don't even like to throw trash away in multiple places (l

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by drcheap (1897540)

      .. build a machine that's capable of disassembling laptops (or other electronic waste) into its component materials for recycling.

      I find that a sledge-o-matic(tm) works quite well. I'm sure I could automate that by attaching it to some hydraulics or something ;)

    • by vlm (69642)

      .. build a machine that's capable of disassembling laptops (or other electronic waste) into its component materials for recycling.

      Depends how you define "component materials" and "recycling". There are innumerable levels not just binary yes no. I can't see reusing much above the molecular level, so you're talking about grinding to a fine powder and using the powder as kind of a "laptop ore" to be refined, which takes boatloads of energy. Worth it for rare earths, not so much for polymerized dinosaur, and by weight most of it will be polymerized dinosaur. The other problem is disposal of mixed "waste". Contaminated silicon is not

      • Interesting... you're assuming a specific method of recycling then proceeding to poke holes in what you believe I'm suggesting. This is an excellent example of a "straw man" argument.

        What I'm actually suggesting is a technology that isn't developed yet... machines that could separate any given item into its component parts with a high degree of accuracy and speed. This may mean a process where the first stage is "chop it into small bits" or it may not. There are other approaches.

        Yes, it'll take ener

        • by vlm (69642)

          What I'm actually suggesting is a technology that isn't developed yet...

          aka Magic. I feel if you're depending on magical thinking to make it work, you're better off with a more versatile unicorn like a Mr Fusion to provide infinite free energy, and pushing the waste into existing well developed refining technology using that free energy.

          Interesting... you're assuming a specific method of recycling then proceeding to poke holes in what you believe I'm suggesting. This is an excellent example of a "straw man" argument.

          No, I was providing the best currently available real world technology to meet your goal, and then poking holes in it. If I knew magical thinking was part of the business plan I'd probably go full star trek technobabble instead.

          Yes, it'll take energy. Just about everything does :)

          Unless you acco

          • Heh... so I'm either depending on "magic", which won't work because magic doesn't exist, or I'm using a method that generates toxic waste, and therefore it won't work because I'll have disposal problems. Sounds a lot like you're looking for justification for a conclusion you've already reached, instead of the other way around. Just because you can't imagine how to do something doesn't mean it won't work.

            Technology not invented yet isn't the same as magic, and as you note it isn't the same as "real worl

            • by vlm (69642)

              Heh... so I'm either depending on "magic", which won't work because magic doesn't exist,

              Well, it inherently limits the usefulness of the discussion. My imagination is different than your imagination doesn't really accomplish anything.

              I'm using a method that generates toxic waste, and therefore it won't work because I'll have disposal problems.

              Ah the key to our misunderstanding. Its the inputs that are toxic and they will be output, somewhere. You can't accept tons of lead and heavy metals and strange organic compounds at the intake, and not expect some expense to prove that the plastic baby's nuks at the output are not full of lead. That lead has to go somewhere, and costs of material handling and

      • by mlts (1038732) *

        Agreed. At the lowest level, "Laptop ore", or ground up e-waste would take a lot of energy to recycle:

        First, thermal depolymerization. This takes a lot of electricity to turn the long chain plastics back into short chain crude. It also takes a lot of water. However, one does get usable oil for this method.

        Second, after the organics are dealt with, filtering that out, so you have a pile of minerals and metals. Separating that will be annoying because there will be so many items to filter out, be it copp

  • The server is starting to collapse, but at least here's the Youtube link [youtube.com] in the article

  • what we need (Score:3, Insightful)

    by roc97007 (608802) on Monday November 08, 2010 @01:20PM (#34163556) Journal

    ...is a new paradigm, one not based on commodity electronic devices that you throw away when they cease working or upgrade bi-yearly to the next semi-greatest thing. Besides being extremely ecologically unfriendly, it's a scam participated on the consumer designed to maximize profits. (The consumer is as much at fault for falling for it, but that doesn't make it less a scam.)

    As responsible consumers, we should be looking at devices designed to last significantly past the next design cycle, that are designed to have (at least) the parts replaced that are most likely to fail (screens, drives, batteries), and that meet our current needs, not just elevate our "cool". And then keep them for a long time.

    Manufacturers will resist this because they've built their business model on regular forklift upgrades. They'd have to be different companies to evolve beyond this. Probably smaller companies.

    eWaste eRecycling is not the answer. It mitigates the problem but does not solve it. Tossing your old device in a recycle bin is not an excuse to replace it at every incremental improvement.

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      I hit submit too soon. I wanted to conclude with: As consumers, we need to be less affected by hype and spend more thought on what our actual requirements are and what they might be over the projected life of a device. We really need to lengthen the upgrade cycle, and companies need to get used to the fact that if they're going to come out with tiny incremental improvements every year, we'll only be buying their devices every fourth or fifth year.

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        ...actually expecting consumers to be thoughtful about what they want and what they buy.

        You better be careful. Some fanboy might screech at you for being a geek and for having inflated expectations of mere mortals.

        • by roc97007 (608802)

          I'd submit that geeks are the worst abusers of the device-of-the-month club. It should start with us.

      • Or... install a Sandforce SSD into every common consumer's laptop, marked up for labor, and call it an upgrade.

        It would feel like you just swapped out a 486 for a Quad-Opteron.

        I'd think rust platters recycle easier too than entire laptops.

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      I should also say, upgrades that can be done in software ought not to require a hardware swap. For instance, you shouldn't have to buy a new device in order to get a new app or an app upgrade that doesn't need new hardware.

      I'm not saying we should whine until we get our way, I'm saying we should vote with our feet.

    • by fermion (181285)
      As consumers we want products we can afford that will do what we want for a reasonable amount of time. Because many costs are externalized, and credit is often expensive to the average person, it is usually the case that it is not affordable to buy a long term product. This si not because of any conspiracy by business owners, this is just life. One can buy a car for $15K that will last 5-10 years with little maintenance, or $50K on a car that will last 20-30 years with regular maintenance. Since most pe
      • by roc97007 (608802)

        > As consumers we want products we can afford that will do what we want for a reasonable amount of time. Because many costs are externalized, and credit is often expensive to the average person, it is usually the case that it is not affordable to buy a long term product.

        Yes yes yes. The problem I have is this. I'm going to pick on Apple... just 'cause, but there are many other targets. The original iphone you bought in 2007 still works fine if you haven't physically abused it. Electronics don't we

  • All computer manufacturers would need to make their own wish-list, then sit down with the others and come up with some sorts of standards for the parts.

    Given that there's a lot of different laptops available, I would assume a list of form-factors based on current LCD sizes (8.9", 11.6", 13.3", 15", 17", 21"), with options depending on the case size for compact or full-size keyboards, 1.8" and 2.5" bays for SATA hard drives, swapable GPU, standard batteries sizes, etc.

    Then add bonuses like having hard drive

  • by kuzb (724081)
    NO. NO DISASSEMBLE JONNY 5!
  • by Petersko (564140) on Monday November 08, 2010 @06:34PM (#34168012)
    So they copied a very early Mac Powerbook design. I serviced them in the early 90's, and it was 15 seconds to disassemble - and it looked an awful lot like the breakout in the article.

    Go, Stanford!

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