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Student Designs Cardboard Computer Case 329

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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  • Silverfish (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ub3r n3u7r4l1st ( 1388939 ) * on Thursday September 17, 2009 @01:16PM (#29455543)

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

  • by pecosdave ( 536896 ) * on Thursday September 17, 2009 @01:19PM (#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.

  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <`dadinportland' `at' `'> on Thursday September 17, 2009 @01:21PM (#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 Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @01:25PM (#29455675) Homepage Journal

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

  • by tetsukaze ( 1635797 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @01:31PM (#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.
  • FCC Part 15 class B (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Spazmania ( 174582 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @01:34PM (#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.

  • by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@gma i l .com> on Thursday September 17, 2009 @01:55PM (#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.
  • Re:EMC Nightmere (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @02:19PM (#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.

  • Dust (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tdawgless ( 1000974 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @02:28PM (#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.
  • Re:First! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sj0 ( 472011 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @02:57PM (#29457273) Journal

    I don't think so. Recycling is the LAST of the three. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This will result in MORE resources being spent and LESS reuse of components.

    Computer cases are one of the most re-usable elements in a system. My first PC, an 8088 PC, used a Cosmol XT case made of steel, and that case and power supply was the centerpiece of my computer from my XT all the way until my K6-2. Along that time, processor speeds increased by a factor of 100 (4.77MHz to 550MHz), memory size increased by a factor of 50 (256kb to 128MB), storage space increased by a factor of 2000(5MB to 10GB). The important standards for case design didn't change over that period, so there was no good reason to change. Also, the case was totally bad-ass. The computer I built to finally replace the aging beast used a new case, and the standards haven't changed since. I've built Athlon 64s with cases from old Pentium IIs or Athlons.

    Making the case of a PC disposable crap is going to result in more waste, not less. Suddenly I won't be able to have the same case for 20 years, I'll have to replace it with every new computer(or more!). Also, it'll lead to less reuse of components. I've built 6 computers this year from parts scavenged from here and there. All of them have found homes. The parts simply wouldn't be able to be scavenged if the machines were made of cardboard. To clean the outsides of the cases, we had to use soap and water that these cases wouldn't stand up to. Some of them were left in the rain and mud for short periods fo time, and wouldn't be functional if not for the fact that they had cases that could withstand the elements.

    My current case could last me another 10-20 years easily, depending on what standards do (a PC case you bought in 1999 would have an ATX form factor and could be reused today. I could see power supply standards but not case standards changing again in that time). Under this regimen, I could end up with a new case every 1-2 years or more. As others have pointed out, there will also be greater stress on components from EMI and RFI. Making less durable paper cases may be slightly easier for recycling, but it's stupid from the perspective of reducing waste.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 17, 2009 @02:59PM (#29457291)

    I do my own recycling, because I'm an electronics nut. If I can't use any old devices, I disassemble them and remove the components. All it takes is basic tools, a desoldering iron (DIP/through-hole) and heat-gun (SMD parts). What's left is a heap of components, metal casing and the bare PCBs. I have a stack of cases that I cut up when I need pieces of aluminum, or for building new enclosures. The only thing left over is the bare PCB, and some useless plastic connectors. It saves me the trouble of buying stuff for prototyping.

    Sooner or later I'll figure out a way to melt the metal for casting gears, building motors, and other things. That'll be really nice.

    I may not be recycling 100% of it yet, but eventually I will. In the meantime, I'm at least as thorough as somebody in China, if not better.

  • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @03:05PM (#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 Sj0 ( 472011 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @04:25PM (#29458455) Journal

    Not all cases are created equal. My favourite old case was a desktop case with a pair of buttons to open the case up like a hood. More recently, I worked as a computer tech in a school where the sides of the AT cases came off independently.

  • by petermgreen ( 876956 ) <> on Thursday September 17, 2009 @05:20PM (#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 KharmaWidow ( 1504025 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @05:35PM (#29459351)

    LOL - I try not to shamelessly promoto myself []

  • by petermgreen ( 876956 ) <> on Thursday September 17, 2009 @05:38PM (#29459377) Homepage

    I know you were joking, but I doubt your processor (or any component in your computer case for that matter) would run hot enough to ignite paper/cardboard.
    In normal operation no, under fault conditions some chips could probablly reach those kind of temperatures. []

    >AMD athlon 1400
    >Temperature 370C/698F
    >Application crashes
    >CPU and board up in smoke

    If a CPU lacking the thermal protection built into modern CPUs can do it with mere heatsink removal then I'm pretty certain the power stuff on the board could more than do it under the right fault conditions.

  • In fact (Score:2, Interesting)

    by elsJake ( 1129889 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @06:07PM (#29459663)
    Buying a proper case , such as a chieftec is the best "upgrade" i've ever done. CPU temp on my Prescott dropped from 80*C to 40*C (no bullshit) due to proper ventilation. Hard drives stopped buzzing all day long , and best of all , unlike all the cheap cases i've ever had this one worked without bending at the rear when inserting the mobo , and is still usable after all these years , and will still be usable when i upgrade the rest of my components. Every time i got a cheap case something on it broke , got really dirty due to bad design or the components just plain didn't fit. The reduced stress due to lots of space inside , toolles screws and reduced "finger cutting in sharp edges" just added to the benefits. It might've cost 5x times as much as an cheap case , but it made up the difference 10 times. Since then I've replaced all cases in the house with proper cases. My point is: cheap metal cases suck anyway , paper would suck even more. Don't be a cheapskate , you get what you pay for. * *doesn't matter if you see the pc as if it were a toaster with more buttons.

UNIX is many things to many people, but it's never been everything to anybody.