Is Apple’s “Brick” a Breakthrough Manufacturing Process?

By  |  Sunday, October 5, 2008 at 9:36 am

[SHAMELESS PLUG: Technologizer will be liveblogging the Apple notebook event on 10/14/2008 @ 10am PT. Please join us.]

For the last few weeks, lovers of Apple gossip have been having fun speculating about an alleged Apple project supposedly code-named “Brick.” Most assumed it was a new computer or device of some sort. But now Seth Weintraub of 9 to 5 Mac is asserting the “Brick” is actually a revolutionary new manufacturing process that lets Apple use lasers and jets of water to carve seamless, “super light, super strong and super cheap” MacBook cases out of aluminum.

I have no clue whether there’s anything to this. (There are at least three possibilities here, judging from past Apple rumors: It’s either precisely true, totally false, or somewhere in between.) But I want it to be true, for several reasons…

1) It sounds like the computers that result from such a manufacturing process could be nifty indeed;

2) Apple’s laptop designs have been surprisingly unchanged for years now–the MacBook Pro design is essentially that of the PowerBooks that were released in 2003. People keep predicting that Apple’s about to roll out all-new notebooks and it keeps not doing so. These machines sound like they might turn out to be worth the wait;

3) In particular, it sounds like they could be the most perfect expression of Apple’s design philosophy to date (the company has labored for years to reduce screws, seams, and other telltale signs that Macs are made by humans, not God; this could let them finish the job);

4) The story of American computer manufacturing over the past fifteen years has been almost completely dedicated to major companies outsourcing the entire job (often including product design) to a handful of huge Asian companies. Said Asian companies do a good job, but we’ve ended up with a computer industry whose products are remarkably similar. And I can’t think of the last time that an American technolog company improved manufacturing processes in a way that made life better for its customers. (Okay, maybe I can: Dell’s hyper-efficient factories made low-cost, customized computers possible. But with Dell supposedly trying to sell off some or all of its factories, even that revolution appears to be coming to an end.)

Steve Jobs loves elegant and innovative designs that set Apple products apart from others; he has a long-standing interest in computer manufacturing; he loves aluminum and hates seams. So you gotta think that he’d like the idea encapsulated in this rumor. Rumor also has it that Apple will unveil new Mac portables on October 14th–so we may not have to wait too long to learn if “Brick” is real or not…



4 Comments For This Post

  1. bud Says:

    The classic macs (fat mac, mac plus) were built and warehoused in a state side factory by robotics. One might also note that these were closed down early in Mac history. Why?

    Some interpret this rumor as customization on a mass scale, that is, thousands of different shapes of MacBooks, depending on how it is built to order. This should make those creating airport cases and sleeves very happy. Apple Stores will soon become the one million pieces of luggage store.

    Lasers and water to work metal are nothing new, and there are still economies of scale inherent in standard shapes and sizes. Not to mention Apples control of the hardware platform to make them easy to support.

    This could make a customers upgrading of their own Macs easier or more difficult.
    Anyone remember the last G5 iMac design, where each part was modular and accessible? This would make it easier for a customer to upgrade rather than buying a new mac. Which is better for Apple? This modular interior idea was scuttled as soon as intel moved in, and contract manufacturers had their own ideas about how to put together machines. Would Apple return to this model, to become more Green? Would more people buy a processor upgrade ‘brick’ for 500, rather than dropping 1500 -2000 for a new laptop? And would this still be profitable to Apple?

    I say the only germ of truth in this rumor is the naive gullibility and conjecture of those first spreading it around.

  2. hardmanb Says:

    Again, Apple gives us exciting speculation and anticipation as to another design benchmark (and now manufacturing & greening) in computers. It would be good for consumers, Apple, the planet and American business, if true.

    The very fact that such a revolutionary concept and surprise is seriously considered, is a tribute to the reputation for creativity, design and marketing of Apple.

    Would it be believable at all, if the speculation was about Dell?

  3. jw Says:

    Existing stamping tech would be cheaper, lighter than this. I don’t think they’ve got this quite right. Perhaps they’ve confused this with automated laser sintering, which is entirely believable.

  4. PC Repairs Leeds - PC Repairs Pudsey Says:

    will be interesting to find out

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