A Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich of a Computer Case
September 17, 2009 1:49 PM   Subscribe

The use of cardboard for things other than packaging is not new to the blue, from detailed artwork to furnature (and even re-making the Tron light cycle scene), and now computer cases. Brenden Macaluso's design is not the first, with a Japanese design from 2005 (the original site is down, but Archive.org has a backup, with more versions archived), and other kludged fixes for an existing case missing parts. Recompute wasn't the only cardboard case in the 2009 Greener Gadgets design competition. The other was Cardboardcase, by Francesco Biasci and Martina Becattini, which is a more of a traditional computer case form. On the DIY side, Instructables provides plans for a DIY cardboard laptop case.

Recompute is inspired by the amount of computer hardware being recycled at the end of the product's lifecycle. The video section of the related website has additional associated clips. According to an interview with Macaluso, the design wasn't initially limited to cardboard as a material, but as he researched the components he found that cardboard had some bonus features, such as a greater tolerance for heat (cardboard has a higher fire and ignition point -- 258°C and 427°C, respectively -- where plastics begin to melt at about 120°C - source), and the corrugation ventilates the entire structure. The processor has its own cooling fan built in and the power supply and mother board are isolated from each other to keep heat from one affecting the other (source).
posted by filthy light thief (13 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The post title came from Macaluso's comment on product design, drawing a parallel between product design and food, in that Thanksgiving dinner takes hours where a PB&J sandwich takes minutes, but in the end they both give you nutrients. Intensive industrial design takes a long time, where a cardboard case can be quickly cut from cardboard, but both give you a case in the end.

Extra bit: Macaluso has a twitter account for Recompute news.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:55 PM on September 17, 2009

FYI. The treehugger site loaded just fine for me.

I would have thought cardboard would burn at a lower temp than plastic. Cool.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:21 PM on September 17, 2009

I'm the guy quoted at the end of the Houston Chronicle article: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/tech/news/6622776.html and a longtime MeFi'er. I can tell you that I really think that Brenden is on to something with his concept and he has a lot more in the works. He originally wanted to build the full computer's himself, but I am strongly encouraging him to sell just the flat-pack cases and possibly even the plans themselves on http://www.ponoko.com or http://www.etsy.com.

What does the MeFi community think?
posted by marc1919 at 2:29 PM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Cardboard is also used in the Case-Mate iPhone 3G / 3GS recession case.
posted by meowzilla at 2:34 PM on September 17, 2009

I just came in here to say I thought this was an excellent post.

As far as the actual project, I think there's a large barrier in people's opinions about the safety. Not the actual safety; I'd wager that would be well tested. I think the issue for the masses will be - does it *feel* safe? As cjorgensen points out, the heat tolerance numbers are counterintuitive, and many people are naturally skeptical of counterintuitive results.
posted by TheFlamingoKing at 2:51 PM on September 17, 2009

cjorgensen - I realize that my phrasing is a bit odd. The Treehugger site talks about and links to the Japanese site, which results in a 404 Not Found for me.

marc1919, thanks for joining the discussion! I was going to bring up his intentions to get his computer in stores before the holiday season, but I was worried that the post would come off like I was shilling for him. I think it would be a keen idea to post the plans online, for a small fee if not free. And why use brand new cardboard when you could harvest recycling bins? But that's all editorial stuff I wanted to distance from the original FPP.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:53 PM on September 17, 2009

This is pretty cool. I think about this a lot when I glance down at my beautiful but completely unlikely to ever get recycled Mac Pro aluminum enclosure. What a waste. Apple, if they are remotely serious about sustainability, should from here forward design every new CPUto be insertable into old MacPro towers rather than force users into new wasteful enclosures.
posted by tkchrist at 3:19 PM on September 17, 2009

So the old trick of running a mobo in a pizza box is new again?
posted by scruss at 3:50 PM on September 17, 2009

I think corrugated has a lot of potential as a diy'er material and I really like how the various designs exploit its properties. The problem I have, even as a pretty competent well-tooled home handyman, is that I just don't have the tooling necessary to cut the multiple, exact copies of the complex profiles in many of these designs. Exactos and utility knives are just too tedious. I'd love a cheap, fast, repeatable way to cut the stuff.
posted by klarck at 5:17 PM on September 17, 2009

As a notebook try, I've been using a box that Apple sent me several calendars in before Christmas. It's sturdy, big enough for a MacBook (and probably a MacBook Pro), keeps my lap cool while providing a flat enough surface for air to circulate between the pads and the base of the machine. Best of all, the flap opens so I can keep documents in it, and it didn't really cost me anything.
posted by furtive at 6:40 PM on September 17, 2009

posted by furtive at 6:41 PM on September 17, 2009

The computer in a pizza box looks a bit messy, but is amusing.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:58 PM on September 17, 2009

The cardboard case, which can be assembled without fasteners and screws, eliminates the need for those parts and the manufacturing processes used to create them.

...and the jobs employing people who make fasteners and screws. Don't forget that part.

Snark aside I think it's an interesting idea but in some respect I can't help but think it will simply make people see electronics as ever so much more of a disposable item. We've already been taught by Apple that portables should be thrown away when the battery dies. They're pushing the same concept with laptops now. Make it out of cardboard and it's that much harder to convince people not to treat it as easily disposable trash. I see enough litter from fast food wrappers and single-use coffee cups on the side of the road, I don't want to start seeing last year's $199 cardboard Dell rotting there as well.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:15 PM on September 17, 2009

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