01/30/2020 at 15:44 •
Within this project, there are some parts which will not simply "plug in" to the laptop motherboard and so will require a combination of adapters, connectors and some custom PCB work to enable the desired features of the system.
USB Hub board from E590
LED status lights and thinklight
Keyboard and trackpoint to USB / conversion
Retrofitted WIndows Hello IR Webcam (maybe)
Internal battery (if time / space / everything allows it to work with a secondary battery)
USB Hub board from E590
The original plan was to simply not use this board as removing it would allow the motherboard to roughly fit within the X60 chassis. This required me to test whether the system would flag the board as missing when booted up. It was discovered that the power button was also within that assembly. This was realised after attempting to start the computer with said button after disconnecting the board. When the board was disconnected after startup the laptop was fine to restart etc on it's own without any immediate issues. This happens to be ideal as the pin out of the on switch can be found and wired into the ned system using a simple board connector. Similarly if the other pins on the connector can be mapped out (potentially a pci slot or similar, or even USB). This would allow for custom IO depended on a replacement board design, expanding flexibility of the mods.
01/29/2020 at 19:53 •
Whilst I had hoped to minimise this initially it became apparent that I will need a high quality model of the laptop. This is to allow me to create and build off of the existing structures in the chassis and accurate choose where and how chassis modifications can take place.
1. The main parts of the chassis will be modelled in solidworks. Whilst I will likely do more
- Palm Rest
- Bottom Chassis
- LCD Lid
- LCD Bezel
- Original Motherboard clearance area and mounting interfaces (non detailed)
- The E590 motherboard clearance area (non detailed)
- Requirements for custom boards and left over space
2. If modifications are made I do not want to negatively effect the device structure. If possible, structural reinforcements will be made where necessary with the assistance of an FEA analysis, and potentially some topology analysis (for the reinforcements) the minimise weight afterwards.
01/28/2020 at 14:03 •
Apologies for the multiple rough posts, I will try to organise better as the project goes on. This helps me maintain a record of the processes used on specific areas of the project.
Ok, so the E590 donor laptop uses a 3S LiPo battery, and the X60 uses a 4S LiPo battery, so this give a fews options to enable the swappable battery functionality.
1. Remove a cell from the X60 pack to make it 3S and rewire it to include the BMS board from the E590 instead of the original. (performed on either the 8 cell or 4 cell battery)
Minimal custom plastics fabrication
Reduced maximum capacity (effects can be reduced by using 3500mah 18650 cells)
2. Modify housing of external battery to somehow house the E590 battery
Battery should just work
Incompatible physical dimensions, and space use inefficiency
Lots of custom chassis work.
3. Find another compatible battery from a sister system which would better adapt into the X60 housing. Either internally or with external battery. Could alow for a power bank style external battery instead of interfacing directly (nb wasted power in voltage conversion). Could implement a more open version of the dual battery system.
Questions / Thoughts:
What is the pin out of the new E590 battery? 1 less pin than the internal battery?
Will the BMS not turn on again after disconnecting existing cells? (concerns for research into batteyr packs). Will the "jump start" technique work on modern battery boards?
How will the BMS handle the change in cell capacity? Or will it just be fine?
If the E590 battery cannot have it's board removed is the battery lock limited to model destined only for the E590 or is it compatible with other lenovo batteries form different systems with same connectors?
If lenovo boards just don't work is there a way to get around the battery manufacturer lock on the modern E590, for example the X230 allowed the use of non brand batteries by flashing the embedded controller (no idea how to write software for this).?
In the E470 and similar these laptops have both an internal battery and external pack which use both the newer internal battery connector and old external battery simultneously. There is mention online of using both batteries simulataneously. This is done as far as I'm aware by dual diodes of each battery to balance voltage enabling dual or single batteries. in combination with mosfets to turn off the primary battery creating a battery use hierachy; using the external battery first then the internal. Dependent on space left in the chassis this could be an interested topic to explore.
Currently, hoping that the extra pin is the one that when bridged simply activates the battery.
Opened up both the E590 and X390 to see if a battery swap is possible. Discovered that although they use the same connector the pinout seems to be different colourwise and the voltage slightly different on the X390 (but likely within the range of the dc dc converters anyway). I am unsure if this is a difference between the X and E series or is specific to the model, year or something else,
The benefit of the dissassembly was that the structure of the batteries are very similar with either 3 (E590) or 6 smaller (X390) cells to acheive a "3S" voltage. Next to the neatly stacked or lined up cells, is the bms board which is "indicated by a difference in thickness along a single edge of the cuboid battery shapes.
E590 - Red - Red - White - Yellow - Greenish - Blueish - Black - Black
X390 - Black - Black - Yellow - White - Greenish - Blueish - Red - Red
This could also be potentially solved by swapping wires. (I would like to avoid this incase there is a good reason for the slightly different operating voltages (if not to just reduce battery wear) etc)
01/28/2020 at 13:36 •
Whilst it would be great to add a larger display into the X60, this first version will hopefully use a 12inch 3:2 1920x1280 panel which provide a slightly wider display yet loses 15mm off the bottom compared to the old panel.
Blue (original panel), Green (new panel)
This panel was chosen as it's outside dimensions fit within the orignal panel footprint. If the panel outline was expanded much further it would likely not fit without modification of the magnesium lid
I found that the E590 donor panel used a 30 pin 2 lane eDP connector with a 0.5mm connector pitch. The new LP120UP1 apparently also shares this connector yet from a different brand (LG). The hope is that the new panel can simply plug and play. My main concern at this point lied in the increased resolution over the 30 pin 2 lane connector as typically these are not used beyond 1920x1200 looking at the eDP HDMI conversion boards on aliexpress.
A partial success for the project. After testing the new panel it worked flawlessly with the donor board without any extra set up. Additionally brightness control still worked! The partial success was down to the outside dimensions of the LP120UP panel which are larger than what was specified on panellook which means that more work will need to be done to attempt to fit the lcd in the X60 display housing.
01/27/2020 at 22:14 •
Whilst the project is based on the X60, there is no reason to not try to take full advantage of the status leds and thinklight to their potential / have some fun, rather than try to reconfigure the existing leds in the top panel. Previously these were handled by the display backlight board which there were status leds for bluetooth, wifi etc. As a new display will be fitted without a CCFL backlight a different configuration can be designed on a small custom board.
Dependent on how things go I will likely add a microcontroller to ensure full control of all indicators to potentially add more, or make it rgb or even replace it with a small LCD or OLED display.
For those looking to upgrade one of the original CCFL based LCD panels shoud go to:
xiphmont has documented multiple methods and products and is the best place to get information on the led backlight conversion.
01/27/2020 at 17:19 •
Before I start, I would like to point out that I am not an electrical engineer so am trying to learn how things work as I go with google…. These notes are messy and is likely grammaticlaly concerning and will be fixed at a later date.
The initial plan of the project was to attempt to shoehorn a thin mini itx board into a thinkpad chassis such as the t43 14.1 or 15. The hope was to create a series of board which would allow mini itx thin boards to be swapped out when necessary as a modular board.
Whilst my research process had been all over the place my first pain point was finding out whether or not I could create a method to interface with the existing ThinkPad battery and use it with an thin mini itx board from a thinkcentre m715q or m75q (found later and better).
Concern 1 – Power requirements
M715Q Uses a 65W PSU at 20V, CPU (35W TDP), this seems within reason to deliver from battery with a dc to dc step up.
Unsure whether the 20V input is actually more flexible than described to minimize creation of new power delivery adaption boards. (from what I know [not entirely sure if correct] laptops often have power delivery built onto the system board which is powered directly from the battery with a flexible dc power conversion). Similarly, as a laptops working components typically operate at 12V and below which raised concerns for me about power wastage from stepping up and then stepping down wasting extra power.
Concern 2 - SMBUS Smart Battery Interfacing
I wanted to ensure that if used the laptop would be able to operate using a battery with the voltages and communication happening as they should with Windows. I learnt about the smart battery which connects to the smbus to communicate with the computer. At this point I was concern I had imaged that maybe this feature would be locked in the bios or manufacturer specific and would not just work with any motherboard for communications. I then found that any computer with an smbus reserves the battery addresses (i2c / smbus) for communication, which would be potentially something which could simply be connected. This led me to find out how I would be able to access the smbus data and clock lines to add the said battery. I found some motherboards have this just on it. But I could not find anywhere obvious to find it on pictures of the m715q motherboard, as I dug further into the problem as found on hackaday I learnt that the smbus pins are within pci-e and ram slots which led to the potential for interfacing by some modification of adding wires toa sodimm ram module. With this I was scared to potentially damage a board especially with the limited budget of the project / me. Whilst I believed that could potentially work I am working to avoid as much of this as possible (until the project develops further).
Concern 3 – Cooling
A large part of laptops and similar small devices is the requirements for cooling in a small area. Whilst I will use some thermal simulations later I found that many of the thinkpads, used cooling systems which looked possible to modify at some to reroute heat in the laptop chassis. Typically the ultra low clearance of the motherboard assembly requires some form of flat heatsink on the cpu and chipset and heatpipes to transfer heat to a fan and radiator assembly. As I discovered in the t43 chassis simple heatsink design could be made at home with some thin copper sheets (1-2mm) which are easy to cut and I could desolder and resolder heatpipes from different devices until it fits.
Concern 4 – Display interfacing / swapping
For me one of the main issues with the older ThinkPads is the displays when compared to modern devices. They are just not as bright or high enough resolution and lack things like touch. What they do have is 4:3 ratio which for me feels far easier to work on then a 16:9 display of similar diagonal size. Whilst modders have been swapping CCFL tubes for led strips to convert their devices to use LEDs backlights with higher brightness and lower power, this does improve colour depth and / or resolution. The older devices commonly used the internal LVDS interface to the motherboard, which has been more or less changed for eDP in more modern laptops which uses less lanes for the same resolution and the possibility for high resolution and touch interfacing to be on a single cable.
Looking back at the thinitx board it did not have a purpose built internal display connector like some of the other thin itx boards for “industrial use”. I wantd to find whether a displayport could be interfaced passively with the internal EDP of modern lcd pc panels which it is based on as there was a display connector “extension” connector which could support hdmi, vga or displayport. I imagine that one way or another this would work, even with power being required to be added somehow.
The alternative methods for interfacing include using universal LCD driver boards which convert the LVDS, eDP or even MIPI (used more in mobile devices) signal into HDMI, VGA or DisplayPort. Whilst useful, where possible we wanted to avoid adding extra boards if possible. These will also have onboard buttons for changing setting and inputs etc. Some of these could be remapped to be activated using an internal microcontroller (saving the space of another external board) and a bit of custom software.
Concern 5 – Maybe it’s ok?
At this point whilst many of these options seem potential viable they do carry a fair bit of risk with multiple systems being potentially required to enable simple functionality with the possibility of terrible battery life.
Any version of this project would require Frank Adam's (https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Make-a-USB-Laptop-Keyboard-Controller/) which was covered by Tom Nardi of Hackaday (https://hackaday.com/2018/12/04/teensy-liberates-the-thinkpad-keyboard/), work on interfacing with the thinkpad keyboards and trackpoint with a teensy to allow it to connect to usb, or ps/2 if header is available with a custom board. Interrfacng with older thinkpad trackpad use ps/2 connectors for the trackpads this enabling near immediate functionality (note 1).
The forced version of the project could use a lcd edp control board (with own voltage conversion from battery at least), secondly a step up power delivery board for the battery to supply the 20v input of the motherboard. An internal i2c board would be required to read battery voltages outside of the Window AHCP system if I cannot use the smbus smart battery system
I don’t believe using the old trackpad is good solution if actaully planning to use it as ideally a trackpad would be switched out to allow a larger surface and better tracking using windows precision drivers. As far as I’m aware modern touchpads in laptops can connect to windows as an HID using the SMBUS or USB (rarer). Again there is the concern of overlapping addresses and whether SMBUS devices show up regardless. Trackpads could potentially be transplanted from a modern device enabling the best of both HIDs.
(does windows use specific laptop power savings? [Done with custom TDP up and downs? Maybe it would actually be fine]).
How flexible is the SMBUS, (does clock speed change or matter) does the bios lock these down?
Concern 6 - Redirect to X60
As this project was quickly growing excessively, I decided to redirect to a smaller version of the project which I had hoped would allow me to avoid the above issues by using a preexisting laptop to gut and transfer. Whilst the orignal idea of this was to try to develop a method to allow for reuse of popular laptop chassis, the complexity has made me reconsider this until I have a better understanding of the laptops interelated systems and software.
The Thinkpad E590 was chosen to be squeezed inside the x60 chassis