2023.10.13: Getting equipment to fold sheet metal to any degree of neatness might get out of hand quickly. My new plan is to model bezel pieces, which will fit to the "lip" of the official Framework lid and extend the hinges (that will be the challenging part). However, this will mean thick bezels (without converting eDP to LVDS, the next size down is a 14" 16:10 LCD).
Tl;DR: All custom components will be in the "middle of the sandwich", i.e. bezel, hinge, keyboard, palmrest. The main point of this project is to *elegantly* get a ThinkPad keyboard in a Framework laptop.
In recent years, ThinkPads have gradually lost their upgradability, serviciability, keyboard feel, and swappable batteries, with the various product lines converging on a sleek design that appeals to modern computing trends. Unfortunately, it is the enterprise customers keen on 'good looks' that make Lenovo profit. We enthusiasts are stuck with classic ThinkPads can only be upgraded so far with battery life that will doesn't quite keep up with the latest offerings
And so Framework rises to capture the throne that the ThinkPad once occupied. Alas, it has no TrackPoint! And it is plenty lamentable that people now value filthy trackpads over our blessed TrackPoint. Regardless, the Framework laptop deserves all the praise it gets, with modular everything and readily available replacement parts. So I will base my project around a Framework mainboard, particularly the Framework 16, which will release later in the year with modular dedicated graphics.
And why not xytech's X2100, T700, etc? While xytech's efforts are also very deserving of praise, the custom-made boards are not only expensive, but also very limited in stock. Meanwhile, Framework laptops get chassis-compatible mainboard updates regularly. Furthermore, old ThinkPad chassis are a finite resource, like the time I'm using for this to procrastinate more important responsibilities.
I want something that is practical, repairable, reproducible, and marries the merits of the ThinkPad with the Framework laptop.
- Unfortunately, I cannot think of a possible arrangement for built-in ethernet or wireless switch
- The OEM display assembly for the Framework laptop seems to have tight tolerances. With custom bezels, I will play it safe and step down to the next smallest size, 14" at 1920*1200. Unfortunately, this will also mean very thick bezels. 15.4 would be ideal, but that requires playing with eDP to LVDS conversion.
- I will not be testing a trackpad configuration as I have only used the TrackPoint in recent memory
- While I support the development of swappable / extended batteries with 18650 cells, I will put this goal on the back burner as I have yet to begin understanding the proper design of a custom BMS. Maybe someone could ask KingSener about a battery that fits into the Framework expansion bay?
- Repairs and component swaps will be less polished than with the stock Framework chassis and parts. Only one deck arrangement will be possible without further extensive tweaking.
- I don't want any 3D printed part to feel flimsy. Hence, I will optimize it for resin printing. However, the palmrest, bezel must be broken into pieces lest we use very expensive large-format resin printers.
What is holding up the project:
- Waiting for individual Framework 16 parts to become available, as I will have no use for the official display, keyboard, and input modules that are currently mandatory.
- 3D CAD skills and the time to learn them
- Time. I will be realistic: I have a head start in basic electronics and computer skills, but need to build my 3D modelling and microcontroller skills for this project from the ground up. The slivers of free time available to me in the next two years might be enough to put all of this together. All I know is that I want a new laptop in the next three years and nothing off-the-shelf fits my needs.
And there we theoretically have it, a laptop combining...Read more »