Aftermarket Customization Rugged Laptop

I’m a computer engineering student with a bit of a DIY/maker hobby. I’ve been thinking about the potential of the framework laptop as a platform for building a ruggedized laptop. Thin and light laptops are great but with a bit more volume (about double) I think I could build a rugged and waterproof laptop with twice the battery, LTE, and GPS. I’d really like to fit two hot swappable battery modules. This could get around the 100WH TSA limit and allow arbitrary run time if you have arbitrarily many charged batteries. I think the framework laptop is exceptionally well suited for this purpose due to its repairability, upgradability, and modularity. I think I could fabricate a custom enclosure from forged carbon fiber which would be lighter weight, more rigid, and just as strong. The additional thickness may also permit for a replaceable mechanical keyboard with separate mechanical and electrical components ensuring a waterproof design that could be cleaned of dust or other debris with a hose. Rugged laptops often come at a high cost premium with anemic compute components. I think I could upgrade a framework laptop for a total cost (including the base laptop) that is comparable or better than something like the Dell Latitude Rugged Extreme but with better specs. I’m a single person, and I have never done this before but I’m going to work on it. Would anyone be interested in video, documentation, or an aftermarket kit for such a project?

I’m genuinely passionate about this concept and believe it holds significant potential. However, like many ambitious endeavors, motivation can sometimes wane without feedback and encouragement. Knowing there’s genuine interest in this idea would immensely boost my commitment to seeing it through. Additionally, I’ve toyed with the idea of starting a YouTube channel to document this journey and other tech explorations. If you think this project has the excitement and value I believe it does, it might just be the push I need to share the process with a wider audience. I’d truly appreciate any feedback, suggestions, or expressions of interest.


Definetly sounds like a cool idea and would be great to see someone do it!

Some food for thought:

  1. How would you hack two batteries into the one slot on the motherboard, there’s some delicate control logic that could probably be handled by a custom PCB. Hot-swappable is a whole other bag! Using USB-C power banks of some type might work out better! Especially if Framework releases their Framework Battery-to-USB power bank kit.
  2. Waterproofing is very hard to DIY, might be worth it to sacrifice on that! Especially with things like a custom mechanical keyboard, and exterior ports.
    Excited to hear more if you do decide to go for it!

If the main board battery control logic is difficult to interface with, I think it would still be fairly possible to Jerry rig a solution using USB PD for a second battery that would be easily hot swappable. Only one of the batteries would be hot swappable, but that’s better than zero. I’ll have to look into the battery interface on my framework 13. Does anyone know know what search term I might use to find a connector like this? I’d like to man in the middle my battery without soldering to the pins on my main board.:blush: if I went with the usb approach, it might require an external facing ucb-c charge port on the second battery and/or adding a switch to disconnect it from the main board.

The waterproofing aspect may turn out to be more difficult than I anticipate, but I’m going to try it. I won’t really be able to fully understand the complexities till I start taking things apart and building the enclosure.

Thanks for the feedback!


Andrew, I think this is an excellent idea that builds upon Framework’s extensible, pragmatic nature splendidly. I am very interested in following your progress.


I would be very interested. Particularly with a hot swappable battery. While true hot swappable batteries are very complicated and expensive to impliment, it is extremely useful if you don’t have time to charge. I would have to say that a mechanical keyboard may make it a bit difficult. First start with the chassis and consider possible hot swappable battery implimentations and whether it is feasible then before working on a multibattery chassis. Waterproofing may be difficult. Or at the very least impractical.
Look at documentation for connectors.

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You can always put the antennae/wifi in the case near the surface in its own little module, relocating it so there isn’t much in the way of material blocking it. Having it snap into place into a gasket makes it waterproof.

Cooling solutions though… heck. That’s one of the MAIN reasons that rugged laptops are so underpowered. Heat, it just keeps building, as you know. Heat is an insanely hard thing to shunt while being waterproof.

Though… having an enclosure that simply protects the Framework 13 and 16 moreso than bare metal, that could be cool too! If you could make a carbon fibre and silicone case enclosure for the 16" I might actually buy that even! I imagine it’d be kinda low volume sales though, but something I am sure a few people would be interested in.

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There is no reason a fully isolated cooling system couldn’t be developed for it. In fact, if it was isolated in that water ingress through the vents was safe, that would actually assist cooling.

Would be very cool.

That said, why not focus this effort on the 13? It would seem to be less complicated to implement.

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Because I have the 16 not the 13! Hah!

BUt seriously, just thinking about it I imagine that people would buy an expensive accessory case like this for the more expensive model. These are the people springing quite a bit extra despite the performance not being on the highest end. So it follows logically they are a segment more willing to spend on expensive products.

Just a gut feeling, though, about the framework community. I imagine SOME would get it for the 13", but I believe there’d be more demand/drive for people who are already in a higher purchasing bracket to spend again.

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@Kody_Boen cooling a waterproof enclosure is my main worry when it comes to waterproofing. I’m going to work on a mold or layup in carbon fiber as a prototype probably using the 13 chassis as a model. I’ve watched some tutorials and have the materials but haven’t really done it before so having the practice would be good. It would also let me most some pictures that would give some more credibility to my project.

Thanks everyone so far for the support!

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You could also use metal instead of carbon fibre and then the entire case could be used as a heatsink, I have low power mini PCs that do this (some even with finned cases or an attachable heatsink)

That looks like a PicoBlade connector to me, but what you want to do is measure the pin pitch and housing size then apply filters in the Rectangular Connectors Housings section of the Digi-Key website, then dig through the datasheets of the ones that look right.

I’d try “Framework GitHub”. :slight_smile:

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@deuce I think I had just figured out I needed to filter by 10 pin connectors and measure the distance between pins to filter by pitch which is apparently the technical term for that measurement by chatting with chatGPT. Thanks!

@FlorisNielssen thanks for the link. I knew that framework had some open source documentation for things like the expansion cards but didn’t know about this. This will be extremely helpful. I’m going to have to get some popcorn a spend a couple days digging into these schematics and documentation.

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Any updates?