Hi Framework crew,
I think community developed expansion cards that match the appearance of the owner’s laptop would help maintain the professional look of the system. Are you willing to share the materials and surface finishes that your team uses on your cards? Also, do you have any marking requirements/restrictions/recommendations?
It’s essentially impossible as they use aluminium and small amounts of plastic internally, on small scale manufacture it would be very costly to do aluminium.
Most of these can be done by two-piece (or three-piece) CNC. Plastic can be done via 3D printing (although it make more sense to inject mold, which is very expensive to setup)
Surface finish is like grain-polished and perhaps anodized aluminum (alloy).
Thanks Xavier - I’m also expecting it to be an aluminum alloy that’s blasted with a soft medium and anodized, but just looking for a written confirmation. Some companies are venturing out to other alloys for structural or cosmetic properties. Input from Framework on markings would also be appreciated.
Josh - While production of enclosures with CNC would add additional costs, some individuals do value the aesthetics/durability of their devices and would be willing to pay the additional material cost. This isn’t true for all users as you suggest, but I know that I would value it.
The vast majority of the structure can be easily 3D printed or injection molded. To match the exterior though I disagree that CNC milling would be the best solution. You only need the exterior surfaces to the chassis to match, so sheet metal with a single bend is all that’s realistically required. Like another poster above pointed out, all you need at that point is to grit blast, then optionally anodize for durability. For a small business there are companies that do sell custom bent/finished sheet metal for small batch manufacture; as with anything this will have to be balanced with demand.
A well equipped DIYer with printer and laser cutter could realistically handle printing the inner frame in addition to cutting and bending their own exterior sheet metal. Home anodizing for batches is trickier but in my opinion optional for the task of matching the exterior surface finish of the laptop. You’re going to get scratches no matter what, and the little cards are easily replaceable and repairable for a reason.
I mentioned two part (or three part) CNC because with a slightly creative mind of separating complicated shapes into different pieces and securing them in a un-doable way (screws or clips) you can make truly incredible things.
Not to say the fact that you can indeed CNC one of those expansion cards from a small block of aluminum alloy – chop out the interior (and screw post), turn it on the sides, chop out the grooves and the holes for the connectors, put threads in the screw post (manually, with a die), CNC a small aluminum cover and put on it.
The spring and screw you have to find yourself, but the clip you can 3D print or (again) CNC.
CNC is not the cheapest option but it’s readily available and if you actually own one it can even be competitive in terms of cost (compared to metallic 3D printing), not to mention structurally more durable.
I disagree that a CNC milled component will ever be competitive with cost compared to a cheap 3-D print. The cost of blank aluminum on its own will be huge, and the majority of the material you’re purchasing will be lost in the chips. For small-scale manufacturing additive mfg with plastics is almost certainly the way to go for something like this. Not least because a CNC milled aluminum block will start doing damage to the laptop’s plastic pins with repeated insertions/removals, as opposed to the hardness-matched plastics.
While I appreciate that there are different methods for fabricating expansion cards with various pros and cons, I would like to keep the discussion on topic. The topic is on expansion card appearance - namely, what materials and treatments are used on the Framework laptop and any advice the Framework team has regarding markings.
Feel free to start another thread discussing fabrication methods if that is of interest. I believe it could be helpful for many future developers.