Converting Framework 13 to a FrankenPad

Now that the AMD option is on the way I am thinking of buying the DIY version then 3d printing the top and bottom covers from something as close to glass fiber reinforced plastic using the design from Thinkpad T440.

The wild part is that I want to integrate the external ThinkPad Compact Wired USB directly in the chassis and connect it internally to USB so that the Trackpoint works out of the box without the need for custom QMK. I understand that this will increase the thickness of the chassis since the keyboard itself is 13mm thick but the design will integrate nicely. I would like to keep the overall laptop height within the 25mm limit. Do you think this will work or I will need to disassemble it while keeping the USB micro-controller and print a keyboard cover as well?

Essentially it’s a Framework 13 with an external thinkpad keyboard and 3d printed case as similar to Thinkpad as possible.

Do you believe the whole project is doable?

In the long-term if the quality is satisfying enough and there is interest this could evolve to a mass production of cases for different needs - ruggedness, gaming, kids, different materials - carbon, magnesium, gfrp etc.

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Depends on your capabilities.

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I can see a lot of Thinkpad/trackpoint enthusiasts being quite interested in such a project.

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@Frankie_Wild how many of the usb keyboard do you own?

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Just bought one for the first testing unit. Finding units of the KU-1255 which is my favorite one from the 30 series with the original 2.5 mm key travel is not an issue since it’s still in production. The challenging part for me is making the chassis as close or even better than the Thinkpad. I am leaning towards something so rubbery which you can bump into a wall without any visible deformations. Each successful batch will be able to fund more experiments with different materials. Since they will be interchangeable you can simply switch cases when you want and try them out.

As far as keyboards go we have a range of choices and this is also subject to easy plug and play upgrades:

Compact USB: KU-1255

Compact Bluetooth: KT-1255

TrackPoint II: KC-1957

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If there is anything I can do to help let me know. I have a T410 and a T430. plus access to a SK-8845.

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Unfortunately these are pretty rare for mass production but you will be able to retrofit it quite easily yourself later on by simply printing out a Keyboard Cover or tweaking the keyboard case. The chassis is going to be quite roomy in order to accommodate USB controllers underneath the keyboard. For now example height of covers are: Bottom cover - up from 9mm to 14mm, Input Cover - up from 2mm to 5mm, Top Cover - up from 4mm to 5mm. Total new height - up from 15.85 to 25mm. Similar to X230 at its highest point. That should hep with temperatures as well. Width needs to be increased too from 297mm to 306mm to accommodate the slightly wider keyboard.

Looking at the X220 max height compared to X230 it seems that classic keyboards require a lot more space - 34.6mm versus 26.6mm. That could be a completely separate project as it will require different covers. Although the X230 mod seems to be able to accommodate the classic one within 26.6 so it seems doable just not the primary focus for now. This one is based on the chiclet style first.

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On a separate note to speed things up with minimum costs a test DIY assembly with a refurbished 11th gen is the way to go.(down from 1k$ to 600$).

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I would like to ask, do you have a suggested 3D printed material for this? I heard of fibre-reinforced plastics but not sure any filaments out there that can be purchased.

Would be really interesting if we can get a Thinkpad like chassis even for the regular 13" Framework (less the Magnesium bottom cover on certain Thinkpads like the X280 I have).

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The list of materials I am currently researching is from here: Technical filaments Архиви - 3DPrintX

I am just starting out with 3D printing so will report back once I get responses and quotes on these. Ideally I will ask for small test samples before printing just to get a look and feel of the material at hand. Generally I am looking for something more like pure solid rubber which can retract and take damage without any signs of deformation. Will see if such thing exists and is applicable to technical filaments. If not there are good combinations of ABS and Carbon or Kevlar or Glass Fiber. The latter probably the most similar to GFRP generally found in the T series. I consider this a never ending experiment that goes on with the progress of 3d printing itself since new materials show up pretty much every day.

If things go well there will be regular cases for Framework 13 too without the keyboard mod.

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There are, though they don’t quite turn out the same and are relatively expensive, plus you need wear resistant nozzles, heatbreaks and extruder gears and stuff or it’ll break those.

If you have that they are usually even easier to print than regular filaments though and the fiber texture hides some printing imperfections.

The 3do abs-cf is probably the cheapest fiber filled filament that’s any good, prusament pc-cf is also very good but pretty pricy. Glas fiber is rarer and more of a pain in the ass.

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Ah, thanks for the insights. Probably not worth it then.

I guess maybe enough of us, we can crowdfund a top cover+input cover fiberglass top and input cover, or even like a X1 Carbon version of the Framework chassis.

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There are a few PA6-GF filaments commercially available. I know very little about them but they might be in the realm of desired material.

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Thought those were coated magnesium or something. At least for the thinkpads I have takes apart they were definitely not just plastic.

Prusament recently released one (well it’s pa11 but still), expensive af but I’d trust that to be pretty good. Thing is you’d need a pretty big enclosed printer for that and most pepole even those that 3d print don’t have that.

I think bullying a thinkpad keyboard into a regular framework may be a more reasonable first step.

Though if I somehow get my hands on the cad for the bottom case I’ll probably print a cursed modded one filled with 18650s just for the lolz.

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Unfortunately the difference in size and form is too great to reuse the original chassis. For example I don’t plan on having a touchpad at all. And if you are going to make a new case why not make it of better materials. That’s just my way of thinking. I love the black plastic aesthetics and the rubbery feel.

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Thinkpad cases aren’t just plastic though, they are actually quite intricate and contain coated metal parts and stuff and usually some magnesium stiffening plates, doubt a 3d printed plastic case would be “better” than milled aluminum. Agree on the aesthetics though, then again I’ll just dbrand mine so that’s mostly covered.

Do we have any numbers on that, I don’t have a framework jet unfortunately so I can’t measure.

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My X280 has an magnesium alloy bottom cover (I used thermal pads to dissipate heat to the bottom so that it doesn’t throttle so badly), but the top and input cover is some kind of glass fiber plastic (based on Thinkpad marketing), they do have a lot of reinfored components which I kinda appreciated compared to Framework after getting one since my previous Thinkpad T43. I was kinda hoping to find a chassis like that which I feel could be more durable just I guess it doesn’t feel as premium as aluminium like Macbooks.

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The top cover of my x260 definitely wasn’t just plastic, I think I still have that somewhere might take a dreme to it later to see what’s up with that. I also contemplated a printed top cover to fit different screens (unless someone finds an oled that actually fits in the 13 inch framework XD).

Doubt you’ll find anything even remotely as solid as a sub xx30 thinkpad (or hell elitebooks and latitudes of that aera) these days, hell even the ruggedized stuff you can buy these days is mostly weaker.

Do you guys have the cad for a thinkpad or the framework bottom case? otherwise this is going the get pretty hard XD (I mean it probably still is but having some cad to start from would help a lot)

I’d personally more go for a slim bezzled x230 or x260 form factor and not t440

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I wish we could go for x230 form factor but we entirely depend on cad designs in the open and for compatibility reasons I am sticking to the original.

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Totally agree. It’s up to experimentation. If the 3d printing company has any experience with laptop chassis production in the past they will know how to harden it internally without magnesium frame I guess.

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