Explainer: Lid rigidity, hinge force, the CNC Top Cover, and the new 4.0kg Hinge Kit

We recently announced a full CNC version of the Top Cover alongside the 12th Gen Intel Core upgrades for the Framework Laptop. This week, we also launched a new Hinge Kit variant on the Marketplace with 4.0kg force, higher than the default Hinge Kit with 3.3kg force. Since lid rigidity and hinge behavior is sometimes a source of confusion, we wanted to provide more background on it!

Top Cover

On the original Top Cover in the Framework Laptop, we used an aluminum forming process to shape the lid from a sheet of aluminum, followed by milling steps and adhering in a plastic inner frame and steel mounting plates. With the new 12th Gen Intel Core version of the Framework Laptop, we’ve built a Top Cover that is milled from a single block of 6063 aluminum, eliminating the plastic frame and steel mounts and increasing overall rigidity. Functionally and visually, the original Top Cover and the new Top Cover (CNC) are equivalent. They both look the same from the outside and pass the same rigorous reliability tests. However, the stiffer Top Cover (CNC) subjectively certainly feels more premium. If you have a Framework Laptop with the original Top Cover, you can choose to switch to the Top Cover (CNC) by picking one up from the Marketplace in July (you can sign up to get notified when it is in stock).

Hinges

We tuned the hinge force in the Framework Laptop to enable one-hand-opening of the lid while also keeping the lid angle stable while the laptop is stationary across the full 180 degree opening range. With that, the hinges have a nominal force of 3.3kg with a tolerance range of +/- 0.5kg. However, we identified that for a period of time last fall, our hinge supplier shipped a subset of hinges with forces below our accepted spec range. We’ve since added additional tests both at the hinge supplier and at our laptop assembly site to prevent out of spec hinges from shipping out. If you have a laptop where the lid angle drops on its own while the laptop is stationary, write into support with a video of it, and we’ll send you a new Hinge Kit.

While 3.3kg keeps the lid stable while stationary, if you are in an especially bouncy environment like a moving vehicle or holding the laptop open while walking, it’s possible you will want higher force to hold the lid angle. To solve for that, we’ve built a higher torque version of the Hinge Kit coming in at 4.0kg with +/- 0.5kg tolerance range. This holds the lid angle well in bouncier environments, but with the tradeoff of making one-hand-open not work as seamlessly. If that sounds good to you, you can pick up a 4.0kg Hinge Kit in the Marketplace today. The power of modularity!

Resonance

Note that both the new Top Cover (CNC) and 4.0kg Hinge Kit are largely independent of the behavior of lid resonance. Resonance (what some people may call wobble or shake, but we don’t because those are too ambiguous) is that when you tap the lid when it’s open, it’ll bounce for a second before settling, without the lid angle changing. This is a function of the hinge structure acting as a spring (in the sense of linear elasticity). We use a high strength steel alloy for the hinge structure, but the size and weight of the lid are still enough for the steel to elastically deform and bounce back. This is also not really a functional issue since the display isn’t a touchscreen, but it’s not behavior we’re satisfied with. Our engineering team is working with multiple hinge suppliers currently to design for reduced resonance. We’ll make any results from this available in the Marketplace along with rolling it into future laptop production. The beauty of upgradeable products is enabling existing users to pick up improvements as we make them!

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When it comes to the hinge, that’s like most, if not all, laptops. They’re all modular in this regard.

Can’t wait for perfection, I guess. We’ll just have to take what’s available now…while this get sorted out.

Will there be free replacement for early adopters who sucked it up and had to deal with the resonance behaving hinge…when that hinge is ready?

That is:
Weaker than 3.3kg = Functional issue = Covered under warranty, free replacement.
3.3kg hinge = No functional issue but Framework-considered unsatisfactory behaviour = ?

Any brownie points for early adopters?

Framework to continue growing, selling laptops while dealing with known issues.

I’m glad Framework is open about this, and acknowledging the issue.

This modularity and upgradability definitely has the benefit of allowing companies to sell the “we’ll fix our product while you buy / use them, and yours will be fixed in due time” (for a price?) concept. Future startups / electronics companies can take on this model while they grow.

I think this is just great! Good for you guys–keep it up! :blush:

I’m not going to purchase any of these upgrades myself–my top cover is perfectly fine, the hinges I have are just right, and the resonance does not bother me one bit–but I am absolutely pleased that these upgrades are continuing to come down for the folks that want them.

It is heartening to see you guys keeping your ears to the ground, taking the community feedback to heart and always probing for ways to tweak the design for the better. :+1:

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yeah can you point to a laptop brand where they sell official replacement hinge with different force at regular price? if not, please don’t say “all laptops are modular like this”

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You’re changing the ‘criteria’ to fit your argument.

Lenovo, FRU, you can buy them if you call your local Lenovo Support line. Each ThinkPad has a published HMM, the FRU is listed in there.

For example: https://download.lenovo.com/pccbbs/mobiles_pdf/t14s_gen2_x13_gen2_hmm_en.pdf

Order them: partslookup - Lenovo Support CA

The “different force” is a different design, separate from modularity.

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ok, maybe I want to wait 1 hour, but Lenovo is kind of the king of repairability before Framework, I still don’t buy the “almost all laptops already have this”

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In some cities, if time is tight, you can drop off your laptop to Lenovo (without making an appointment), have it serviced, and pick it up in under 2 hours. Depending on the unit’s warranty coverage. Though that was a pre-covid era. Not sure if their process has changed since then.

Your issue isn’t with “modularity”. The issue is with accessibility to parts. That’s not my point.

For pretty much any laptop, when within warranty, they can replace the hinge…just not typically have the DIY option. i.e. The modularity is there, but not for end-user to take advantage of (should they choose the DIY route). Try not to mix modularity up with other aspects that Framework offers.

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This is paramount, because it acknowledges a truth that companies like Apple would never dare acknowledge. In fact their marketing is finely tuned to not do that very thing. This acknowledges that nothing can be made that is 100% perfect. Since this is the reality of the physical world we inhabit, Framework’s approach while novel and unique should be nothing but logical and rational.

A laptop is an extremely complex product that most consumers are deftly unaware of. That is another reason why the openness from Framework is such a rare thing today. It shouldn’t be. These are just some of the reasons I’m a Framework customer and encourage all I meet to be one as well. Not because the laptop is perfect, but because Framework as a company is so unique and is supporting the consumer more than any other laptop manufacturer I’m aware of.

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…in due time. There are some people I know who are capable of using and managing their laptops…but some, not so much. IMO, it’s not as polished as it could be just yet. Need to let Framework age and mature more before I can “encourage all I meet”.

(But then again, your social circle and mine could be very different in skills and expectations of a laptop, its support, reliability…etc)

Hi @nrp,

I reached out to support and they indicated that the stiffer hinge is only meant for the 12th gen laptops. Is that correct?

So on the upper end of the gen 1 hinge kit, it could be up to 3.8kg. And the lower end of the gen 2 hinge kit, it could be down to 3.5kg.

Meaning there’s a chance that the gen 2 hinge kit is weaker than gen 1? Hum…any data on the distribution probability of the +/- 0.5 kg of both kits?

I also noticed that the wording on the force is applied to the ‘kit’ not the individual left/right hinge. Does Framework know what the tolerance is per hinge, and whether there’s the matching process in place to form a kit?

e.g. One hinge is 1.6 kg, one hinge is 1.9, forming a 3.5kg pair → Would this be considered as a gen 1 kit, or a gen 2 kit?

I assume there’s also a per hinge tolerance such that a hinge pair of composed 2.8kg + 0.4kg (forming 3.2kg) would be considered out of spec because the force difference is too wide.

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Currently all parts are mechanically compatible. I do not see a reason why it shouldn’t work for gen 11 since CPU generation has absolutely nothing to do with mechanics. Moreover, their hinge order page does not differentiate between laptop generations in any way, only rigidity.

Maybe they meant that newer generation laptops would be shipped with new hinges, but AFAIK nothing prevents you from installing sturdier hinge in your existing 11gen laptop.

The 3.3kg hinge continues to be the default hinge for both 11th Gen and 12th Gen systems. The 4.0kg Hinge Kit is a Marketplace item that is compatible with either.

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@nrp Kudos to the Framework team for owning up to the issue. This is the right thing to do.

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I think this is far too large a tolerance, 1kg of variation on a 3.3kg target? As @A_Fan pointed out this means buying the 4kg hinges could result in lower force required than original hinges! Lets talk when the tolerance is closer to 0.25kg +/-

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It is a concern even at 0.25 we get a ‘new’ at 3.75 and an ‘old’ at 3.55 far to close for comfort, especially as someone may have an old 3.6 that slipped through and get a 3.7.

10% is too high but percentage is a better realtive measurement but doesn’t work
‘old’ 2.97 to 3.63
‘new’ 3.6 to 4.4

I would suggest 4%, 5%%, 6% or 100g

Of course a neat solution is to make them user adjustable or use a cam so the further opened the more torque is needed.

If mine get ‘bad’ I’ll find a way to ‘fix’ them :slight_smile:

I would also prefer less than +/- 0.25 kg but I think that it is acceptable where +/- 0.5kg I feel it is not.

I am pleased there is transparency here as I would prefer stiffer hinges but won’t buy replacements unless I know they will actually be stiffer! :slight_smile:

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I like the idea of user-adjustable hinge forces as well. Solves the preferences and too wide of acceptable ranges problem, AND it solves the problem of hinge wear over time.

I have no idea how to engineer such a thing, but I am sure that someone does.

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There are two parts to this user-adjustable / variable force hinge:

  1. Variable uniformed force.
  2. Variable rotation-dependent force.

For the 2nd part, there’s this design:

And earlier design:

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And what seems to be happening (at least from the following two patents), is that laptop manufacturers do design their own hinges. Good (or bad) ones aren’t exactly ‘off-the-shelf’.