Framework Laptop 16 Deep Dive - Enclosure

The Framework Laptop 16 is extremely rigid and durable, while also being surprisingly light and thin through use of a combination of magnesium alloy and machined aluminum parts for the enclosure. The laptop is under 18mm thick, which is unusually slim for a 16” high-performance, upgradeable system. If you choose to add discrete graphics using a Graphics Module, the back section of the laptop extends to just under 21mm thick, enabling much higher thermal capacity for the GPU. This is a substantially more mechanically complex product than the Framework Laptop 13, with a larger screen size, higher performance parameters, and two new module systems with the Input Modules and Expansion Bay. With all of that, we’ve still achieved a clean, minimal industrial design, with no externally visible fasteners.

We’ve done this through careful design work, architecting the system to be made of two core mechanical parts: a molded magnesium alloy Bottom Cover and a CNC aluminum Top Cover. Both of these are items we make in collaboration with one of the most advanced enclosure manufacturers in the world, Catcher Technology. We fabricate the parts at Catcher’s massive, highly-automated facility in Tainan, Taiwan, where there are vast fields of molding and milling machines.

First, let’s dig into the Bottom Cover, which the Mainboard, Battery, Speakers, Input Modules and other key components install down into. This is a single, complexly structured magnesium alloy part, fabricated using a process called thixomolding. Thixomolding is an insanely cool manufacturing technique in which magnesium alloy is heated to a temperature at which it is semi-liquid and then injection molded into custom tooling. This allows for extremely precise large parts with detailed structural elements. We chose this process and material for the Bottom Cover, which is the single largest mechanical part we’ve ever built, to achieve high rigidity while also keeping weight low.

Magnesium alloy is lighter than the aluminum that we could otherwise use, and thixomolding a large part like this also means that we can avoid the processing time and waste material that would come with a CNC aluminum part. A CNC part would need to start as a solid block of aluminum, with the vast majority of the material being milled away, while a thixomolded magnesium part can directly be molded into the correct shape. We perform a small amount of milling for features that can’t be molded and to thin certain areas further, and then use a low-VOC paint process to protect and color match the magnesium alloy. This is a short summary of a process that has dozens of individual steps.

The Top Cover of the Framework Laptop is a CNC aluminum anodized part, just like on the Framework Laptop 13 since our 12th Gen version. Because the Top Cover is thin, the CNC process works well to leverage the strength and durability of aluminum without resulting in a large quantity of waste material. The milled out material is melted down to feed back into future aluminum enclosure material. The Bottom Cover is made of 90% post-industrial recycled magnesium alloy, while the Top Cover is made of 75% post-industrial recycled aluminum. We aim to find post-consumer recycled sources for both of these in the future. In addition to these two main structural parts, there are a number of smaller plastic inner frame and cosmetic parts, along with the magnetic attach, color-customizable bezel. These are all made of 30-35% post-consumer recycled polycarbonate (PC) or PC+ABS plastics.

This deep dive barely scratches the surface of the mechanical advancements we’ve made with Framework Laptop 16. We’ll be continuing to share more detail throughout the year on the mechanisms, materials, and manufacturing processes that let us build a 16” high-performance laptop that is simultaneously thin, robust, and refined, while remaining simple to upgrade, repair, and customize.


Intresting… uses magnesium alloy like MSI stealth 16.

This is nuts (in a good way!).

This looks more like a highly precise machine built for heavy duty for the outside than a laptop.

I do wonder how the hinges and alike are connected to it, so I am eager to find out in the next deep dives.


This is now making me curious about the sort of Input Module… plate? that goes above the Mainboard, etc. Curious as to how that is fixtured on. Magnets??? Looks like everything beside the Expansion Bay is installed from the top, much like the 13.

What would the benefit be of moving from Post-Industrial to Post-Consumer?

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The gaps in the rear-most expansion card slots is interesting to me. Would they expose any internals or would they be covered by the mentioned other structural elements? I am absolutely loving these deep dives.

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Post-Industrial waste is stuff like excess plastic used for molding, or excess aluminum from a milling plant. Really, stuff that was excess. Good to get it into products, but not as good as Post-Consumer. Post-Consumer is literal trash that is being recycled, which means it doesn’t go to landfill, which is even better.


Hats off!
Oh my… I don’t objectively “need” to buy a FL16 (I already have the FL13) but god it is tempting!!!

Happy to get the confirmation about the molded magnesium! (that was leaked by Linus lol)
And really in love with how Framework is attached to finding the most ecological way to produce the laptop, sourcing recycled material and all.


LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! This is the [good] shite I’ve been waiting for!!! Absolutely top notch!

…and looks like we have side firing speakers? with down firing sub woofers?

Also, assuming I’m looking at this correctly, the left and right fins’ bays for the CPU and iGPU alone will allow for much high thermal dissipation capacity, and the dGPU module will have its own heatsink, only sharing the fans. NICE. (Air intake from the bottom, and side exhaust for the CPU, rear exhaust for the dGPU module)

Question: Assuming I’m looking at this correctly, this circled area is where the heatpipe will be routed to the heatsink fin bay area…does that mean the expansion card will feel the heat?

The asymmetric cutouts are interesting too, does one side have wider heatpipe than the other, or is that extra space reserved for display cable routing?

I’m really excited now!


…and then, randomly, I’m thinking: Will the FL13 get a re-designed magnesium ally chassis option next year?


Honestly, I’d way prefer to have an unpainted magnesium bottom.

Any chance that you would expand this process to the 13 and sell it as a Marketplace item? And unpainted? :wink:

Thanks for the deep dive. Pretty cool to see little snippets like this into the manufacturing side of putting product out there. Did not know there was a way of injection moulding magnesium, and it sure does explain the proliferation of that material in the last few years. Really cool stuff.


Sick, but hinge is not for 2 in 1 :frowning:

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The expansion bay opens out to the back of the laptop, and can potentially extend it’s length by quite a bit.
Making a 2-in-1 that can somehow flip around a variable length chassis seems impractical, and that was never the plan from all the information I’ve seen so far.


Seconding this too!

Maybe a magnesium alloy bottom cover with carbon fibre top. :slight_smile:

Not sure if carbon fibre top will happen from Framework…because it requires resin…and that may not play well with the eco side of things. Maybe there’s some eco freiendly resin?

I was more like looking at how Thinkpads and their plastics are built like a tank with their fibreglass/carbon fibre materials. It may not be as ecofriendly as aluminium on the surface, but looking at how rugged the body is, it will definitely survive multiple generations of mainboards and usage, compared to aluminium that dents etc easier. Might be worth looking from the long term perspective.

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Very true

Hopefully not :slight_smile:

I agree, it looks like it. However with the current expansion cards, most of them aren’t very heat sensitive and the magnesium will transport some of the heat away. I’m not sure I’d put storage cards in the last row, though, depending on how the final product looks like.


Aluminum requires a lot of energy to produce. I’m not sure if its much better than carbon fibre. Aluminum also gets dented easily, especially when created by deforming/pressing and not milling. The magnesium is definitely a good choice. I really like it.