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August 4, 2011 / David Bleeker

‘Ultrabook’ makers squeezed by Apple’s control of metal chassis supply

Long known as a master of the supply chain for overseas components, Apple has reportedly out-muscled the competition for yet another crucial element of its products: unibody metal notebook chassis.

Intel and its partner PC makers have been “aggressively searching” for new materials to build chassis for the chipmaker’s thin-and-light “Ultrabook” design. According to DigiTimes, companies have been forced to seek alternatives because Apple already controls most of the “significantly limited” capacity.

The most popular choice for Ultrabook designs is said to be magnesium-aluminum chassis, ideal for creating a notebook less than 0.8-inch thick. But a unibody magnesium-aluminum chassis requires expensive “CNC lathes,” of which capacity is constrained.

Because CNC lathes are so expensive, the number of companies that can provide components to PC makers are limited. Together, Foxconn and Taiwan’s Catcher Technology reportedly have more than 10,000 CNC lathes for metal chassis production.

Both of those companies are said to supply unibody shells for notebooks to Apple, which leaves Ultrabook makers competing for remaining capacity from the companies. [read more]

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