Made from an aerospace material to let you protect your gear in the strongest and lightest way possible. Plus they look awesome!
Full Carbon Fiber Sleeves for Laptops
Designed to protect your electronics in the strongest and lightest way possible while looking great too.
Hi Kickstarter! For the last 6 months we've been developing a product that, much to our surprise, is not already on the market. In fact, one of the greatest endorsements that we received during those six months, when we would tell friends and strangers about what we were working on, was usually along the lines of them saying "Wow, I can't believe someone doesn't already make that." Now, to us, the idea for the product seems fairly obvious (as it apparently does to our friends as well). There are so many advantages to using carbon to make a laptop case that we eventually concluded its lack of presence on the market boiled down to an issue of cost. So we took our prior knowledge of the material and devised a way to make a case out of carbon more economical. Now, please don't be mistaken - nothing was sacrificed with regards to quality or reliability in the name of cost savings. These cases are still made out of full carbon fiber - the same stuff that Boeing uses to make Dreamliners. In fact, we use an aerospace certified carbon fiber fabric with a tensile strength of over 600,000psi! To make them more economical, we spent 6 months, a lot of money from our personal savings, and used tons of input from professionals in the field to devise a process of producing, in volume, full carbon fiber sleeves that are incredibly light and look fantastic, but are affordable enough to have mass market appeal. We're really excited about the price because we think everyone can benefit from the material's advantages, and now there's finally a practical application to use it in everyday. We're sure many of you are already familiar with the material or have at least heard of it before, but if you haven't, there are more details below in the FAQ section. To sum it up: carbon fiber reinforced polymers are a composite material made out of a combination of carbon fibers (long chains of nearly pure carbon) and thermosetting resins (basically a high tech plastic). They are used extensively in the aerospace, exotic car, and competitive sport industries because of their properties: CFRPs sport one of the highest strength the weight ratios of non-laboratory man-made materials.
We wanted to make a case that was as strong, light, and small as possible, so we decided to make them custom fit for each application. This means each case is designed around a specific laptop model, not a generic "13 inch" laptop. So, we're starting with the full Apple MacBook line: all unibody models will be supported (more details on what years that description entails can be found below). The largest 15" MacBook Pro case weighs in at less than 250 grams (about half a pound), which is impressive considering it's a full hard shell with foam lining. This brings us to the next point:
During our market research we were surprised to see how flimsy most cases really are. They either didn't offer any meaningful protection and were designed to just add some color or show off a brand name, or at best were bulky and ugly pieces of neoprene with a cheap injection molded plastic outer cover. Somehow, many of these cases still managed to retail for upwards of 70 dollars even when the most elaborate probably had manufacturing costs of less than 10 dollars - including both material and labor - and some are probably worth less than a buck (seriously... injection molded plastic is cheap). Our cases are designed to offer real protection. The hard outer shell allows any impact forces to be distributed more evenly throughout the laptop's body and the foam interior adds just the right degree of compressibility to reduce deceleration rates in serious impacts. The rate of deceleration, is, in the end, the ultimate determinant of whether or not your electronics make it out unscathed.
As if being strong and offering great weight savings weren't enough, the cases are also incredibly thin and look great. The dimensions of each laptop are expanded by about a third of an inch, at most. The thin profile matches the lines of the MacBook series perfectly. The pairing of aluminum and carbon fiber look fantastic together. In fact, there is a rumor that Apple is considering manufacturing some parts of future MacBook generations out of carbon fiber (they recently filed a patent for a method of mass producing carbon parts) so Jony Ives might even think so himself. Finally, carbon fiber, by itself, has its own attractive and unmistakable appearance. Properly finished and cleared, it reflects light in a very unique manner thanks to its alternating thread pattern and the way each individual fiber reflects the light that's incident to it.
What we need from Kickstarter
So here's where we're at with production: we already have a proven process to manufacture the product. Again, they're hand made (a necessity when working with this material), but the process was designed to be fully scalable so we are certain that we can meet our volume production goals. We essentially just need to get them out of the garage. Not only for volume production purposes, but also because the thermosetting resins need to be in a climate controlled environment to achieve perfect repeatability. We have a great facility lined up in the DFW area for which we've already had our credit application approved, and our machine shop has already produced the CAD drawings for the other laptop models (the non Retina 13 and 15 inch MacBook Pros and the Airs) that we don't have tooling for yet. We also need some other custom tooling for production which will mostly be involved with the cutting and trimming process. Finally, we'll need a paint booth and of course other miscellaneous tools required for production. But please keep in mind that by participating in our Kickstarter campaign you still won't be bearing the brunt of these capital costs! We will a) not be making any profits on these initial cases; and b) be using our own, final savings reserves as well to fund these capital costs. The reason our goal is so high is because we have to account for some of these capital expenditures while trying to keep the product cost as low as possible, meaning our margins on each unit are quite low. We will actually be raising the prices once they go into full retail production (so yes, we're also using Kickstarter to gauge demand! In my opinion this is the main reason it's such a great platform). While paying 85 bucks for a case might seem extreme, keep in mind that our raw material cost alone is upwards of 40 dollars, and that each case requires about 90 minutes of labor to produce. However that also means you're getting a real, tangible good for that money and not just paying for a brand name. Plus, and maybe most importantly, you'll be supporting American manufacturing jobs!
On to the good stuff!
For our starting $5 reward we're offering a 3x2 inch oval sticker with our logo on it. We know it's not much, but we kidna feel that our logo is pretty dang good looking and would make a great addition to your sticker-bombed desk, laptop or fridge. The sticker will have just the symbolic logo on it, with only a small print of our website URL along its perimeter.
For 20 bucks we'll send you a credit card sized and shaped carbon fiber blank! We'll send it to you sprayed with a clear and buffed to a high gloss finish. If you want, you can scuff it up a bit on your own, add some of your own paint (even a sharpie or a pen will do) and spray over it again to seal it in. This would make a great birthday gift or card for your friend who's obsessed with cars! We're offering this as a way for you to experience just how strong and light carbon fiber really is. We'll be using over 30 oz. per yard of laminate for these cards (that's quite a bit and will come in at about 1/16th of an inch thick - there is no way you'll be able to manually break this thing).
For our $25 dollar reward we'll send you a t-shirt with JUST our logo on it! It's a high quality shirt and will be hand printed by Pan Ector Industries (a college startup) up in Denton, Texas. This one won't even have our website address on it - it'll just be the logo to keep things as classy as possible. For every 12 orders we get, we can change the color of the shirt, so it won't necessarily be on the grey background. Depending on the number of orders we get, we'll run a poll to decide what colors will be made available. If you don't have a MacBook but are interested in our product, consider going this route - if we can get this off the ground we'll definitely make custom fit models for other laptop lines. Tank tops are a possibility too, of course.
On to the really good stuff.
For 85 dollars we'll send you your own, full production quality MacBook Air case. For 90 bucks you can have one for your MacBook Pro. And yes, that 5 dollar difference is just to account for the material cost difference in carbon - it really is that expensive. If funding is successful, you'll be able to specify exactly which laptop model your order was for. Keep in mind that the photos on this page represent preproduction and prototype cases - production series cases will have flawless build outs and will be of even higher and more appealing quality (clear coated on the inside, seamless construction, mirror smooth paint jobs, etc.). Each case will ship with a removable elastic band as well for extra protection.
(9/2) - We added an international shipping reward since so many of you asked for it! Thanks for your support.
The higher value rewards are pretty neat. We actually plan to offer these upgrades as user-selectable add-ons if we can make it into retail production. Since we spray our cases with an automotive clear coat (in other words: a very high quality paint), we can tint a layer of that clear in a certain automotive base coat single stage color. We'll offer some house flavors (listed in the rewards section), but if you really have that one shade that you paint all your gear and buy all your clothes in, we can buy a can of it and tint your case just for you. Again, since it's an automotive paint, we can essentially color match any car. Tinting the case with a single stage addition to the clear allows you to still see the carbon weave below and experience its unique light reflecting characteristics - the light will just have a colored tint to it! We're unfortunately not offering the kevlar variations mentioned in our video in our Kickstarter, and don't expect to have leather products developed until we can really get on our own two feet.
Here's a list of the cases we're offering for our Kickstarter campaign and the generations that they'll fit:
13 inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display: Fits all 13” MacBook Pro Retinas (Late 2012 and Early 2013 generations, of dimensions 314x219x19 mm)
15 inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display: Fits all 15” MacBook Pro Retinas (Mid 2012 and Early 2013 generations, of dimensions 359x247x18 mm)
13 inch MacBook Pro (non-Retina): Fits all 13” MacBook Pros (non-Retina) since the middle of 2009 (All 13” non-Retina “unibodies”: Mid 2009, Mid 2010, Early 2011, Late 2011 and Mid 2012 generations, of dimensions 325x227x24 mm)
15 inch MacBook Pro (non-Retina): Fits all 15” MacBook Pros (non-Retina) since late 2008 (All 15” non-Retina “unibodies”: Late 2008, Mid 2009, Mid 2010, Early 2011, Late 2011 and Mid 2012 generations, of dimensions 364x249x24 mm)
11 inch MacBook Air: Fits all 11" MacBook Airs since late 2010 (of dimensions 300x192x3-17 mm)
13 inch MacBook Air: Fits all 13" MacBook Airs since late 2008 (of dimensions 325x227x3-17 mm)
How we got here
As we've mentioned before, the idea solidified about 6 months ago, and some serious development work followed after that. People in the industry liken working with composites, and especially carbon fiber composites, to being a black art: there is no written technical manual that exactly fits your needs and each new application of the material introduces new problems that can only be resolved through testing and piecemeal solutions. So, we got started with the basics: we designed a mold with CAD software and got a machine shop to mill out our first aluminum proof. From there, we made a polyester mold and were actually able to get our first extremely rough prototype out by the end of April. This was a great proof of concept though, and at this point we were willing to put real amounts of money and effort into the project and start developing it for production. Nearly 50 carbon parts have been made since that point to perfect the carbon/resin combination, test through design changes, and create production routines. Delays and snags were of course hit along the way but we were always able to overcome them (actually we felt that the most frustrating thing - and we're sure other product designers can sympathize with this - is waiting for parts and materiel to ship. None of the 20+ raw components needed for production can be bought locally and each time a new need or change comes up there is a week long delay... it's very annoying. Luckily we now know exactly what we need so you won't have to wait!) By August we were satisfied with our product and were ready to launch our Kickstarter. Check out this collage we put together of the sleeve at various stages of production:
Is my laptop in direct contact with the hard carbon case?
Nope! There are strips of cross-linked polyethylene foam inside of the case that secures the laptop and suspends it within a soft, impact absorbing cradle.
Will my laptop fall out of the case?
The case is so closely fitted to an individual model's dimensions that the foam pads provide enough resistance to keep the laptop from immediately slipping out. Your case will also ship with a removable black elastic band that can be used at your discretion to insure your laptop stays put even in extreme environments. We’ll eventually offer leather buckles and more to bring the case to a Ron Burgundy level of class; see below for more details.
Is the case TSA and airport friendly?
Yup! You’ll be able to cruise right through, although you might notice some people staring at you... since, you know… your laptop case looks so cool. Boeing is now making airplanes out of carbon fiber, so these cases are as airport and airplane friendly as it gets.
How does the case interact with my laptop? Will it interfere with cooling?
The carbon fiber composite that we use is saturated in a thermosetting resin (a plastic, you can find more details below) that won’t interfere with any radio signals (WiFi, Bluetooth, etc.) coming or going from your laptop. As for heat, your laptop should be in even better shape compared to most cases – we recommend leaving the rear of your MacBook exposed out of the mouth of the case, which means its exhaust duct has full contact with the environment – a much better scenario than with most cases.
What is carbon fiber?
Carbon fiber is a molecular arrangement of the element carbon (an allotrope of carbon, if you will) with a unique molecular arrangement that gives it astounding properties of strength. Saturating the fibers in certain synthetic resins yields what is known as a carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) – a ‘composite’ piece with impressive physical properties and one of the highest strength to weight ratios of manmade materials.
Why use CFRP in a laptop case?
Its high strength to weight ratio is appealing in applications where one desires the strongest possible product at the lowest given weight. Carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRPs) were first seen in the aerospace industry starting in the 1980s because its high strength to weight ratio makes it very useful for flight. Eventually, the exotic car and competitive sports industries picked up on it for this quality as well. The material is so advanced that only in the past few years have commercial airliners featuring the majority of their aero structures in CFRP debuted. We decided to make computer cases out of CFRP because we wanted to offer a high strength case that is also lightweight and useable in an everyday scenario. It also just looks really, really cool… It has its own unmistakable surface texture and reflects light in a unique way due to its 3D woven structure. Many premier exotic car manufacturers now offer an exposed, raw carbon finish as an upgraded paint option.
How strong are the cases?
The carbon we use is an aerospace certified class with a tensile strength of over 625,000psi. The carbon case takes the brunt of the impact and then the foam padding on the interior distributes it evenly over your laptop, allowing for the slowest possible deceleration rates of your device. This means that the g-forces your laptop is subjected to – the ultimate determinate of whether your expensive electronics survive - are significantly reduced. Compare this to, say, a clip on plastic case, where the impact forces are translated directly through the plastic straight into your laptop, or a neoprene or foam sleeve which collapses almost immediately upon impact, even after a short fall, and again transfers the brunt of the impact forces straight into your laptop. DFWcomposites’ cases combination of both hard and soft materials means your laptop is more likely to survive an impact. Drop tests coming soon!
How is the case finished or painted?
Our cases are sprayed with an automotive high-solids urethane clear coat. We build a thick coat in successive light passes, giving the case a deep and high gloss finish which accentuates the 3D effects of the carbon’s weave. Our cleat coat system also provides for an extra layer of UV protection, on top of the UV stabilizers already present in our resin systems, which means you should experience an unperceivable amount of yellowing over the life of your case – a common problem with run-of-the-mill consumer CFRP products. We also intend to eventually offer the customizable option of spraying a clear coat tinted with the base (color) coat of your choice. This means you’ll be able to go as far as color matching your car’s base coat color to your case with a translucent tint. Using an automotive clear coat also means at home maintenance, such as polishing and waxing, can be performed by the purchaser.
What is the fitment of my laptop like?
Each of our case models are specifically designed for a single laptop model – meaning our 13” MacBook Pro Retina’s mold, from which we make your case, was specifically designed and milled just for that model and generation. None of our cases are meant to be a ‘generic fit’ product for ’13 inch’ laptops. By doing this, we can make the smallest and lightest possible product that correctly and snugly fits your laptop, while also yielding the best impact resistance. These model specific molds are very expensive to make, so we didn't take this decision lightly.
Thanks a lot Kickstarter!
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Product development has been fully completed and tooling for the Retina Display MacBooks has already been made; tooling for the other models will involve the same proven steps. The paint issues mentioned above is a fairly trivial fix that just requires better tools and a better environment.
The only major hurdle at this point is producing the cases in large volume in a manufacturing scenario with unskilled labor. However, we will be leading the process and all aspects of it will be performed in house, so training will be hands on and conducted by us. As you might have read above, these are hand made cases and our objective is to get production time to below 90 minutes per case, on average, to make these economical. Repeatability is key here, which again will be a hurdle since the cases are hand made. However, we've tooled the production processes to be fairly simple so with some practice anyone should be able to get good results. Raw material costs are another factor: carbon fiber costs are notoriously volatile. However, we don't expect significant fluctuations in the near future, or at least fluctuations to be drastic enough to damage our cost model.
So really our only major hurdle at this point is funding. We need about $10,000 to dedicate solely to tooling and rent money to get production off the ground, and we hope you can help! Thanks!
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.