See how Apple’s stunning new Mac Pro is extruded from a solid aluminum puck (with video)

“Man, I can’t get over that new Mac Pro. And while we all know the ‘thermal core’ part is made from extruded aluminum, how is the exterior (which is also aluminum) made?” Rain Noe asks for Core77.

“It’s obviously not extruded, as it’s got that inward-curving lip up top, and it wouldn’t make sense from an efficiency standpoint to CNC-mill the entire thing out of a billet; there would be too much waste,” Noe reports. “According to Don Lehman, it’s made using the production method known as impact extrusion. Conceptually, the process is more similar to blowmolding than proper extrusion, except a metal punch takes the place of compressed air, and the material used is metal rather than plastic.”

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Noe reports, “Here’s a quick look at impact extrusion…”

Apple's next generation Mac Pro
Apple’s next generation Mac Pro

 
Read more, and see more videos, in the full article here.

[Attribution: Cult of Mac. Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]

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22 Comments

  1. … just like practically every other aluminum can you’ve ever touched.

    Nice cost savings versus CNC, but the mfg process is certainly not anything earth shattering. I suspect much like iPhones are more often than not covered with cases, 3rd party accessory makers will attempt to sell “solutions” to hide this aluminum can too — or to house all the adapters, cards, drives, power supplies, and cables that Apple no longer includes inside the box.

    1. I agree…and shame on all of the MDN’ers who voted you down just because they are ignorant of manufacturing technologies.

      This is merely a deep draw process – – the very same process that brass ammunition cartridges have been using since 1845.

      And for Aluminum deep draw cases, it has also been around for roughly a hundred years. Check out this PDF:

      Click to access a028269.pdf

      Yes, it is from the 1970s…but now scroll down to PDF page 197 (page 193 in the document) and read the publication date on the second reference. Here it is:

      “2 Lewis, L.D., “Calibre .30 Cartridge Cases Made from Aluminum
      Alloys”, Technical Report Report No. R-16, 25 February 1926,
      Frankford Arsenal, Phila., Pa.”

      Yup, 1926. Now if this is the same report that I personally recall some years ago, its conclusion (from 1926) included a statement that … I’m paraphrasing from memory … said:

      “[the idea of using aluminum] isn’t new…we even found some even older .45-70 cases made of aluminum, which we couldn’t accurately date [no headstamps]…”

      FYI, the .45-70 was invented in 1873 and was the principal small arms of the US Army until 1893.

      Now back to Apple. I see it as a very good choice for the manufacturing process for their application, particularly since it is quite energy efficient, has low scrap waste or losses. It just isn’t a profoundly new, cutting edge technology…and that’s a good thing, because that also means cheap, fast to produce, light, and low technical risk.

      -hh

      1. @huntzinger –
        Also … Aluminum is easy to recycle and dissipates heat over the entire surface of the case.  Also, the round black case is more aesthetically appealing than beige aluminum cases (or plastic) used by other computer makers.

        1. Also true … although I do have to admit that I’m a sucker for brass. And as an aftermarket piece part, it certainly would give the Mac Pro a kicking “Steampunk” look.

          Hmmm… I wonder if there’s any favors I can call in from our in-house metal prototyping shop… 😉

          -hh

            1. Hmm…hadn’t noticed that potential connotation before…apparently I should get a better social life to notice potential innuendo? 🙂

              Okay; a bit more seriously (and closer to topic!), my comment comes from my engineering design preferences which have been more “Neo-Classical” instead of “Plastics!”. I’ve worked quite a bit with brass and learned that it has some really interesting & highly beneficial properties for certain applications … plus it can be polished up and made asthetically appealing too.

              Diverging briefly, each materials technolgy has its merits, sure, but people tend to get myopically focused on just one performance metric and ignore all of the other important design characteristics of what they’re trying to develop: for example in replacing ‘brass’ for lighter weight ammo, aluminum is reactive (pyrophoric), plastic isn’t a heat sink, and steel isn’t as ductile.

              -hh

      2. Thanks huntzinger! You add excellent info.

        MDN fanatics would do well to acknowledge the wonderful innovation that also occurs outside of Cupertino. Some apparently don’t want to know the unvarnished truth.

    2. You seem to have no idea what you are talking about.
      It is very different from the sheet-metal forming used to make cans. This is a form of cold forging, the difference is in the metallic structure of the finished product.

      Aluminum cans are formed from (thin) sheet metal discs stamped from roll stock. they are then stamped into a low cup shape (thickening the sides) and then drawn into the full hight (thinning the sides)
      Cold forging of a puck of aluminum is a completely different animal (and results in the same amorphous crystal structural advantages of other types of cold forging.)

      No this is not like cans, it is even far more advanced (metallurgically & structurally) than the old mac pro case was (which was simply cold formed plate stock.

      1. ?!?! Intentionally arguing without data Tessellator?

        Despite your denial, the reality is that almost all modern beverage cans start from flat discs (“pucks”) of aluminum punched from flat sheet, then deep drawn. The new Mac Pro case is NOT made in a manner significantly different than any other deep-drawn metal. The process is much more automated than CNC, which is typically interpreted to mean a computer-controlled machining (material removal) process rather than a forming or shaping process.

        Ball shows its method here (glossing over some very intricate details that are highly proprietary, of course):

        Who doesn’t know what he is talking about?

        1. Oh puh-lease… that “artists conception” shows essentially what I described a sheet metal disk stamped into a low cup and then the sides are drawn up.

          Here is a short doc on the production of aluminum cans (in real life)

          Sheet metal forming and drawing are not even close to the same process as forging.

  2. One things for sure. Those those damn copy-cats won’t be able to copy this one or at least afford to do it an make a profit. Oh, they’ll copy the idea of peripherals being corded items but they’ll have a hard time with that one as well because the speed of those connections just won’t be there. Especially since most still require a legacy VGA connection. Blahhaha

  3. In the end, the new Mac Pro will still go down in history as the computer that looks like a “trash can”. That’s how things work out for Apple. Every time I look at the Android mascot icon, it makes me think of a commercial trash can. R2D2 was pretty much the same thing.

    I honestly don’t think there are going to be very many copycats of that design because it probably won’t be a very high-selling product, but then again, those Chinese are a bit crazy when it comes to cloning anything. However, I don’t think there will be much of a demand for any Wintel computer with non-standard internals. That’s just too much for most tech-heads to bear.

  4. The new design is interesting and maybe polarizing. I wouldn’t mind having one. I suspect Apple is targeting consumer “pros” (weekend videographers) or 2D creative professionals. High-end creatives and designers may not appreciate the lack of GPU options, not to mention no NVIDIA option. That’s not a bad move because Apple dominates the consumer market (on margin).

    1. I think just the opposite, prosumers are normally the ones with strong (video card) brand preferences. Pro’s tend to be more flexible because they are accustomed to using what they are provided.
      Further I think pro’s will like the modular approach as they also tend to use a multistage (workstation) pipeline workflow approach based off SAN storage (whereas prosumers tend to use local storage)
      I think this will be a far harder sell to the “techie” hardware geek prosumer than it will to professional studio’s (and laboratories for the scientific/research users)

  5. A lot of the “problems” with the new Mac Pro will eventually be realized to be nothing more than perception on the part of the beholder.

    I think that since the advent of online registration, Apple knows the specifics of the majority of Macs. I’m sure not every Mac has been registered, but most have… particularly those of “pro” users.

    And every time a crash report is sent Apple, the hardware specs of the Mac sending that report are included and updated if they changed… like added ram, extra HDs, and any cards in expansion slots.

    I think all that data is showing that the majority of professional users don’t, in fact, use most (if any) of the multiple slots in their old Mac Pro. I’m sure this isn’t the sole reason Apple went the way they did, but it was a factor.

    It is a mistake to judge an entire field of computer use (even one’s own, let alone others) based on one’s own personal experience. Any individual user is likely to be an exception, rather than the rule.

    The amount of filled slots and expansion on your computer doesn’t make you a “pro”.

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