Summary: The Framework Laptop 16 features two custom connectors that enable hot-swappable modules and high-performance upgrades, showcasing the importance and complexity of connectors in creating a modular and customizable laptop experience.
- Allows for hot-swappable modules, giving users the ability to fully customize their input deck
- Customized pogo pin solution for durability and reliability
- Customized version of FXBeam connector for compatibility and robustness
In our latest update on the Framework Laptop 16, we delve into the intricate world of connectors. While you may not initially think of connectors as the most exciting aspect of a laptop, they play a vital role in creating a slim, durable, high-performance, and easily repairable product. These electrical and mechanical interfaces are what make the laptop modular, allowing for customization and upgradeability.
Connectors need to meet a plethora of requirements. They must be easy to engage, resistant to accidental disconnection during vibrations or drops, reliable across multiple re-connections, thin enough to fit within tight spaces, electrically sound in terms of signal integrity and power, easily manufacturable, and cost-effective. To achieve these goals, we typically opt for well-established off-the-shelf connectors. However, there are times when unique interconnect scenarios require us to develop custom solutions.
In the case of the Framework Laptop 16, we had to create two custom connectors to enable our new module ecosystems. The first connector is responsible for interfacing with Input Modules and the Touchpad Module. This connector allows for hot-swappable modules, giving users the ability to fully customize their input deck. While the signal requirements for this connector are relatively straightforward, the mechanical challenges were significant. The exposed pins had to be robust enough to withstand handling, and they also needed to endure compression and shear forces caused by the engagement of the Touchpad Module. All of this had to be accomplished within a limited thickness. Initially, we experimented with a spring-based connector but found it susceptible to accidental bending and pin breakage. We then collaborated with CFE, a leading pogo pin manufacturer, to develop a custom pogo pin solution. Despite their small 0.8 mm diameter, these brass pins are incredibly durable, rated for 10,000 cycles and difficult to damage.
The second custom connector is far more electrically complex. This interposer connects the Mainboard to Expansion Bay Modules, enabling the upgradeability of high-performance modules like discrete GPUs. With two 74-pin interfaces supporting 8-lane PCIe 4.0, DisplayPort, and high current requirements, meeting the specifications proved challenging. Additionally, we needed to ensure that the connector was easy to handle and could withstand repeated cycles. We initially explored off-the-shelf connectors used by other brands attempting modular graphics systems in notebooks but found them lacking in reliability. Working closely with Neoconix, we developed a customized version of their FXBeam connector that is compatible with our Mainboard interface and significantly more robust. The structure of the connector securely holds the pins in place, preventing damage from external forces. This ensures the interposer can be safely handled and cycled, allowing for seamless swapping between Expansion Bay Modules.
As we near the shipping phase of the Framework Laptop 16, it’s essential to appreciate the complexity and importance of connectors in creating a truly modular and customizable laptop experience. These connectors may not steal the spotlight, but they are the unsung heroes ensuring the smooth operation and longevity of our innovative product.
DisplayPort: DisplayPort is a digital display interface developed by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA). It is primarily used to connect a computer to a monitor or other display device such as a television. DisplayPort is capable of delivering high-resolution video and audio, as well as providing power to connected devices. It is also capable of daisy-chaining multiple displays together, allowing for a single connection to multiple monitors. This makes DisplayPort a popular choice for gamers, video editors, and other users who require multiple displays. DisplayPort is also used in many laptops and tablets, allowing for a single connection to a monitor or other display device. It is also used in many modern TVs, allowing for a single connection to a computer or other device.
hot-swappable: Hot-swappable technology is a type of technology that allows components to be added or removed from a system without having to shut it down. This technology is widely used in the computer industry, as it allows for quick and easy upgrades or repairs to be made without having to power down the system. Hot-swappable technology is used in a variety of computer components, such as hard drives, RAM, and graphics cards. It is also used in servers and other networking equipment, allowing for quick and easy maintenance and upgrades. Hot-swappable technology is a great way to keep a computer system running smoothly and efficiently, as it allows for quick and easy repairs and upgrades without having to power down the system.
PCIe: PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) is a high-speed serial computer expansion bus standard for connecting components such as graphics cards, sound cards, and network cards to a motherboard. It is the most widely used interface in the computer industry today, and is used in both desktop and laptop computers. PCIe is capable of providing up to 16 times the bandwidth of the older PCI standard, allowing for faster data transfer speeds and improved performance. It is also used in a variety of other applications, such as storage, networking, and communications. PCIe is an essential component of modern computing, and its applications are only expected to grow in the future.
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