Microsoft Surface tablets facing supply constraints, chassis trouble?

By on July 9, 2012, 6:30 PM

Citing its usual upstream industry supply sources, Digitimes reports that Microsoft has canned plans for an aluminum-magnesium design in its upcoming Surface tablet. Instead, according to sources, Microsoft will be adopting a chassis made entirely from magnesium -- a move driven by supplier constraints.

Despite the change in material composition, Surface will still bear Microsoft's touted VaporMG technology. This is especially interesting because little is known about VaporMG, but Microsoft has attributed the incredible thinness of Surface to it. If what Digitimes says it is true though, they may have inadvertently revealed that VaporMG is simply a coating rather than a proprietary metal alloy.

Microsoft's change of chassis materials stems from the inability of suppliers to meet the company's demands for manufacturing the Surface shell. Microsoft is hoping to crank out 5 million units before the end of 2012 but after talking to several chassis makers, purportedly none of them could meet such a production volume. According to Digitimes, this has prompted Microsoft to ditch aluminum in its alloy and go full-on magnesium. Unfortunately for Microsoft though, VaporMG appears to present its own high-yield challenges despite the more easily manufactured magnesium design.

Will Surface suffer from supply shortages? It's hard to say, but this could be one possible result.

The change of materials should still produce a sturdy case -- a fact supported by other magnesium-clad products like the Toshiba Portege. Meanwhile, VaporMG should still produce that pleasantly smooth, almost soft finish found on demo Surface units. 

Additionally, Digitimes points out that the new design may make the tablet slightly heavier than originally planned, but I will point to the fact that magnesium is actually lighter than aluminum. Take that as you will.

User Comments: 11

Got something to say? Post a comment
tonylukac said:

I hope VaporMG isn't vaporware.

m4a4 m4a4 said:

Sounds like aluminum is stronger than magnesium, so they would have to make the magnesium shell thicker to make up for that. Hence the heavier weight...

Guest said:


Here is a few comparisons between the two.

1. Aluminum versus magnesium is heavier and more corrosion resistant.

2. Magnesium is a lightweight substitute for aluminum

3. Magnesium needs a protective coating to make it an anti corrosive material.

4. Aluminum has a lower die casting cost when compared to magnesium.

5. Magnesium is soft and flexible when compared to aluminum, which is stronger.

Guest said:

"Sounds like aluminum is stronger than magnesium, so they would have to make the magnesium shell thicker to make up for that. Hence the heavier weight..."

No. Some people seem to have forgotten that when talking about how soft/strong etc. these Ultrabook materials, we're talking by metal standards here. Magnesium is still massively stronger than plastic, the minor difference in strength between magnesium and aluminium isn't going to necessitate using a thicker chassis. I even read one ***** elsewhere say he felt aluminium was "too soft" (presumably because he read it was soft compared to other metals and alloys) for making Ultrabooks and they should use carbon fibre instead (which is just a fancy name for a certain type of plastic). *facepalm*

m4a4 m4a4 said:

So I've got 2 responses, yet neither has tried explaining the author's last paragraph...

...carbon fibre instead (which is just a fancy name for a certain type of plastic)

Yes, it uses polymer (which is usually mixed with resins) but no, the main thing is the carbon fibers. If it wasn't more expensive and a longer process, then it would probably be used instead of aluminum/magnesium.

Guest said:

Magnesium is not lighter than aluminium (it has a lower Relative Atomic Mass, perhaps that's where the confusion came from?)

Uvindu said:

The MG in VapourMG probably stands for Mg (Magnesium). If so, then even if it were cheaper to use Carbon Fiber, they would still have to use Magnesium coz they have already said it will feature VapourMG.

As for it being just a coating, yes its quite possible that it maybe some sort of Magnesium Coating, but then again, magnesium is pretty reactive, so the VaporMG coating itself will need a coating.

It may also be something else they are doing to the Magnesium to make it feel different...

Guest said:

Magnesium coats itself with MgO on exposure to air, preventing further corrosion, so any synthetic coating is presumably cosmetic?

Guest said:

I think the most interesting property of magnesium is that it burns like a bastard!

Guest said:

They are using magnesium alloy, not just pure magnesium.. and magnesium always used for replacing aluminum for alloy.. please gather some information before give comment

Guest said:

Mg is 2/3 density of Al

Load all comments...

Add New Comment

TechSpot Members
Login or sign up for free,
it takes about 30 seconds.
You may also...
Get complete access to the TechSpot community. Join thousands of technology enthusiasts that contribute and share knowledge in our forum. Get a private inbox, upload your own photo gallery and more.