First Look: Dell’s “Concept Luna” Aiming for Laptop Durability with Modular Parts


As CES 2022 approaches, Dell showed PCMag a slew of concrete products that will be unveiled at the show and are expected to ship in the new year. But the PC maker Also showcased several prototypes and concepts, the most intriguing of which debuted ahead of the Las Vegas conference. “Concept Luna”, unveiled today, is a forward-looking vision for sustainable and recyclable laptops.

Concept Luna is not a unique product. It is a holistic approach to addressing the disposable nature of today’s laptops and a way to implement the “Right to a Repair” principles into the pre and post sales processes of a. large manufacturer.

Luna was demonstrated to us on a single prototype unit, plus a working sample. Dell told us how a future notional laptop, designed with Concept Luna’s goals in mind, could be taken apart for repair, recycling and extension.

Watch the video above to see how it works in practice and to hear a Dell representative explain the company’s vision.

Laptops for tomorrow: recycling and downcycling

If you watched the video you can see how a theoretical laptop would come apart for repair. The idea is that every aspect of the laptop is replaceable, from the keyboard to the screen to everything below. But that alone is not the whole concept. After all, products like the Laptop Framework once pioneered the concept of shipping hardware.

Given the volume and variety of laptops produced by Dell, Concept Luna aims to create a unified design and infrastructure to extend the life of laptops and for their components to potentially have a useful life beyond. of their first laptop. The idea is that the parts can be recycled, or that the components are pure and simple reused, cascading to “new” products. If laptops shared a chassis, or at least one chassis size and some internal form factors, the same motherboards could fit into a wider variety of laptops, or a work panel could be reinstalled on one. another functional system of a later generation.

(Photo: Molly Flores)

Dell’s vision is to be able to replace and recycle parts in any laptop, creating an interchangeable and cyclical ecosystem. A key difference, however, is that recycling wouldn’t just be about what you traditionally think of – reducing the component to its raw materials for future use – but also applying an older (but still functional) part to a new product. fully guaranteed. . This product would be clearly evaluated for the level of performance that the “old new” part can offer.

An example that Dell used was to take a Core i5 processor / motherboard from a laptop that has been in use for years, and assess its level of performance against modern standards. Based on this judgment, Dell could decide if this chip / card now offered approximately Core i3 level performance due to its degradation or its new relative place in the market, then implement it in an equivalent “Core i3” system. ” cheaper. instead, saving both on materials and production costs on a new chip.

This is just an example, but the idea is that scenarios like this could apply to internal wiring, motherboard, or display panel. At present, if a laptop’s panel deteriorates, many users will get rid of the whole system. Under the Luna paradigm, Dell or the user could more easily replace the panel and get the laptop back to working order. Likewise, today in many cases we would consider an older laptop to be dead if, for example, the motherboard dies. But in the case of a Luna style design, some of the remaining work pieces can at least be harvestable. (Parts that take knocks, like the keyboard, are unlikely to be good candidates for this, but other parts of the laptop, such as the screen, could be reusable.)

Dell Concept Luna

(Photo: Molly Flores)

Dell would like to be able to use a universal chassis, or at the very least standardized internal layouts (for example, with the base screw holes in the same places) to be able to reuse components across a range of products, thereby extending the life of the product. Advice.

From the video you can see inside the Concept Luna prototype that a lot of work has been done to have as few parts as possible welded or nailed down, reworking how the components attach and how the cables are routed.

Luna’s spyglass

This, of course, is a lofty vision at the scale of a company like Dell. This presages a lot of infrastructure work, both to set up internal procedures and systems and to build laptops in a new way under modular constraints. But the first prototype showed what was possible, and Dell had a working system alongside the “failure” demo unit you see in the video above.

The Luna concept is definitely a long-term vision: Dell would like to meet some of its design goals by 2030. Given the complexity of the guts of laptops and the breakneck pace at which mobile silicon is evolving, we have some skepticism. as to the feasibility of Luna. in the pure form we see here. But, as a stated objective, it is a positive point for the company, the consumers and the planet, even if it only manifests itself in an altered form in the years to come.

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