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nickjd
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎05-20-2008
Location: Dayton, Ohio

Titanium Cover on older thinkpads EXPOSED ;)

Hey everyone, I wanted to post about my little project.

This is an x41 tablet. I've had it for years, and actually still use it for surfing the web and taking notes on things. It's a handy little machine. But, I figured my 4 year warranty is long expired, so why the heck not try and sand off that plain old black rubberized coating? Well, I'd recommend doing this if you know for sure your laptop has a metal cover like mine. All the old T series have them I think. I know the T4x did, but I honestly have no idea about any new laptops. I would also warn you that of course water is bad for your laptop. You have to use wet sanding to get this stuff off.

Also as an interesting note the material might not be titanium. Although it is possible to cast titanium, I doubt that this is. I think it's a magnesium alloy but I have no way of telling because Titanium, Magnesium and sometimes even Aluminum alloys are similar in look. It all depends on the elements that are alloyed with them. It is pretty clearly a cast piece, because under close inspection of it, I found it has features cast into it. Clearly, it is a cast magnesium piece like the frames of most thinkpads.

Well, the process I used went like this:
- I took off the IBM Thinkpad logo and the status LED light cover. The pointy end of a razor blade was enough to lift the edge and carefully peel it off. The rubber coating doesn't sand off very well. I scraped it off with a heavy sharp camping knife. You'll figure out your own technique, it's not hard. Obviously just don't put the pointy end directly into it because you'll make scratches that are hard to sand out.

- The plastic coating underneath the rubber coating is really tough stuff. To get the result that I have in the photos, it took probably 4 hours of work (all sanding!). I started with 320 grit paper. ONLY use WET paper. The dry stuff just fills up with the plastic and stops sanding. Keep it damp enough to keep the sand paper clean. I used a little pail of water to dip the paper in and that's as wet as it needs to be. I put paper towels in between the screen and also underneath the laptop to catch ALL of the water that drips around the edges.

- Once you get all the black stuff off (took me about two hours) you can start moving up to finer sand paper. Move up the respective grit size: 400, 600, 800, 1200, 1500, 2000 and finally 2500. If you buy just one sheet each of the fine grit stuff (400 to 2500) it should be enough. Any auto body repair shop or most home supply stores should have up to the 2500 grit and should cost about 50 cents a sheet. I'd buy a couple sheets of the 320 grit paper just in case, because the plastic coatings are TOUGH STUFF. On the finer stuff, I only used 1/8th of each sheet.

- It's tempting to try it, but trust me. You can't really skip the intermediate levels of sand paper and go from 320 to 2500 grit. Each step after the 600 grit is maybe just a couple minutes each. It's pretty quick if you do it right. Keep in mind that after the 1500 grit, you probably want to keep sanding in ONE DIRECTION ONLY. That way, you have a UNIFORM pattern. The 2500 grit is fine enough that with some polishing compound you should be able to give it a mirror finish or nearly so. The last few levels of sand paper are important to have only one sanding direction and NOT circular patterns because it just looks really non-uniform and messy. A machine could probably do it and have it look nice, but by hand straight lines are the best way.

- After the approximate 4 hours of sanding on my free evenings (I was watching TV while doing it!) I used some left over Automotive Clear Coat in a spray can. Any car supply store should have that for about $10-15. I'd spring for the best stuff they have, because there is a difference and the good stuff will keep a nice finish longer (I'm a mechanical engineer and do all my own car body repairs :smileyhappy: )

- When you spray it, make sure you got all the dust and fingerprints off the surface. When I sprayed mine, there were a few particles of dust that showed up on the surface. Also, make sure that you spray in continuous spray paths that start AND end off of the surface. Meaning, don't start spraying in the middle. Also, don't end a spraying motion in the middle. It will be uneven. Do it in good lighting and not in hot sunlight. Also, DO NOT force dry clear coat. It can turn milky (tiny tiny bubbles). On mine, the clear coat made a very nice perfectly glossy surface in one coat. When you spray it, there is a fairly fine line between just right and too much. When you spray it and are unsure if it was enough, look at the surface at different angles to see if you can see how even or uneven the spray is. There's nothing wrong with multiple coats either. You can recoat after a couple minutes and as long as the laptop is held very flat, dripping won't be a huge problem like it is on my car bumper lol.

 

 

There's an interesting feature to the surface of the metal. There are scratches made by a special tool that I wasn't willing to sand out. I know the metal is pretty thin, so I didn't want to weaken it more than I already was. I am a mechanical engineer, but my best guess is that it was a scratch test to verify the quality of the cast metal cover. Thin metal structures are difficult to cast and have the properties uniform throughout.


[img][/img]

I hope you all enjoy! PLEASE tell me which thinkpads you know have a metal cover! This is a pretty cool mod!

community supermod
erik
Posts: 5,018
Registered: ‎11-23-2007
Location: United States
0

Re: Titanium Cover on older thinkpads EXPOSED ;)

[ Edited ]

outstanding!   the exposed lid looks great on your X41T.

 

what you're looking at is magnesium alloy.   to the best of my knowledge, only the X30, X31, X32, and T30 had titanium composite lids.   the Z61t had an optional titanium alloy lid that was closer to commercial grade, however i don't know the exact grade.   most likely it was grade 5.

 

 

edit: this reminds me of canon's "exposed" 1D3.   it was assembled before the magnesium frame parts were painted.

 

1D3_mag.jpg

ThinkStation C20Microsoft MVP
ThinkPad X1C · X220 · X60T · s30

Paper Tape
nickjd
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎05-20-2008
Location: Dayton, Ohio
0

Re: Titanium Cover on older thinkpads EXPOSED ;)

Thanks, it was a quick and dirty work. I did it on two evenings after I got home :smileywink:

 

Yeah, in my post I deduced that it was magnesium like the main structure of many laptops. Our old T43p appears to be of the same construction and many people claim that it was some kind of titanium. I guess I should have put "Titanium" in quotations :smileywink: My X41t isn't as rigid as that T43p, so maybe it's of a different construction. 

 

I'm no metallurgist, but my guess is that for a titanium lid it's some kind of stamped or hydroformed lid that is then laminated with a layer of composite. I don't think that titanium is easy to cast like that, but to be fair I don't remember my materials science classes well enough lol. It's a very cool look though and I love it. It looks very stylish and very utility now which is what a thinkpad should be!!!

 

Yeah, you're right a lot of high end cameras are made with the same die casting techniques. My old canon 20d is cast magnesium and shows where the paint has worn through. 

 

I know the new thinkpads are lighter and probably just as tough, but I do wish my W510 was made of these cool materials! The lid is most assuredly just a plastic-carbon fiber composite which is very black and boring lol. 

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tiger015
Posts: 4
Registered: ‎11-17-2011
Location: Louisiana, USA
0

Re: Titanium Cover on older thinkpads EXPOSED ;)

Nice work! Does any one know if newer tablets have this too. I am tempted to do the same with my 2 months old x220t ;-)
Paper Tape
nickjd
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎05-20-2008
Location: Dayton, Ohio
0

Re: Titanium Cover on older thinkpads EXPOSED ;)

It looks like the x220t also has a magnesium cover according to the tabook 

"Case material Display cover: Magnesium + PCABS; Bottom: Magnesium alloy"

I'm not sure what the "+ PCABS" means, it might just mean it's also a coating but I don't know if it's a structural cover to the magnesium or just a coating. If you really want to do it, gently sand the corner to see what is underneath the black coating. 

 

But, maybe you shouldn't do it on such a new laptop that still has a warranty :smileyhappy: 

 

I've also found that the automotive clear coat that I bought isn't as durable as I had hoped. I guess it shows that you really need to buy the most expensive best quality stuff that you can find lol. I think mine will be ok as long as nothing really sharp doesn't scratch into it.

community supermod
erik
Posts: 5,018
Registered: ‎11-23-2007
Location: United States

Re: Titanium Cover on older thinkpads EXPOSED ;)

[ Edited ]

nickjd wrote:

It looks like the x220t also has a magnesium cover according to the tabook 

"Case material Display cover: Magnesium + PCABS; Bottom: Magnesium alloy"

I'm not sure what the "+ PCABS" means, it might just mean it's also a coating but I don't know if it's a structural cover to the magnesium or just a coating.


the lid itself is magnesium alloy.   at the top front edge is a plastic "cap" of PC+ABS (polycarbonate + acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) covering the wireless antennas for better transmission.   metal is a poor transmitter for multiple wireless signals so the plastic allows markedly improved signals.

 

most thinkpads have a metal cover of some sort.   in fact, it would be easier to name those with plastic covers than metal.

 

 

this photo is of the X220 notebook lid but the materials are the same:

 

(edit: typo)

ThinkStation C20Microsoft MVP
ThinkPad X1C · X220 · X60T · s30