Electronic – How to build a custom laptop computer with original chassis, keyboard, etc?


I'm interested in building a custom laptop computer with the hope of being able to sell it and make a profit. The only problem is I have no idea where to start. I have an idea for a laptop chassis which is very different than what you're used to seeing. I'm looking to design it in a CAD program. I will also need to be able to design the keyboard, which will also be of an unusual shape, the monitor, and the rest of the hardware. I will need to be able to manufacture it, or find somebody who can take my designs and build it for me.

How do I go about getting started? Any suggestions? I need suggestions for:

  • Possible manufactures
  • CAD software
  • How to do computer engineering using off the shelf components

I'm a software engineer by profession, so all this hardware stuff is alien to me. Thanks!

Best Answer

I agree with @Faken; plastic injection molds are way too expensive for DIY. You can make first prototypes in SL (StereoLithography), but they don't compare with molded ABS or PC.
For a CAD program there's a number of options, Pro Engineer or Solid Designer to name a few. 3D CAD is expensive, and be prepared for a long learning curve. SolidWorks and AutoDesk Inventor should get you up and running more quickly (sic @Faken).

You can use components for COTS laptops, like display, HDD/SSD and optical drives. However, designing a motherboard is not an easy task. You'll need another CAD program (expensive, learning curve) and a lab to do primarily testing. Laying out a PCB is not connect-the-dots. Keywords: EMC, transmission lines, power.

Since you're a software engineer you should have some idea of the difficulties here. Do you want to run Linux? Can you write the drivers? Can you test your software?

all in all
Designing a new product and hoping someone will be interested is a risky thing, at least. A manufacturer will want to have his say about the design, and ultimately may want to do most of it, if not all, himself. Why do you think your unusual keyboard design will appeal?