CNC Milling Allowed Apple to Create the World’s Thinnest Laptop

MacBookA decade ago, Steve Jobs unveiled the MacBook Air in a clever on-stage demonstration by removing the two-pound laptop from a flat manila envelope. At just .76 inches at its thickest point, it was the thinnest laptop ever created. The MacBook Air challenged preconceived notions about industrial design, and ushered in a whole new era of ultra-slim laptops that seem to defy the limits of their hardware.

Now, ten years after consumers first laid eyes on the MacBook Air, Apple is reportedly preparing to retire the laptop from its product lineup. That’s why we’d like to take a moment to highlight the contribution CNC milling made to the original design of the world’s thinnest laptop.

In 2008, Apple’s designers were working to develop new manufacturing techniques that could streamline the process of creating unibody aluminum products. At the time the company was using CNC machines to design product prototypes, but not to mass-produce its final products.

In an effort to make the MacBook Air a reality, Apple began investing heavily in its CNC infrastructure so that it could be scaled-up for mass production.

Since then, Apple has begun using CNC mills to mass-produce other products like iPhones and MacBook Pros as well. These sleek, seamless aluminum bodies have become a trademark of Apple’s design aesthetic, and it’s all thanks to the power and precision of CNC machining. In recent years, other laptop manufactures like Acer and Asus have even adopted Apple’s methodology to create their own super-skinny “Ultrabook” PCs.

The MacBook Air may be nearing the end of its lifespan, but the CNC processes that made the innovative laptop possible are still having a profound effect on today’s consumer electronics.

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