A precision aluminum unibody enclosure gives Mac notebooks structural integrity, providing all of the mounting features in a single part.

Makers of Ultrabooks, ultra-thin notebooks that conform to Intel’s recommended specs, are facing difficulties replicating Apple’s unibody process, citing limited capacity and price restrictions on the unibody process. They’ve come to realize that unibody construction requires expensive CNC equipment to machine a sturdy notebook case from a single block of aluminum, including internal parts and mounting features. Apple’s contract manufacturer Foxconn and supplier Catcher Technology own thousands of CNC machines and you can imagine where their priorities lie.

According to DigiTimes, the makers of would-be MacBook Air killers are turning to the cheaper high-density fiberglass chassis for the low-end, said to cost up to $30. For the high-end, Apple’s rivals are combining the exterior aluminum enclosure with plastic parts inside. Such a semi-unibody case is said to cost between $40 and $80:

The new aluminum chassis with plastic internal parts design will allow Ultrabooks to feature a metal appearance, but all the internal parts will be made from plastic stuck to metal parts using glue.

Ultrabook makers are still struggling to capture style, the manufacturing precision and price points of the MacBook Air, which now represents 28 percent of Apple’s notebook sales.  The company is expected to bank on the Air’s success by rethinking the MacBook Pro lineup around all-flash storage and the Air’s ultra-thin design. Apple’s design guru Jonathan Ive can be seen discussing the intricacies of the unibody construction in the 2009 documentary about industrial design entitled “Objectified”, included right after the break.

HP’s 13-inch Folio Ultrabook sports the rubberized metal bottom, bare naked metal LCD lid and keyboard chassis and internal plastic parts.

Apple’s notebooks sport all-aluminum unibody chassis, which includes internal parts that provide structural support and affix different components into place. Each CNC machine can produce one unibody chassis every three hours (or eight pieces a day). Catcher Technology is still recovering from the production stoppage at its Chinese plant. They are believed to have dedicated at least 60 percent of their unibody manufacturing capacity to Apple. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0fe800C2CU]

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