Apple monocoque or not

Apple’s refresh of the Macbook line this fall is more evolutionary than revolutionary. In terms of design they have continued the trend, which started with the iPhone (see the drilled headphone jack hole on the original model) towards machining directly from block metal. This has lead to the latest Macbooks as being described as having monocoque structures, something which may not strictly be false but which is meaningless in the context.

A monocoque is a single piece shell structure, it is a nice sounding word and is often used in marketing literature because it sounds technical. Because of this, and because of the fact that things like commercial airliners are hybrids of frame and shell structures almost anything can be described as such. There is a perfect geodesic truss in the list below which is described as a monocoque shell structure (the opposite), while an ordinary soda can is a monocoque.

The use of machining for Apple parts has more to do with tolerances and finish and almost nothing to do with structure, so the term is not relevant.

Below we discuss the merits of things which are described as monocoque - but as for the Macbook, not really.


Posted by David Galbraith

 
If cars can reduce the weight of engines, then the advantages of carbon fiber composites, rather than metal monocoques, will allow for much higher fuel efficiency. The problem is that low inertia structures such as these have to compete in the arms race, with things like SUVs.
The snail like shell of a Vespa scooter lends itself to a structure that more suits a genuine monocoque than most motorcyles. This seems worthy of the term.
These structures are more like bones, where the force lines follow the form. If this were the case the structure would be geodesic and ultimately more interesting.<p /><p />To call these monocoque seems to reduce teh term to an absurd conclusion, where a frame structure or truss is called monocoque because its components are hollow. <p /><p />To be this looks like the antithesis of its description as a monocoque structure.
Carbon fiber rowing boats with their extreme minimalism and one piece deck and hull are certainly monocoques.
These shells, ostrich, hen and quail are all true monocoques. Even the aspherical shape of eggs, which is weaker than a sphere, may have a structural advantage when they are dropped, orienting themselves to land with less chance of breaking.
A coke can has no bizarre internal truss system and the aluminum shell is a monocoque, with all of its strength derived from the dimple in the base. Without that it woudl collapse.
Almost all forms of plastic tableware could be described as monocoque, showing how meaningless the term is in the context of something like a laptop. I guess if one were to nit pick, the fact that there is no integral roof in a plastic container means that is is not quite the same as a shell structure.
At first glance, this is a seemingly bizarre use of the term monocoque, since it looks like a truss structure - but the frame shape doesnt really give it overall rigidity, instead the rigidity is genuinely due to the fact that it is a hollow carbon fiber shell.
This item is the real deal - where a skin structure has been used unconventionally and innovatively.
In the commercial airliner item, I pointed out that many motor cycles which are described as monocoque are stretching the term. However, the classic cafe racer style, with integral seat, does lend itself to something of a monocoque shell for the rider, while relying on a frame chassis to support the engine.
Semi Monocoque means that there is a frame supporting a shell, where the shell is semi load bearing. This is the ubiquitous form of construction for commercial airliners, but the term is often extended to motorcycles which are clearly frame structures with fairings that have almost no structural role. It is a matter of degree, and therefore open to abuse.
From this to the more recent Lotus pursuit bikes, the use of complex shaped carbon fiber forms does justify the use of the word monocoque. However, these days many bicycle manufacturers market individual components, such as front forks, as monocoque. A piece of lead pipe could be thus described.
It is pretty difficult to imagine a shell style helmet that is not monocoque. The sleight of hand here appears to be the fact that all layers are assembled in a single mold, creating an overall single shell. This would perhaps differentiate it from some other designs but not in such as way as they could not also be called monocoque shells.
This was Future Systems first major project built - and in order to live up to their name a spacey high tech shell structure was used. This time the result does indeed seem to be a monocoque of note.
Airstream use the word monocoque to refer to the curved glass, not the body. In other words the curve in the glass is in a single piece. Another way of describing this would be to say: &quot;curved glass&quot;.<p /><p />The airstream structure looks like the semi monocoque of a commercial airliner, however it may be that a frame takes most of the load.

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