How Apple's Supply Chain Dominance Let It Shoot Lasers Through Your Computer

Apple's stranglehold over the whole of its supply chain allows it to get parts and tech in its products at a much faster clip than its competitors, but Business Week has a really interesting look at how that advantage materialised in a real and awesome way.

It started with presiding Apple bad-arse Jon Ive deciding that he wanted a tiny green light to shine through the aluminium (al-loo-min-ee-um) case to let you know when the camera is on. No biggie; just have light punch through solid metal. And his team did it! They used a customised laser to poke tiny holes in the metal that are invisible to the naked eye. But um, then they had to repeat the process several million times over:

Apple needed lasers and lots of them. The team of experts found a US company that made laser equipment for microchip manufacturing which, after some tweaking, could do the job. Each machine typically goes for about $US250,000. Apple convinced the seller to sign an exclusivity agreement and has since bought hundreds of them to make holes for the green lights that now shine on the company's MacBook Airs, Trackpads, and wireless keyboards.

That's the kind of supply magic that only Apple really has the muscle to pull off and it's had me staring in awe at my Magic Trackpad for the past 20 minutes because I never realised how incredibly cool light-up aluminium is.

[Business Week]

Image: nobilog returns

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