Although they’re not much more than concepts, fabric PCs may occupy a revolutionary space in the future of computing.
Fujitsu, Inc has created a concept design for a personal computer that is encased in a touch but pliable fabric frame. The screen will be bendable and foldable with a flexibility and thickness similar to that of a laminated sheet of paper.This may sound completely different from anything you’ve heard of or are used to, but it’s actually not a technology that is that far off, according to Fujitsu. They believe they’ll be able to crank out fabric computers within the next two to ten years.
You’re likely wondering how a computer could be designed to fit into fabric instead of a bulky steel frame. First off, it’s important to wonder why laptops are built in bulky steel frames in the first place. Even though it’s normalized, it’s not actually the way things necessarily have to be. It’s just been the first response to a recurring problem, which is that people only know how to make the components of your PC out of rigid, inflexible, bulky and fragile materials. From hard disk drives to screen displays, computers are made out of extremely vulnerable materials.
How will fabric PCs escape this issue? It starts with e-paper, a cutting-edge technology that allows the display screen to be paper-thin and bendable. Once the screen itself can bend, you free up a lot of the design to be flexible. The PC can be made with a pliable fabric backbone rather than a metal frame, and the components can remain rigid but at least be spread apart within the fabric, allowing for more flexibility within the larger object as a whole. The fabric PC also necessitates extremely straight-forward engineering that allows for individual components to be as small and lightweight as possible and omits non-essential components entirely. That means swapping hard disk drives for flash memory and removing CD/DVD capabilities completely (since you can download or stream audio/video files anyway, who really needs them?).
Let’s rewind for a second; how do you make a flexible display screen? You may not have heard of e-paper before this article, but you definitely will at some point. The technology was actually pioneered back in the 1970s by a man named Nick Sheridan at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center and has been developing ever since.
A huge aspect of e-paper technology is E ink, which is created by putting millions of tiny plastic wells into two sheets of flexible plastic. Each well contains both white and place particles that are suspended within a clear fluid. Because the white and black particles have opposite charges, if you apply electric voltage to individual wells using an underlying circuit board, the black and white particles can be separated to opposite sides of the plastic. This allows each well to operate as a separate pixel.
Using this design, e-paper can be curled or even folded like a sheet of laminated paper while suffering no damage. This is the technology that Fujitsu hopes to use for its fabric PC.