Home > Uncategorized > Me thinks: Is it possible to create a touchscreen Macbook Pro?

Me thinks: Is it possible to create a touchscreen Macbook Pro?

UPDATED December 22nd, 2012: I bought a top cover assembly for $15. Now I just need a caliper, so that I can accurately measure the room for the touch panel. Not able to find the part number of the plastic cover, but powerbookmedic.com actually measured the thickness for me (they were one of three vendors I inquired with).

 
Ever since I touched the Microsoft Surface at a Microsoft booth, I’ve been very much into the idea of the touchscreen. In my opinion, the Windows 8 interface is actually amazing to use! Trust me… I was incredibly surprised.

So, it got me to thinking… is it possible to take my A1278 (mid-2009/mid-2010) 13″ MacBook Pro and install a touchscreen?

Facts:

  • Macbook Pro mid-2009 to mid-2010 13″ model: A1278
  • A1278 top display assembly model: 661-5232
  • Thickness of plastic screen cover thing: 1.5mm
  • LCD display/screen model: AOU B133EW04 V4
  • Desired active/precision area for touch panel: 286.08X178.8mm (337.36cm diagonal)
  • Multi touch make and model: Unknown (see below)

Concerns:

  • Can I locate the properly sized multi-touch panel (13.28″ diagonal)? (see below)
  • Is there enough depth to install the touch panel into the bezel/display assembly?
  • Can I Dremel the bracket edges (what 3M calls the “tail” on the spec sheet) of the touch panel to allow for the touch panel to sit within the display assembly?
  • Since the touch panel’s cable exit is at “12 o’clock” how does this affect the usage of the web cam in the display assembly? Can I dremel a hole to allow for this? Or is the spec sheet correct and the exit is actually off center a little bit?
  • Most of these questions can be answered if I purchase the display assembly and get exact measurements, and compare them to the touch panel specs.

I had already done some research into touchscreen panels (after seeing videos of Emulator) and found that 3M produces a wide variety of sizes, and since they’re 3M, they are ready to take a bullet (almost literally, since a majority of them are certified for military use). Due to the target market of the panels, 3M happily provides specifications for use by designers/engineers.

The 3M touchpanels are available for purchase from Mouser or AllAmerican (or this using the site’s own finder). There are drivers available. With the specifications, I am able to conclude that the panel is about .147+/-.02″ (3.73mm+/-.51mm) thick. We’ll revisit this later. For this display, the outer glass area: 14.03″/356.4mm, the viewing area: 13.28″/337.2mm, the precision area: 12.53″/318.3mm.

Next up is to determine the space available in the top of the unibody shell. For this, I could only conclude that specifications for the display would work. I was able to locate the model number and then specs for a/the replacement display (AOU B133EW04 V4: diagonalXwideXhigh; 337.312mmx276.95mmx161.55mm).

What I need to verify is the thickness of the glass/plastic that covers the actual LCD. I can’t seem to locate the model number, hence specs yet. I wrote customer service at powerbookmedic.com, and they were able to have their warehouse people to measure the plastic piece. It is 1.5mm (0.059 inches) thick.

List of multi-touch panel manufacturers:
3M: no multi touch in the correct size (13.28″/337.312mm), but single touch listed above.
AMTouch: ?
Elo Touch Solutions (iTouch, iTouch Plus, IntelliTouch Plus)
Fujitsu (found nothing)
Idec (found nothing)
NKK Switches (nothing in the correct size)
PANJIT Touch Screens (nothing in the correct size)
Omron Industrial (industrial applications)
Semtech (found only controllers)
Siemens (industrial applications)
Leading Touch
More…

Buy them: jacoelectronics, arrow, cmtouchscreen, alibaba.

I will likely purchase a broken display assembly (661-5232) and mess with it. Maybe I’ll take the plunge and buy the 3m sensor as well, but not before I get measurements.

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