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Wooden-bodied computer claimed to be much greener than a regular PC

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August 7, 2012

The iameco v3 touchscreen computer (Photo: MicroPro Computers)

The iameco v3 touchscreen computer (Photo: MicroPro Computers)

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We have seen wooden-framed computers before, although those have generally been off-the-shelf machines that have simply received a steampunk makeover. A team of engineers from Ireland’s MicroPro Computers and Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration have gone considerably farther, however. Their wood-bodied iameco (“I am eco”) v3 touchscreen computer reportedly has 70 percent less carbon footprint than a regular desktop PC with a monitor.

First of all, the wood isn’t just there to look pretty. It’s part of the team’s effort to minimize the amount of toxic substances used in the production of the computer, or that will end up in the environment once it’s discarded – there’s no word on if the wood is reclaimed from other sources, or if it comes from virgin timber.

Other considerations in its construction include the use of passive copper heat sinks in place of an energy-consuming cooling fan, LED screen lighting that is said to improve its energy efficiency by 30 to 40 percent, and the almost total substitution of halogenated flame retardants with less toxic materials.

The iameco v3 touchscreen computer is said to have 70 percent less carbon footprint than a...

According to Fraunhofer, 98 percent of the machine can be recycled once it’s no longer in use. In fact, 20 percent of the computer can be recycled as is, without any processing – an example is the wooden frame, which could simply be transferred to another computer.

Ideally, however, it will be some time before anyone just wishes to get rid of their entire v3. It has a modular design and standard components, in order to encourage users simply to replace individual parts as needed. The engineers are also looking at ways in which older iamecos could be selectively upgraded to have the specs of brand new machines, instead of being entirely replaced. It’s an idea similar to that of Stanford University’s Bloom laptop concept.

MicroPro has actually been producing eco-friendly computers since 1992. The collaboration with Fraunhofer on the new machine is a recent development, however – as is the v3’s receiving of an EU Ecolabel, which the European Union awards to environmentally-friendly products.

There’s currently no word on price or availability, although a low-impact wooden-framed notebook computer is apparently also in the works.

Source: Fraunhofer

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
3 Comments

The wooden case is of course mostly a gimmick - the plastic shell of a computer is typically the easiest part to recycle by far, and accounts for a minor part of the total environmental impact of the computer anyway. Sure looks pretty though!

I'm much more impressed with their attention to the internals: improving energy efficiency, reducing flame retardants, etc. No word on the use of heavy metals and toxic chemicals in the electronics itself though?

Designing for ease of recycling and upgrading, like with the Bloom laptop, could make a *huge* impact on the mountains of toxic e-waste we're currently creating.

PatrikD
8th August, 2012 @ 11:17 am PDT

Low lead solder is a nightmare as far as how long a product lasts though. The red ring of death on XBOX 360s was due to the solder degrading because of the low lead content. So if they use low lead solder, then the device could simply quit working sooner.

Sean Lijek
9th August, 2012 @ 10:40 pm PDT

I am highly suspicious of the 70% greener number. Since the majority of energy is used in the production of the electronics components, not the case. Simply replacing a plastic (or metal) case with a wood one does not necessarily reduce the carbon footprint all that much.

Eletruk
13th August, 2012 @ 02:00 pm PDT
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