Printing A Replacement Case For The ThinkPad 701c

Even among ThinkPads, which are nearly universally loved by hardware hackers and Linux tinkerers alike, the 701c is a particularly rare and desirable machine. Best known for it’s “butterfly” slide out keyboard, the IBM-designed subnotebook from the mid-1990s has gained a following all its own, with active efforts to repair and restore any surviving specimens still out in the wild.

[polymatt] has already taken on a number of 701c restoration projects, but the recent release of a 3D printable case for the vintage laptop is arguably the most impressive to date. After spending an untold number of hours with an original case and a pair of calipers, the final design has been released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license — in other words, you’re free to print one to spruce up your 701c, but don’t run off a stack of them and start trying to move them on Etsy.

Originally, [polymatt] just wanted to 3D print a replacement for the laptop’s display bezel. But as often happens with these sort of projects, things just sort of started rolling and pretty soon the whole case was modeled. As you might imagine, the printed case has some slight differences between the original. For example, the printed version is designed to use heat set inserts. There’s also certain components, such as the hinges, which need to be sourced from an original case.

The most obvious use of these files is to perform repairs — if a piece of your 701c case has broken, you might be able to use one of these files to create a replacement. But it also offers some fascinating possibilities for future modifications. If you were planning on replacing the internals of the 701c with something more modern, these files would make an excellent starting point to create a customized case to better fit more modern components.

Whatever you end up doing with these files, don’t be shy — let us know.

11 thoughts on “Printing A Replacement Case For The ThinkPad 701c

  1. The first thing to do when tackling a project like this is buy a whole lot of the same color filament.
    The second thing to do, considering the project may make it to Hackaday, is buy up about 100 broken parts or repair versions of your chosen model and put them on Ebay. Stealth crowdfunding step 3…..
    Just like he improved the battery access, improve the material. Make an heirloom Thinkpad machined out of magnesium instead of injection molding. Maybe even other metals and some exotic wood here and there. That could inspire someone to re-do the guts.

    1. Amazing.
      Absolutely amazing.

      “…the warranty repair rate on the keyboard was >100%.”

      More devices had to be repaired than were produced.
      cf. …
      Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences – August 18, 2001, by John Allen Paulos.
      ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1124081335

    1. This was what I was wondering as well… Would it perhaps make more sense to design a case/adapter to allow you to use the fancy butterfly keyboard with a more modern laptop model? The use case for 30 year old laptop processor/RAM feels pretty limited… Especially since I’m guessing the “guts” hardware is probably rarer to find in working order than the outer case?

      Would love to see a model of this case around the Framework laptop… Of course you’d still have the issue of finding a source for the butterfly keyboard… Which seems like the most limiting factor of any of these efforts…

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