If you're going to compete in the consumer electronics business then you'd better have a solid grasp of industrial design and materials science. Otherwise, you're just another manufacturer trying to eke profit from drab slabs of commodity plastic. With the exception of the MacBook, Apple's entire Mac lineup is currently cut from aluminum. However, Apple's been caught experimenting with its newly acquired Liquidmetal materials recently, even as rumors swirl around new ultra-lightweight and durable carbon fiber components and enclosures. Speculation about the latter has been fueled by an Apple patent application for a process that would use carbon fiber materials woven into the reinforced device housings of mobile telephones, laptops, desktops, and tablets. Interestingly enough, the patent app was filed by Kevin M. Kenney (developer of the first all carbon fiber bicycle frame) on behalf of Apple back in 2009, a man who changed his job title to "Senior Composites Engineer at Apple Inc." on LinkedIn at some point after March 1st (according to Google cache). Of course, a carbon fiber laptop is far from unique -- just reference the Sony G11 from 2007 or 2008's Voodoo Envy 133 if you want to see how it's done. But if Apple makes a wholesale shift to carbon fiber in the months ahead then you can expect the horde of me-too OEMs to follow suit a year later. See the before and after LinkedIn profiles for Kenney after the break.

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