MacBook chassis plant stanches stench, reopening soon

Apple Senior Vice President Jonathan Ive explaining the company's move to unibody enclosures at an event in 2008.

(Credit:James Martin/CNET)

A Chinese manufacturing facility that is said to have played a large part in the creation of Apple’s MacBook notebooks is expected to reopen in November after being closed earlier this month, a new report says.

Reuters reports that Catcher Technology, which shut down on October 16 after nearby residents complained of “strong odors” from the plant, is set to finish improvements by the end of the month that will aim to fix those issues. the report says that the company plans to have everything back up and running next month, pending inspections from officials.

According to a report in electronic component news site DigiTimes last week, 80 percent of Catcher’s capacity at its facility in Suzhou, China is for creating the chassis Apple uses in its MacBook Pro line. That includes milling out a solid piece of aluminum, a technique the company began employing in 2008 to increase the strength, while cutting weight in its notebook computers.

Despite any issues with that particular plant, Apple moved forward with plans to refresh its notebook computers this week, introducing new versions of its MacBook Pro computers with boosted processing speeds and improved graphics. those new versions do not differ from previous models on the outside enclosure, short of tweaking two of the keyboard keys to match up with updated software features inMac OS X Lion.

Beyond the plant closure, one other threat that still looms for Apple’s MacBook Pro production pertains to hard drives. Flooding in Thailand threatens pricing and production levels of hard drives from Hitachi, Seagate, Toshiba and Western Digital. Apple continues to use hard disk drives in its MacBook Pro notebook line, while using flash memory in its MacBook Air line. During the company’s fourth quarter earnings call last week, Cook said such issues have been accounted for in the company’s forecast for its current quarter.