WSI helps develop cloud-based, pocket-sized Solu computer

Areas Used

  • Development

WSI helps develop cloud-based, pocket-sized Solu computer

In 2015, the Finnish company Solu Machines asked WSI to help develop an advanced, handheld computer with a cloud-linked operating system. Although the revolutionary product was not launched to the public, the prototypes worked as expected and looked beautiful. WSI did the system design, electronics development and heat management. The prototypes were built in close collaboration with Solu Machines, who did the mechanical design and software. Close collaboration between different disciplines was essential.

Solu Machines was founded in 2014 to develop the Solu computer. Solu, the Finnish word for a cell, is an advanced cloud-linked computer that eliminates the need for a large hard drive, file backups or complex software installations. The palm-sized computer is covered by a square, 4.5” touch display, and has an exterior made of wood. When connected to an external display over the display port, Solu’s touch display is used as a touchpad.

A portable computer with a unique OS

“The idea is that you can take this computer with you wherever you go,” says Håkan Ohlgren, CTO and Chief Architect at WSI. “The battery lasts approximately five hours when used and is charged when you plug in the USB cable at home or at the office.”

Solu Machines created the computer’s industrial and mechanical designs, as well as the Solu operating system based on Linux. Solu was designed to be a collaborative tool, with document sharing and discussions at the core of its OS. The device, which connects to networks using WiFi, is based on the high-performance NVIDIA® Tegra K1 application processor.

Maintaining performance while reducing heat

WSI was responsible for Solu’s system design and electronics, including wireless connectivity and a USB 3.0 port for interface flexibility. Careful heat management design was critical to the success of the project.

“The computer’s application processor offers very high graphical and computational performance, which results in high heat dissipation,” says Ohlgren. “Since wood is a very good thermal insulator, we needed to implement a very efficient and compact active heat management system. This involved custom heat pipes, heat sinks and a low-noise fan.”

Successful prototype and collaboration

Solu’s wooden mechanics were tested over and over to find the most suitable material. Thin wood can deform and break in varying humidity and temperature. Finally, the right wood material was found and selected.

“Using wood and glass resulted in a beautiful product but presented big challenges,” says Ohlgren. “At WSI we believe nothing is impossible, it’s part of our DNA. It was very rewarding when we succeeded with the task, and the result was stunning.”