The 360 Degrees (and 25,000 Hinge Tests) of Yoga Design

As the legend of our IdeaPad Yoga grows, we go straight to the source to learn about the boundary-busting PC’s most striking aspect—its design—with one of the people who created it. Andreas Schupp is Strategy Director of the Lenovo Industrial Design Center. Our conversation with him follows.

What was the inspiration for the design?

The IdeaPad Yoga concept dates back to 2004 when the design team in Beijing started looking at new form factor opportunities. The inspiration of the Yoga came from observing how the human body bends when practicing yoga.

The first prototypes of the Yoga design can be traced back to 2004; our Yoga concept PC won the Red Dot “Best of the Best” Design Award in 2005. The concept created new standards for laptop usability and innovation at that time, and we’re excited to realize this revolutionary concept today.

Tell us about how the screen moves and how that supports the four modes of use.

Yoga’s most outstanding feature is the touch screen, which can rotate a full 360 degrees. This enables new ways to use the product. You can do more than just use it as an Ultrabook laptop or tablet though; you can change to “Stand” mode for looking at pictures or watching movies and “Tent” mode for playing games, video chatting or whatever else you like.

So the original form factor dates to 2004, but was that done with touch in mind?

It was just a concept but, yes, it was for touch. Intended to drive innovation for touch, and what touch means for hardware. There was a clear push coming from the market. Now we consider PC+ the key element for evolving in the industry and for coming up with revolutionary tech. That’s our vision. Later, when we started to learn about Windows 8 with touch, it became an obvious choice to return to the Yoga concept.

This is obviously a product that is designed to be touched a lot. How did that impact the materials you selected for it?

It had a big impact. We chose rubber painting tech on the A and D covers which is made of magnalium and leather on the C cover. This delivers perfect tactility.

Did you have to do anything special to the keyboard considering that, in tablet mode, the keyboard rests on a surface?

When the screen rotates past 180 degrees, the keyboard and the touchpad automatically shut down and stop functioning. Also, we custom-designed a special sleeve that can protect the surface of the product and the keyboard area. 

What were the design challenges in creating this product, and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge was designing the new hinge to enable that 360-degree flip, making the rotation smooth enough and keeping the size of the hinge as small as possible. For durability, we put the Yoga hinge through a cycle of 25,000 high-pressure open/close movements. The average maximum number a user would open their Yoga in daily use is about 15 times per day. 

In order to achieve a slim touch screen design, we used chemical etching touch sensors on the cover glass and “direct bonding technology,” directly attaching the cover glass to the display panel. This makes the screen thinner and reduces light reflection, making the screen look brighter and more vivid. I am proud to say Lenovo is the first company applying this advanced technology to a 13-inch touchscreen.

The hinge is somehow both supple and firm—how did you do that and what is it made of? 

We specially designed a dual-hinge system which uses more flexible and stronger metal material—it’s made of Zinc Alloy. Also, we deal with the electrical wire layout in a smart way to make sure the hinges can pass the rotation test 25,000 times.

So you literally open and close the computer 25,000 times?

Yes, we have a machine that opens and closes the computer over and over to test the functionality of the hinge. There are other tests—keyboard functionality, drop tests, etc. When we build new products like Yoga, we want it to look good and we want it to last too.

How long did it take to come up with the hinge?

The development phase is usually about a year. To really improve the hinge structure, I think it was really about 6 months, but I can’t say for sure. The devil is in the details, and if you don’t get those details right—there was obviously a lot of pressure to get that component just right.

How does information get past the Yoga’s display to the computer itself?

Through the hinge. The hinge is basically the nerve center of this device.

Does the hinge lock in certain positions?

If you want to use touch in a conventional laptop mode, it can seem very clumsy because the screen may wobble a bit. So the touch really makes sense when you use the screen in a stable position like stand or tent. It’s a key element of how you interact with the device.

When Yoga is in one particular position, is there an angle that has an optimized performance?

People can use it at any angle they want. You’ll find that certain angles don’t make much sense. But generally, you have 360-degree flexibility as far as how you want to use it.