Apple is rumored to be exploring the integration of 3D printing into its product design procedures, and a recent report sheds light on the specifics of this impending transition. According to information disclosed by Mark Gurman at Bloomberg, Apple is poised to embark on its maiden venture into 3D printing, initially experimenting with select models of the forthcoming Apple Watch Series 9.
Apple is currently in the testing phase of using 3D printers to fabricate the steel chassis in some of its upcoming smartwatches. This development marks a significant departure from the company’s traditional manufacturing methods as it seeks to employ this innovative technique.
This innovative approach eliminates the necessity of cutting substantial metal pieces into the desired product configuration. Gurman’s report underscores the dual objectives of expediting the product assembly process and mitigating environmental impact.
The report elaborates on the procedure known as “binder jetting.” This process involves the creation of a print using a powdered substance, which subsequently undergoes sintering. This operation employs heat and pressure to compress the material into a form resembling conventional steel. The final touches, involving the design and cutouts, are executed through milling, akin to the earlier production method.
Importantly, it should be noted that not all iterations of the Apple Watch Series 9 will be manufactured using this newly adopted 3D printing method. Apple is anticipated to confine this trial run to specific stainless steel models, which constitute a minority within the range of watch hardware offerings.
Ming-Chi Kuo, a supply chain analyst, highlighted several companies engaged in Apple’s 3D printing endeavor in July. Kuo identified the Apple Watch Ultra 2 as the initial product incorporating 3D-printed components. However, Gurman’s report indicates that the adoption of the 3D printing process for the Ultra watch casing itself may not occur until at least next year.