Credit: Simon Daoudi
Mark Gurman at Bloomberg says Apple has decided on its first use of 3D printing as a sort of a test run, 3D printing the chassis of at least some models of this year’s Apple Watch lineup.
According to Gurman’s sources, Apple is testing the production of 3D printers to produce the stainless steel chassis for some Apple Watch Series 9 units. This would mark a huge change in the way Apple creates the component, as the method would remove the need to machine large slabs of metal into the necessary shape.
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Gurman’s report says the move should improve the speed of product assembly while also decreasing its environmental impact. His report goes into detail about the process that will be used, which is called “binder jetting.”
The print is made with a powdered substance, which afterward goes through a process called sintering. That uses heat and pressure to squeeze the material into what feels like traditional steel. The exact design and cutouts are then milled like in the previous process.Mark Gurman
Not all Apple Watch Series 9 models will be manufactured using the new 3D printing process; Apple is expected to limit the test run to select stainless steel models.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about Apple considering 3D printing in its Apple Watch manufacturing. In July, Apple industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said the 3D printing process could also be used to manufacture the Apple Watch Ultra 2.
Kuo said an Apple supply chain survey indicated that “Apple is actively adopting 3D printing technology,” adding that “Some of the titanium mechanical parts of the 2H23 new Apple Watch Ultra will be made by 3D printing.”
Kuo says the components that could be manufactured with 3D printing include the Side Button, Action Button, and Digital Crown. The titanium components are currently produced using a CNC machine.
However, Gurman says his sources tell him that the Ultra watch casing itself won’t be manufactured using a 3D printing process until the 2024 Ultra model at the earliest.
Apple’s use of 3D printing technology has the potential to shorten production time while also reducing costs. If the initial experiments go well, Kuo believes Apple will adopt 3D printing technology for more products in the future.
Apple will unveil its new Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 wearables at the iPhone 15 “Wonderlust” media event that will be held on Tuesday, September 12 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time. The event will be held at the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California.
[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]