Last month, you may remember that Ming-Chi Kuo, the famous analyst at TF International, said that Apple was looking to save money and help the environment by manufacturing some parts of the Apple Watch Ultra using a 3D printer instead of using machine tools to create these parts.
Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman said today thatApple is now considering using 3D printers to create the chassis of its smartwatch models other than the Watch Ultra. Gurman cited in his report “people with knowledge of the subject“.
By using a 3D printer, Apple won’t need to cut metal plates to create the parts it needs. This will allow Apple to reduce the time needed to manufacture connected watchesall in contributing to environmental protection, since it will need fewer materials. The aforementioned sources asked not to be identified because Apple’s project is private and has not been announced to the public.
If all goes well and Apple manages to manufacture parts for the Apple Watch using a 3D printer, the company plans to extend the use of this technology to the manufacture of parts for other devices.
The process of using the 3D printer is as follows. Forging is used to create small blocks of material close to the size required for the timepiece. A CNC machine is then used to cut the metal to create the necessary design and buttons. With the 3D printer, a process called binder jetting creates a general outline of the device close to its actual size. This print is made using a powdery substance that resembles steel after applying heat and pressure. The exact designs and cutouts are milled in the same way as the previous process.
Not for this year
The report states that Apple and its suppliers have been working on this technique for three years and have tested the process to make steel cases for the Apple Watch Series 9, which will be presented on September 12, as well as for the Apple Watch Ultra second generation and the iPhone 15 series.
According to Bloomberg, it is unclear whether the first steel Apple Watch Series 9 shipments this year will feature cases made using the 3D printer. Apple plans to use the 3D printer to make its titanium Apple Watch Ultra models, but this is not expected to happen until 2024.
Since it is a new technology, Apple plans to use it for low-volume products. Most Apple Watch models have an aluminum case, not stainless steel. This is why Apple is testing the 3D printer for steel Apple Watch cases. At this point, aluminum cannot be used with this technology. Apple should therefore use more materials compatible with the 3D printer, such as steel and titanium, for its devices.