Apple enthusiasts and tech aficionados eagerly anticipate the Apple Watch Series 9 unveiling on September 12 at the “Thirst for Miracles” event. While incremental updates are anticipated compared to its 2022 predecessor, an intriguing development has emerged that could reshape perceptions of smartwatch innovation. Reports indicate that Apple might introduce a version of the Apple Watch Series 9 with a 3D printed stainless steel case.
Before delving into the specifics, clarifying the broader context of “3D printing.” Often associated with at-home crafting using thermoplastics, the term encompasses more intricate processes. It’s important to note that Apple’s intention does not involve releasing the Watch Series 9 with a plastic case.
According to Mark Gurman of Bloomberg, Cupertino is in the experimental phase of utilizing 3D printing for crafting stainless steel cases for the Apple Watch Series 9. This initiative aims to optimize production efficiency and reduce material consumption in the manufacturing process. This isn’t entirely new terrain for Apple and its suppliers. The exploration of 3D printing has been ongoing for about three years, yet recent developments have propelled the Apple Watch Series 9 production towards utilizing this technology more prominently.
Intricacies of 3D Printing for Apple Watch Series 9
The selection of stainless steel for this testing phase has not been arbitrary. Apple Watch variants with stainless steel cases are notably more expensive and constitute a smaller portion of device sales, accounting for around 10%. This relatively lower demand allows Apple to fine-tune their 3D printing processes without overwhelming the production line. This serves as a strategic entry point for potential process improvements that could extend to other products in the company’s lineup.
While Apple is actively experimenting with 3D printing to manufacture stainless steel cases for the Apple Watch Series 9, it remains uncertain whether these units will be available from the initial launch or if they will be integrated into later batches. This innovative approach might not be immediately discernible to users, potentially leading Apple to use the September 12 event as an opportunity to delve into this groundbreaking technique.
The 3D printing process being explored by Apple is referred to as “Binder Jetting” or “Binder Injection.” It involves using a powdered material combined with a binder additive. The printing process is finalized through sintering, subjecting the product to high temperatures and pressure below its melting point to compact and solidify it. Following this, the product undergoes milling to achieve its final shape.
A Glimpse into the Future of Manufacturing
This approach represents a potential leap forward in efficiency compared to the traditional method of machining stainless steel cases using CNC lathes. If successful, it could pave the way for cost-effective stainless steel watches. Currently, in Spain, the price difference between the stainless steel version (starting at 852 euros) and the aluminum version (starting at 502 euros) is substantial.
Should Cupertino fully embrace this initiative, it might extend to other products in the near future. While the Apple Watch Series 9 marks the first step in 3D printing stainless steel cases, reports suggest that starting in 2024, the same technique will be applied to crafting titanium cases for the Apple Watch Ultra. This reflects Apple’s continuous drive to redefine manufacturing and product innovation.
About Apple: Apple, a global technology giant founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne, has become synonymous with innovation. Renowned for its iconic products like the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch, the company has reshaped industries and consumer experiences. Its sleek design, user-friendly interfaces, and ecosystem integration have set industry standards. Apple’s focus on quality, seamless hardware-software integration, and commitment to privacy have garnered a massive loyal customer base. With a mission to “design the best products on Earth,” Apple continues to shape the tech landscape through groundbreaking advancements and cultural influence.
About Manufactur3D Magazine: Manufactur3D is an online magazine on 3D Printing. Visit our Global News page for more updates on Global 3D Printing News. To stay up-to-date about the latest happenings in the 3D printing world, like us on Facebook or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.