In a Medium article, Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst who covers Apple for Hong Kong investment firm TF International, predicted that the next iteration of the Apple Watch Ultra will use mechanical titanium elements manufactured via additive manufacturing (AM). After the first sale of the Apple Watch Ultra in September 2022, Kuo anticipates introducing the second version of the device before the end of 2023.
Kuo reportedly derives his information, including that about the 3D printed components of Apple Watch ultra, from “his contacts in Apple’s Asian supply chain,” as reported by MacRumors. They say Kuo is “one of the most reliable sources for Apple rumors” because his “[predictions] are accurate enough to make him one of the most reliable sources for Apple rumors.” Kuo listed three firms the world’s largest business will work with for Apple Watch Ultra components in its AM operations. The laser components come from IPG Photonics, while the platforms are from Chinese OEMs Farsoon and Xi’an Bright Laser Technologies (BLT).
New Apple Watch Ultra parts to be 3D Printed
The fact that Apple watch ultra is utilizing Chinese platforms is particularly intriguing because the Western firm has been held up as an example of the trend toward manufacturing diversification away from China more than any other in the previous few years. In this case, the use of Chinese AM platforms would illustrate a point I’ve made frequently over the past few months in the context of “de-risking” related to China: the development of distributed supply chains may permit the largest manufacturers in the world to restrict the expansion of physical economic connections by substituting digital connectivity.
Farsoon and BLT already have clients worldwide, and Farsoon has offices in the United States and Europe in addition to its headquarters in Hunan, so the shipping of printers isn’t a deal breaker for them. Furthermore, BLT has just secured an agreement to sell its goods in Japan, which may suit the notion of distributing Western corporations’ production footprint more equitably across Southeast Asia.
Overall, transporting printers should generate substantially less international foot traffic than maintaining the supply systems necessary to transport millions of little consumer products around the globe. In a Medium article, Kuo predicts that “if shipments go well, I believe more Apple products other than Apple watch Ultra will adopt 3D printing technology, which will help improve production cost and ESG performance in Apple’s supply chain…
Less than a month ago, Apple hosted its inaugural “Smart Manufacturing Forum” for small and medium firms in South Korea, so momentum may swiftly shift in that direction. A smart manufacturing strategy powered by 3D printing may someday benefit South Korea and India. Even though Apple’s major manufacturer, Foxconn, walked out of a nearly $20 billion semiconductor facility in Gujarat last week, Apple is anxious to expand its business in India. Despite this setback, Foxconn is moving on with further new plant sites in India.
More than anything else, I think this conveys that expanding outside China’s borders is more about ensuring a more adaptable supply chain than making an imperialistic statement. It’s not a simple problem with a universal answer that can be implemented all at once; rather, it’s a long-term endeavour that will call for a wide variety of approaches tailored to specific circumstances and can only be built up gradually by the same interests that have stuck the United States and China together.
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