Bloomberg: Apple testing 3D printing with Watch Series 9 steel case models
Apple may be using new 3D printing techniques to produce the upcoming Apple Watch Series 9 models that feature steel cases, reports Bloomberg. This is not the first time that we have heard of Apple adopting 3D printing for its upcoming Watches. It was only last month that renowned Apple analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo, said that Apple was using 3D printed components for its next-generation Watch Ultra, but for its moving parts. It now appears Apple is at least considering the more extensive use of 3D printing in its product manufacturing processes.
According to Bloomberg, Apple has been trialing the new method with its production partners over the past few months using a type of 3D printing known as binder jetting. Traditional methods of producing Apple’s steel Watch models using a process called forging to create small steel blocks slightly larger than the finished product. Using CNC, the metal is then cut to the required shape, leaving off cuts. 3D jetting uses a “powdered substance” which is shaped using heat and pressure into something closer to the final product. The resulting case “feels like steel” with some additional milling required to finalize the case.
Bloomberg also revealed that Apple has actually been developing 3D printing techniques with its partners over the past three years. However, it is possible the new method may not make it into shipping products this year, even though the Series 9 steel models have been tested using the method. With only 10% of total Apple Watch sales, the steel models were targeted for the new construction method as it is a relatively low volume product. If all goes as planned, however, the method could also be used for Apple’s titanium Watch Ultra in 2024 and extend across other product lines.
A video explainer on 3D printing using the binder jetting method is embedded below.