Apple is using 3D printers to make the chassis for some of the upcoming Apple Watch Series 9 models, according to Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman. The new manufacturing process that Apple is testing would use less material than the large slabs of metal that are needed for traditional CNC manufacturing, plus it would cut down on the time that it takes to make new devices.
With a technique called “binder jetting,” Apple is able to print a device’s outline at close to its actual shape using a powdered substance. A second process uses heat and pressure to squeeze the material into a substance that feels like steel, and it is then refined with milling.
Gurman’s information echoes what we’ve already heard from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Back in July, Kuo said that the upcoming second-generation Apple Watch Ultra will include 3D printed mechanical parts. Specifically, he claimed that Apple is “actively adopting 3D printing technology,” and that some of the titanium components in the new Apple Watch Ultra would be 3D printed.
Gurman claims that Apple plans to use this new 3D printing method for the chassis of the stainless steel Apple Watch Series 9 models rather than components for the Ultra but either way, it sounds like Apple is more actively testing this manufacturing method as of 2023. Gurman says that Apple plans to 3D print titanium devices in 2024.
A shift to 3D printing for some device production would allow Apple to improve manufacturing times and potentially cut down on costs. Kuo said that if Apple’s work on the 2023 Apple Watch models went well, Apple would use 3D printing for more devices in the future.
According to Gurman, Apple and Apple suppliers have been developing the 3D printing method for at least three years. Gurman confirms that Apple will expand the process to more products over the next several years if Apple Watch tests are successful.
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