As part of its commitment to the environment, Apple is exploring a new manufacturing procedure. Bloomberg reports that the Cupertino tech giant testing the use of 3D printers to produce the steel chassis of its upcoming Apple Watch models.
Currently, the only Apple Watch Series 8 models are available in stainless steel finish, along with aluminum. Apple Watch SE is made with aluminum and Apple Watch Ultra is made with aero-space titanium. Therefore, the report is referring to upcoming Apple Watch Series 9 models made with stainless steel.
Apple plans to be 100% carbon neutral by 2030 and has been implementing environmentally friendly measures across its business, including its supply chain, to achieve that goal.
- Its corporate offices and retail stores use solar energy.
- In 2020, it removed power adapters and EarPods from iPhone boxes to reduce electronic waste.
- It reduced the size of iPhone boxes to reduce carbon footprint during transportation.
- Apple established an Impact Accelerator with a primary focus on investing in minority-owned businesses that are likely to have positive outcomes and adding them to its supply chains.
- Invested in nature-based solutions to remove carbon footprint from the atmosphere and hopefully fulfill its commitment to go carbon neutral by the end of this decade.
- Committed to making use of low-carbon product design, using renewable energy resources, expanding energy efficiency, and processing the material for its product designs for minimum carbon content.
The use of 3D printers in manufacturing the upcoming Apple Watch Series 9’s stainless steel models will propel the company towards its 2030 goal.
Binder jetting 3D printing used to produce steel cases of Apple Watch Series 9 will be more eco-friendly
According to the report, Apple and its manufacturers had been developing the new manufacturing technology for at least three years and had been testing the new binder jetting process to produce the steel cases for the Apple Watch Series 9 in the past several months. The use of this type of 3D printing will benefit the environment by using less material and being more eco-friendly.
The new technique uses a type of 3D printing called binder jetting to create the device’s general outline at close to its actual size, or what is known in manufacturing as the “near net shape.” The print is made with a powdered substance, which afterward goes through a process called sintering. That uses heat and pressure to squeeze the material into what feels like traditional steel. The exact design and cutouts are then milled like in the previous process.
The approach benefits the environment because it only uses the approximate amount of metal necessary to create the device enclosures.
As the use of 3D printing Apple Watch steel cases has been expensive, the company is only using the new tech for lower-volume products like stainless steel Apple Watch Series 9 models. However, it is expected to simplify production and lower costs over time.
Therefore, Apple plans to expand the use of binder jetting 3D printing to more products over the next several years. The report states:
The work is still nascent and, for the time being, will be reserved for lower-volume products. Most Apple Watch casings are aluminum, not stainless steel. The company hasn’t made headway on mass- producing 3D-printed enclosures with that material, which is also used for Macs and iPads, as well as lower-end iPhones. But the company is discussing bringing materials that can be 3D-printed, like steel and titanium, to more devices.