Apple has announced its next special event, revealing the date surprisingly early. Here’s a full schedule of what looks like happening when. Two new Watches are expected alongside the iPhone 15 series: Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra second-generation, all due to be unveiled on Tuesday, September 12.
A new report says that one of the products planned for unveiling at the event, Apple Watch Series 9, is going to be built in a new way. And it’s pretty cool.
Mark Gurman at Bloomberg reports that Apple is “testing the use of 3D printers to produce the steel chassis used by some of its upcoming smartwatches.” This is a very big change.
Apple is starting out with a small percentage of the output, it seems, restricting the production to stainless-steel Apple Watches which, according to Gurman, account for 10% of the total. The other Apple Watch case materials in the current range are aluminum and, for the Apple Watch Ultra, titanium.
Current stainless-steel models use a conventional process: “A process called forging is used to form bricks of material into a smaller block of metal close to the size of the device. A CNC, or computer numerical control, machine is then used to cut into the metal and create the exact design and button holes.”
But the new system is designed to make the production line more streamlined, reducing “the time it takes to build devices while also helping the environment by using less material.”
Gurman says the new technique is called binder jetting which prints something close to the case size from “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 move to 3D printing is expensive when it’s in development, it seems but could lower costs over time. “For now, the cost per watch case with the new process is in line with that of the prior method,” Gurman explains.
For now, Apple is limiting 3D printing to “lower-volume products,” the report claims, but is considering adding other materials that can be 3D-printed for more devices in the future. Titanium can be 3D-printed, too, so perhaps a future Apple Watch Ultra or even iPhone Pro will be created using this process.
As for the regular Apple Watch Series 9, which is doubtless going to be made from aluminum as at present, Apple “hasn’t made headway on mass-producing 3D-printed enclosures with that material,” it’s said.