Apple is reportedly testing 3D printing for the Apple Watch 9

Insiders said that Apple is exploring 3D printing for its next-gen Apple Watch 9.

Apple is reportedly testing 3D printing for the Apple Watch 9
An Apple employee places an Apple Watch onto a customer's wrist at the Apple store in Stanford, California October 5, 2015. REUTERS/Stephen Lam/File Photo

The backstory: You've probably heard of 3D printers – these machines construct objects layer by layer using digital blueprints. They've transformed manufacturing by allowing precise shaping of complex items from different materials, cutting down on waste and time.

Back in the 1980s, Chuck Hull introduced the concept of stereolithography, aka 3D printing. Over time, it’s become more accessible and found applications across industries. The advantages are clear – these printers streamline production and expand design possibilities from aerospace to medicine. For example, a California-based rocket startup Relativity Space, launched its 3D-printed Terran 1 rocket test flight mission in March.

More recently: In other 3D developments, just last month, Apple teamed up with big names like Adobe, Pixar, Nvidia and Autodesk. They're working as a group to make 3D tools and data work better together, forming the Alliance for OpenUSD, which aims to make Pixar's Universal Scene Description (USD) tech even better and more standardized and accessible.

The development: According to a report from Bloomberg, insiders said that Apple is exploring 3D printing for its next-gen Apple Watch 9. The company has been working on 3D methods for manufacturing the steel chassis of the watch, and if the tests succeed, it could mean faster production and a more eco-friendly manufacturing process with less waste. It already uses a ton of recycled materials in its products, so this just adds to that sustainability factor. Apple also plans to integrate 3D manufacturing into other products if all goes well.

The buzz around the tech giant’s 3D printing exploration impacted the stock market, with key players in the 3D printing world, like 3D Systems and Stratasys, seeing their stocks surge after the news broke.

Key comments:

“As people around the world join in celebrating Earth Day, we are making real progress in our work to address the climate crisis and to one day make our products without taking anything from the Earth,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, in 2022. “Our rapid pace of innovation is already helping our teams use today’s products to build tomorrow’s and as our global supply chain transitions to clean power, we are charting a path for other companies to follow.”

“Apple has been an active contributor to the development of USD and it is an essential technology for the groundbreaking visionOS platform, as well as the new Reality Composer Pro developer tool,” said Mike Rockwell, Apple’s vice president of the vision products group, last month.