Shortly after we suggested Apple won't be 3D printing anytime soon, they took a teeny tiny step in that direction.
According to a report on AppleInsider, Apple has patented a system for accepting 3D input. As you can see in the diagram (and much more available at AppleInsider), hand gestures would capture 3D movements that could then be used by any app. Presumably this could be used by 3D modeling software to simplify the 3D interface. There would be no need to purchase a SpaceNavigator ever again, if this were implemented!
But the patent doesn't explicitly spell out Apple's intentions, other than to "generate and manipulate 3D objects using 3D gesture inputs." All we know is that this is a step into 3D processing that takes us closer to 3D printing. By establishing a means of 3D input, Apple has made the first step in the lifecycle of 3D printing: model creation.
Except there's one issue.
This is ONLY a patent. It is not a product, nor is there any guarantee of Apple ever making a product from this invention. Apple owns many patents that they will never use.
But we hope this one becomes a reality.
Meanwhile, there is still no signs of Apple working directly on 3D printing.