I’m now thinking Apple might create a 3D printer – but not in the way you suspect.
Ever since the consumer 3D printing craze began several years ago people have speculated that Apple might create a 3D printer. Why not? They’ve constantly taken rough and rudimentary ideas made by others and made them work very well for the general public. MP3 players were around long before the iPod, but they were just too hard to use.
But what about desktop 3D printers? They’re around now and aren’t particularly easy to use – just the scenario Apple might jump on.
However, the company has not done so, at least yet, in spite of some very unusual 3D print-related patents.
In fact, I suspect they won’t be developing a personal 3D printer for many years as the problem of consumer 3D printing is a very difficult problem: there is no easy way for consumers to obtain the necessary 3D models for arbitrary situations. That’s not going to be solved anytime soon.
After reading a story about Apple’s manufacturing process in a Recode story, it appears they have some very unusual behind the scenes practices. Recode writes:
But what really makes Cook and Apple stand out is that, when they design hardware, they only marginally look at what type of equipment they will use to make this product. Creating a product that is great, easy to use and extremely well-designed is the first priority.
Once that is in place, they get serious about how they can manufacture the product in mass quantities, and in the most cost-effective way. However, Apple stands above most in this area because if they can’t find the right equipment to make a product, they actually invent and/or create the equipment, either with the help of a partner, or they do it themselves.
Ok, let’s play that line again: “they actually invent and/or create the equipment”. Evidently they’ve already done this for other aspects of their complex manufacturing process.
When they run up against a difficult manufacturing process, they simply build a machine to do it. It’s possible they may encounter a manufacturing step that is solvable with a 3D printing process.
Or perhaps they already have, based on that patent for color 3D printing that no one understood at the time.
For all we know, they may already have a color 3D printer of their own design behind the scenes, perhaps producing secret prototypes of their unannounced products.
If they do, would they offer it to others for manufacturing? I think not, as the company strongly values their manufacturing process and would likely keep the device for their own use.
And keep it secret. So no one knows about it.
Except, us, of course. Thanks for reading!