December 10, 2015
The stocks may go up, the stocks may go down, but, in the end, additive manufacturing (AM) continues to grow regardless of the whims of Wall Street. Every advance that makes the technology more attractive to manufacturers or everyday users is another step forward for the adoption of 3D printing. One way of judging the potential and possibility offered by 3D printing is to follow the interest shown by companies not already involved in technology.
Apple is one of the companies apparently flirting with the idea of running with AM. The tech giant already owns a number of patents related to 3D printing, and a new patent related to AM was recently published. Unlike the other patents, this particular filing has the potential to appeal to a broad audience, and seems to hint at the development of an Apple 3D printer.
It seems unlikely that Apple would come out of the gate into the AM race with a system intended to vie for industrial-scale commercial success. Developing large systems is an expensive process, and you can’t swing a spool of filament without hitting a company that is either already selling to big business, or has announced plans to do the same.
The more likely scenario, in my opinion, is that Apple would release a home AM system that is simple to use and produces improved results compared to what already exists in the market. The recently published patent describes a process for printing objects in multiple colors. Currently, multi-color printers are either too expensive for the average hobbyist, or rather clunky, requiring multiple heads that are prone to clogging.
Apple’s proposed system would use two heads as well. The first would be responsible for material deposition, while the second would either color material as it is being printed, or color material during a pause in the actual printing process. Either way, the end result would be (in theory) a system that could be setup in the home and used to print a variety of objects, as was noted in the patent filing:
“Using this process, a 3D object which includes multiple colors can be created efficiency. This increases versatility of objects that can be printed by a 3D printer and extends the use to more everyday objects. For example, toys could be printed using such a printer at home. In one application, 3D models that include color can be sold by companies, enabling everyday consumers to create their own objects at home. For example, 3D models of toy characters can be made available for purchase by consumers.”
Below you’ll find a video about Apple with an interesting opening segment.
Source: US Patent Office