Over the past couple of years, the Apple iPhone has been a metaphorical older sibling to the technology and use of 3D printing. If you have an older brother or sister, you probably remember how when you were younger, you always were looking up to them, trying to impress them with things that you could do. Well, 3D printing has, for the past couple years, been doing the same, in trying to create some of the most unique, cool, mechanical, colorful cases for the older and more establish iPhone. Quite frankly, the technology has successfully done so.
A quick search on Thingiverse for “iPhone case” brings up over 9000 individual results, all different in one way or another from the next. When you perform the same search on Shapeways, there are close to 1600 results that pop up. If you want an iPhone case representative of your favorite NFL team, they’ve got it. How about one with mechanical gears? They have many choices for these as well. Just about anything you could imagine, there is a 3D printed version somewhere on the internet for it.
Now with the latest announcement by Apple, introducing the new Apple Watch, we may be about to see the technology of 3D printing grow up faster than anyone could have expected. With the watch, comes all sorts of customization options, including most importantly, the watch band. This is what will make one’s watch different from everyone else’s. However, Apple will certainly have a limit to the number of different watch bands that they sell. Third party manufacturers will also grab a huge market share, with creative options. However, this is where 3D printing will allow for the total customization of individualized watch bands. If you want it, you can probably 3D print it or have someone do it for you.
With the influx of new 3D printing materials, including flexible filaments by companies like NinjaFlex and FilaFlex, the creation of both flexible and chain-linked watch bands are now possible via 3D printing. This means that if you want a band for your Apple Watch, which features 3D blood dripping from your wrist, or perhaps an entire armband, rather than a wristband, this will now be possible. The options become unlimited with 3D printing, and we are about to see something special emerge, as 3D printing becomes more mainstream, thanks in part to its ability for customization.
With other unique filaments such as ColorFabb’s bronzeFil and woodFil, the potential for 3D printed wood-like or bronze-like bands could be very attractive to some. Perhaps MakerBot’s Glow-in-the-Dark PLA Filament would appeal to others, as an option for a nighttime band. The possibilities are really endless, and this is only for consumer level 3D printers. When you include Shapeways, the possibilities expand even more through use of their industrial level 3D printers capable of even more material options.
It doesn’t end here though. The bands are not the only parts of the watch that will be able to utilize 3D printing. There will be other accessories that come about as well. Perhaps Apple Watch valet holders, waterproof cases, belt-loop clips, or other ways to wear the watch other than on the wrist.
Shapeways isn’t wasting any time, in providing ways in which developers/designers can get a head start on developing for the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch. Neither are 3D designers. One designer, named Michael Christensen, has already created a 3D model for the 38mm version of the Apple Watch. The files can be downloaded and designers can begin creating 3D printable designs using these GrabCad models.
Certainly there will be a plethora of designs and products availble that are either 3D printable or already 3D printed once the Apple Watch is released. It could end up being a huge step for 3D printing technology in its quest to become more mainstream. What do you think? What sorts of interesting accessories and watch bands would you like to see created for the Apple Watch? Discuss in the Apple Watch forum thread on 3DPB.com.