I feel elated typing these words. This post marks the culmination of over a year’s worth of effort, research, experimentation, negotiation, and unwavering dedication to ensure that this project has a genuine impact.
Approximately a year ago, I published my most viewed video to date: ”AirPods Dirty Secret”, currently sitting at around 2.2 millions views. I never imagined this would be my biggest video. Since I received so much positive feedback, I decided to push that project as far as I could.
In that video, I illustrate that AirPods were intentionally designed to become obsolete after a few years, and I present a solution for replacing the battery in the case.
The reasoning is straightforward: you can’t open the case without damaging the plastic shell, so we deliberately break that plastic shell. Then, we can proceed to replace the battery. The real trick comes in the final step – we 3D-print a plastic replacement part!
While the idea initially appeared intriguing, I could never bring myself to market this replacement part, even though it wasn’t available elsewhere. The reason is straightforward: I wasn’t satisfied with the quality of the parts I was manufacturing.
I showcase an initial attempt at a Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D-printed part in the video, and it becomes evident that the quality and appearance leave much to be desired. Every layer line is visible. However, I then experiment with a Stereolithography (SLA) 3D-printer and achieve impressive results, producing a part that closely resembles the original. Notably, in a previous instance with USB-C AirPods, I managed to deceive my audience as none of the 90,000 viewers noticed that the case was 3D-printed.
A significant problem I encountered with SLA 3D prints that discouraged mass production is their vulnerability to UV light. SLA 3D printing uses liquid resin and a UV light source to harden the resin into the desired part. But you know what else emits UV light? The sun. This means that if you leave a 3D-printed part, for instance, near a window or on your car’s dashboard, it will continue to cure over time, ultimately becoming very brittle.
So, I can’t sell products that I know will deteriorate in the future. After all, that’s precisely what I’m striving to combat with this project. Therefore, I cannot operate in the same manner.
I identified two potential solutions to this issue:
- Injection Molding. I became quite intrigued by this approach but ultimately found it unfeasible for this project due to the exorbitant cost of molds and the requirement for a high level of precision (which, as I often experience, excludes making mistakes).
- SLS 3D printing. That appeared to be the most promising solution, as it offers print quality very close to what SLA can achieve but doesn’t have the UV-light problem. Eventually, I acquired a Formlabs Fuse 1+ 30W printer to produce my parts using Nylon 12 (an exceptionally strong material).
- It includes a screw hole that pairs with a nut, enabling you to reuse it when you need to replace the battery again in the future.
- It features a lanyard hole, a simple addition that took Apple five years to introduce. This doesn’t increase the case’s size, and you won’t lose any of its original features.
- It’s compatible with my USB-C mod, which I’ll provide more details about further down.
- It’s both free and open-source. You can 3D print it yourself, and you also have the flexibility to customize it to suit your specific needs.
I’m giving out those plastic shells for free! It’s available on my shop (link) with the code RIGHT2REPAIR. I’ve chosen to run this promotion for the entire month of October 2023. However, please be aware that recipients will need to cover the shipping costs, and I’m not making any money from this. This precaution is necessary to protect against potentially large orders that may not be genuinely intended for use, coming from viewers with malicious intentions.
Additionally, I’m offering a special limited edition of the part exclusively for my Patreon subscribers. They have the option to remove features present on the original free part and can even add some debossed text directly to the part. This feature is useful if, for example, you want to include your contact information in case you lose your case.
Now that the new AirPods and iPhone have finally made the shift to USB-C, one might assume that my previous projects have become obsolete, right? Well, I had the same thought. However, it turns out that these projects are more relevant than ever! I’ve noticed a significant uptick in website traffic and orders since the announcement. It makes sense when you think about it; many people don’t want to purchase an entirely new device just to get a different charging port and hardly any new features.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could simply upgrade our older devices?
Now, we can do just that for the 1st and 2nd generation of the AirPods (Non-Pro)! The USB-C kit has also just been released on my shop.