17 October 2017

AR 3D Printing from Apple

While Apple has had plenty of success in consumer hardware, it has stayed away from 3D printing. Aside from one patent application in 2014 focused on printing multi-colored 3D objects, and another for a rapid prototyping technique using liquid metals, Apple hasn’t made any noteworthy plays in the space. But a newly secured patent could be used to make 3D printing a piece of Apple’s augmented reality initiative: The technology giant recently acquired a patent (US 9,776,364) for an AR-compatible 3D printing system.

The patented technology plugs a gap in current 3D printing techniques: Existing methods have provided no solution for new objects or materials to be 3D-printed onto existing or unfinished objects. For example, printing a new handle onto an existing cup. The new Apple patent uses visuals – either from cameras or augmented reality systems – to understand the pose and alignment necessary to 3D-print materials onto an existing item, creating what the patent calls called a “composed object.” The technology could integrate ARKit-developed apps with 3D printing technology.

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