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.