Engineering and robotics student Ken Pillonel has sought to address some of AirPods’ repairability issues with a 3D-printed replacement casing and switching the Lightning charging port for a USB-C port.
In his latest video, Pillonel highlighted that AirPods are not designed to be serviced or repaired since no hardware components can be accessed without damage to the device, effectively making it a disposable item. Repair specialists at iFixit gave Apple’s first- and second-generation AirPods a repairability score of zero out of 10 because of this.
Pillonel sought to investigate a solution to give new life to unopenable AirPods charging cases, which face inevitable obsolescence due to their built-in battery. Pillonel created a 3D-printed replacement casing, which is now available for download, to allow technicians to purposefully damage the existing case to gain access to the internals and make repairs.
In the process of the modification, Pillonel also successfully swapped the charging case’s Lightning port for a USB-C port. The reasoning for this is because replacement Lightning ports for AirPods cannot be purchased individually, meaning that they have to be obtained from other AirPods charging cases.
As a standard port, USB-C on AirPods increases the possibility of long-term repairability, Pillonel suggests. Pillonel is also responsible for similar modifications that added a USB-C port to the iPhone and a Lightning port to a Samsung Galaxy A51.
Pillonel’s 3D printing files and PCB files for AirPods repairability are available for free on his website, and he is considering selling kits in the future depending on interest.
Impending EU legislation will force Apple to switch AirPods to USB-C by late 2024 and analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes Apple could make the change sometime after releasing the first iPhone models with a USB-C port next year.