Engineer redesigns AirPods to show how to make it repairable

The design is available for free to all those wanting to switch to more sustainable electronics
Ameya Paleja
The AirPods Pro redesigned to make it easily repairable
The AirPods Pro redesigned to make it easily repairable

Ken Pillonel 

Ken Pillonel, the engineer who built the first USB-C-powered iPhone, has now gone a step further to show Apple how it could have made AirPods more repairable. In a video released today, Pillonel remodels the popular accessory to make it more environmentally friendly.

Even before the regulators in the European Union got their act together on a single charger policy for all electronic devices, Pillonel, then a student, had demonstrated how it was even possible to retrofit existing iPhones with a USB-C port.

Over the years, Pillonel has been working to expose flaws in the design of Apple's popular products, such as the AirPods, and even shared designs on how the casing could be replaced with the help of 3D printing and has made them available through YouTube.

Making products repairable again

His latest video, Pillonel, begins on a nostalgic note of how devices of yesteryears were like a city on the inside, parts, and pieces working together. One could open them up, try to figure out what went wrong, and even repair them with some help.

In sharp contrast, today's devices have become smaller, thinner, and smarter but better at hiding how they work. They are impossible to even open without breaking them. Components such as batteries have been made irreplaceable on devices leading to a trend of 'fast electronics', where the lives of the product are short, and an individual needs to replace them multiple times in a lifetime.

Single-handedly Pillonel might not be able to bring back the era where devices were built to last. Still, he wants to encourage consumers to be more mindful of their choices and manufacturers to factor in sustainability when designing devices.

'Stealing' the AirPods design

In the video released today, Pillonel returned to the drawing board to practically redesign the AirPods Pro and make them more sustainable. Apple's design includes components sealed shut inside the casing with solid adhesives. But Pillonel has meticulously gone through the design to include screws and nuts, which can make replaceable components like batteries more accessible.

Pillonel believes that even if a small number of AirPods users choose to repair their headphones instead of throwing them, it will still make a significant difference and reduce electronic waste.

Additionally, he hopes that his content will inspire even the likes of Apple to take a more sustainable approach to its future products. If they do not, Pillonel's designs are available to interested users for free.

When enquired if he was worried about a lawsuit for Apple for this work, Pillonel told Interesting Engineering, "I didn't really 'steal' anything. I made the design myself and am not sharing any secret IP. The parts are slightly modified, more easily swappable, and repairable!"

But it is not just Apple that is on Pillonel's radar. Although he is more likely to focus on the three-trillion-dollar company in the near future, he also wants to "raise awareness about non-reusable vapes" in his upcoming videos.

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