AirPods Repairability Project Adds USB-C Port and 3D-Printed Casing

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.

airpods usb c ken pillonel
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. Apple launched the Self Service Repair program earlier this year in an effort to address criticisms around the repairability of its devices.

Top Rated Comments

ignatius345 Avatar
3 weeks ago
What an embarrassment for Apple that a lone engineering student is running laps around their greenwashing. They've done a lot with regard to renewable energy and recycling materials -- but on the product design end there are just too many choices in Apple's hardware that make repair difficult or impossible.

The cynical take is that this works out great for them because consumers have to just buy new products instead of repairing them.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ppj845 Avatar
3 weeks ago
Disposable electronics like AirPods should not be allowed to exist
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gsmornot Avatar
3 weeks ago
USB-C everything. That will work for me. No offense to the lightning cable but outside of my Apple devices most are USB-C.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Spaceboi Scaphandre Avatar
3 weeks ago

I don’t get the internet obsession with USB-C outside of it just being something to complain about.
Because USB-C is reversible, universal, miles faster data transfers, easily replacable, fast power delivery through Thunderbolt, just all around the best connector.

Everything is going to go wireless anyways.
No it ain't lmao. You can keep pushing this meme but wireless is still A. Miles slower at charging than wired, B. Wastes a lot more energy than wired, and C. can't transfer data at the rate wired can

In the 18 or so months I’ve had my AirPods Pro, I’ve literally never plugged them in.
?????

I can also count on one hand the number of times I’ve plugged in my iPhone in the two years I’ve had it.
...why?

But regardless, lighting or USB-C, I have both and both work fine.
Lightning works fine for charging. But since it's proprietary it can only work on Apple devices, producing unnecessary eWaste compared to USB-C since a USB-C cable can be used for anything else.

And again, lightning's data transfer speeds are piss. It's running USB 2.0 speeds while USB-C transports data miles faster.

The fact that people want government intervention to force things to be more “convenient” for them is hysterical.
Because we all know Apple will go USB-C out of the goodness of their heart right? [/sarcasm]

By the time everything is all on one cable, a new standard will come along and invalidate it all and you’ll all be complaining again lol.
You're speaking in hypotheticals. But hey if something better does come, guess what: Update the law to that new standard. But until that day comes USB-C is the way to go.

Only iPhone phone warrers can take something good that improves the iPhone and their use case and make it out to be the worst thing imaginable.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
GeoStructural Avatar
3 weeks ago

It will take me years before I have only USB-C stuff once Apple starts to move everything to it. I have keyboards, trackpads, headphones, a phone, and remotes... I think people have no idea why Apple has been moving slowly in this area; people are going to freak out about it once it starts to happen, just like the 30-pin...
What about courage? The headphone jack had 100 years of usage and trillions of devices when they decided to ditch it.

It is clear to me that the reason Apple keeps Lightning (USB technology from 1992) is because of the revenue it provides (Made for iPhone accessories).

Just recently they removed the charging brick from the box claiming that people had it at home already… but, also changed the other end to the cable to USB-C, rendering any charging brick incompatible!!! It is clearly not environment, not respect for the users accessories, it is plain greed.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
erikkfi Avatar
3 weeks ago
It's an absolute travesty for Apple that this is necessary. All of that bleating about how much they love the environment and yet they produce millions of pieces of future plastic waste with a 2-3 year lifespan and zero repairability.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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