For his latest project, Ken Pillonel — the modder best known for creating an iPhone with a USB-C port — is attempting to improve the design of the charging case of Apple’s AirPods Pro. The true wireless earbuds have been criticized by right-to-repair advocates for a construction that relies heavily on glue, which makes it difficult to replace components without breaking the case.
“I am taking on a significant project to demonstrate how one of the most popular gadgets today — Apple’s AirPods Pro — could have been easily made repairable with minimal effort,” Pillonel says in a press release. “My primary objective is to encourage consumers to be more mindful of their choices and to motivate manufacturers to prioritize sustainability.”
With his project, Pillonel attempted to recreate each component of the AirPods Pro charging case before modifying them to be held together with nuts and screws rather than glue. The modifications make it easier to get inside the charging case without breaking it in order to swap out the battery — no soldering required.
The project focuses on the charging case of the AirPods Pro; Pillonel isn’t ready to make the earbuds themselves repairable just yet. “The earbuds themselves are smaller, and it is much harder for me to replicate their design with the tools I have right now,” the engineer tells The Verge. But Pillonel is hopeful that he might one day be able to make similar modifications to the earbuds in a future project and believes that similar design principles can be applied to them.
While the amount of glue present in the modded case is reduced compared to Apple’s original design, Pillonel admits that he still uses a little to hold some magnets in place. But “if you still want to replace them for some reason, I use cyanoacrylate glue that can easily be removed by soaking it with acetone, unlike Apple’s green glue which feels like concrete,” he says.
This modification also only applies to the first-generation AirPods Pro. Pillonel says he hasn’t yet been able to open the charging case of the second-generation earbuds without breaking it.
As with his previous projects, Pillonel is making his schematics available for anyone who wants to attempt the project themselves. Instructions for how to access the files can be found at the end of his video, though be aware you’ll have to sign up for a ProtonMail account if you want to access them for free. Pillonel is also distributing his project files via his Patreon.