After teasing modified AirPods that swap Apple’s Lightning port for a USB-C connection, Ken Pillonel, the robotics engineering student behind the USB-C iPhone, has finally released the full video that shows his entire process. And the best part is that Pillonel is making his schematics open source, meaning you, too, can accomplish such a feat (given that you have a 3D printer).
Pillonel starts by sawing open the AirPods case, essentially breaking it, as they’re not designed to be taken apart. He then designs two replacement pieces to go on either side of the case, first by using an FDM 3D printer and then switching to SLA for a smoother result. The pieces he constructs snap perfectly into place in the most satisfying way possible, creating an outer shell that looks as if it hasn’t even been touched.
While Pillonel notes that you can replace the AirPods’ battery from here, he takes things a step further by ripping out the proprietary Lightning connector for USB-C. Following days of research, Pillonel manages to create a custom PCB board that fits inside the AirPods’ shell. The end result is a pair of AirPods you can charge with any old USB-C cable lying around your house.
Just like his open-source USB-C iPhone project, Pillonel has also made the schematics for both the AirPods case and the USB-C PCB available to download from GitHub. He’s also giving away premade kits and may even start selling them. You can find out more from his website dedicated to the project.
But if you’re not up to modifying your AirPods (or your iPhone), you might not have to wait much longer to get one straight from Apple. The company’s reportedly looking into creating USB-C-compatible iPhones and AirPods by 2023 at the earliest. Plus, new legislation in the EU requires Apple to ditch Lightning ports on its iPhones by fall 2024.