Epic YouTube project cracks how to make Apple AirPods from scratch

Reverse engineered Apple AirPods
(Image credit: Ken Pillonel)

We're big fans of Apple AirPods here at Creative Bloq, rating them among the best inner-ear headphones available. The Swiss hardware hacker Ken Pillonel is also a fan to an extent, but he has one big gripe with Apple's tech: the lack of repairability. 

He aimed to set that right by working out how to build a pair of Apple AirPods from scratch, complete with a charging case. And he's sharing his findings and designs to let anyone else do the same (see our guide to the best AirPods Pro 2 prices to see how much an official pair will cost you).

We've seen Pillonel tackle the challenge of Apple's difficult-to-repair AirPods before when he took a broken pair of broken and revamped them with the addition of a USB-C cable. That was a joke intended to raise awareness of the serious issue of unrepairable tech – Pillonel noted that Apple's first and second-gen AirPods have a repairability score of 0/10 on the how-to site iFixit.

But this time, he's gone much further. He's built his own replica AirPods in order to demonstrate how they "could have been easily made repairable with minimal effort" had Apple wanted. He set out to meticulously model every part of Apple's device, describing his process as "stealing" the design to share it with the world.

He said: "Most gadgets are designed without repairability in mind, unlike the durable technology of the past that seemed built to last. It is troubling to see design choices like non-replaceable batteries, glued-in components, and a lack of transparency in public information leading to the rise of 'fast electronics'." He added: "My primary objective is to encourage consumers to be more mindful of their choices and to motivate manufacturers to prioritize sustainability." 

Reverse engineered Apple AirPods

Pillonel is giving away his 'stolen' designs for the parts needed to make a pair of Apple AirPods (Image credit: Ken Pillonel)

As demonstrated in this video on YouTube, Pillonel took a set of AirPods apart and made 3D scans in order to reverse engineer them, and then he set about sourcing, designing and 3D printing the components needed to build his own – with some important modifications. He would replace the adhesives with screws and nuts to make the components much more easily swappable and repairable.

"Considering the enormous number of AirPods Pro units sold, even a small percentage being repairable and extending their lifespan can make a significant impact in reducing electronic waste," he said. "By showcasing the potential for repairability, I hope to inspire both consumers and multi-billion dollar companies, like Apple, to embrace sustainable practices in their products."

See our guide to the best Apple deals to see what other products could benefit from the same treatment.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design, production and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.