Micro-CT of Apple Watch S1

Micro-CT of Apple Watch S1

Using the Bruker SkyScan 1275

 Electronics Inspection: Using micro-CT to see inside wearable technology

More powerful, faster, smaller – in 1975, Moore’s Law predicted the doubling of transistors within integrated circuits every two years, and while this growth has slowed some as feature widths approach single nanometer values, scientists and engineers are still striving towards this pace1. As technology evolves, information and communication devices are merging into single devices which can interact synergistically. Top among those trends today is the convergence of smart watches and fitness trackers.

Smart watches are expected to account for nearly half of the technology wearables market, which is predicted to be worth more than $25 billion by 20192. The dominant player in the U.S. smart watch sector is Apple with its aptly named Apple Watch3. With the release of the latest version, which now incorporates full wireless communication capabilities, we thought we would take a look at where it all began, the Apple Watch S1.

Micro-CT is often used for inspection of electrical devices since we can nondestructively image components and products without disassembly. This unique process results in three-dimensional reconstruction that allows for inspection of component connections and positioning. Using the reconstructed data, one can help ensure product quality, attempt to pinpoint the location of defects during failure analysis, or study competitor’s products for reengineering.

Figure 1: Cross sections of a 38mm Apple Watch S1 highlighting a battery lead within the lithium ion battery pack.

Micro-CT Scan of Apple Watch S1

After subtracting the signal from the aluminum housing, we are left with a clear view into the densest components of the watch. We can specifically highlight areas such as the battery to locate and examine features. In this example we isolate the placement of a lead within the lithium ion cell (Figure 1). From one set of scan data, we are able to reconstruct the view from each of the primary planes within the watch to produce this image, allowing visualization of the lead along each primary axis.

Figure 2: Reconstructed view of internal components

If we examine this view more closely, we can identify several notable features in addition to the battery, which is highlighted in red (Figure 2). We observe both the Digital Crown (green) and the home button assemblies (yellow), along with one of the more innovative features of the watch, the Taptic Engine (blue). The strong signal (high brightness) from the Taptic engine results from its high density due to the presence of magnets in its construction.

Scrolling through the reconstructed slices of this same view, each slice being 30 µm thick, we can view many more components in the watch, from the heart rate sensor and wireless charging coil to the many pieces of the Apple Watch S1 System in a package that serves as a sealed micro-computer system containing a processor, memory, storage, and other sensors necessary for the operation of the watch.

Video of each slice of the watch


Micro-CT excels as a tool to nondestructively examine the internal structure of samples and continues to be successfully applied in the inspection of assembled electronic components. We hope you found this Image of the Month interesting. If you have an Image of the Month sample that you would like us to scan, please contact us by calling Seth Hogg at 610-366-7103 or e-mail: seth.hogg@microphotonics.com.

Scan Specifications


Sample Apple Watch S1 38mm
Voltage (kV) 100
Current (µA) 100
Pixel Size (µm) 30
Rotation Step 0.3
Scan Time (HH:MM:SS) 00:49:55


All scans completed on our high-speed SkyScan 1275 micro-CT system at the Micro Photonics Imaging Laboratory in Allentown, PA. Reconstructions were completed using NRecon and visualization of 2D and 3D results were completed using DataViewer and CTVox.

Works Cited

  1. https://www.infoworld.com/article/2949153/hardware/intel-pushes-10nm-chipmaking-process-to-2017-slowing-moores-law.html
  2. http://www.ccsinsight.com/press/company-news/2332-wearables-market-to-be-worth-25-billion-by-2019-reveals-ccs-insight
  3. https://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prUS43015117



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