Here's one way to preview the next iPad: Print a 3D model of it

Take one leaked iPad case, reverse-engineer an iPad design and what do you get? Just maybe: A glimpse into the hardware that Apple plans to introduce on March 21.


What will the next iPad have?

Apple is expected to show new products at the March 21st press event, and a new iPad Air is thought to be one of them. The firm skipped showing off an upgrade to the current 9.7-inch iPad late last year and focused all attention on the big iPad Pro. It's time for a new iPad Air and it seems logical that we'll see the next one at the event.

Rumors of what we might see in the iPad Air 3 (or whatever Apple plans to call it) have been swirling around for a while, but the folks at Techsmart used 3D printing to show the next iPad. Getting its hands early on a case for what it's been told is the next iPad, Techsmart carefully 3D scanned it. Then they developed a model of the next iPad using scanning of the case to get exact dimensions and used the cutouts for the iPad to get it as accurate as they could.

Taking the final 3D model of what very well may be the next iPad, a 3D printer was fired up and they created a physical model of the next iPad. The dimensions and controls are accurately produced in the model.

Based on this long process, it appears the next iPad will have the following hardware features:

Smart connector - This first appeared in the iPad Pro and it makes sense Apple would bring it to the standard iPad. This allows it to work directly with keyboards, and hints that Apple will produce one for the next iPad as it did first with the iPad Pro.

Four speakers - This also first appeared in the iPad Pro, and a loud, quality audio system was the result. The speakers may have to be smaller due to the size of the smaller iPad but it looks like it's trickling down the iPad line from the Pro.

Flash camera - The thought that this is coming is based on a cutout in the case next to the camera lens. While taking photos with tablets isn't popular, it looks like Apple expects owners to do so.

Otherwise, the 3D model created shows the next iPad Air will be much like the current iPad Air 2. The model looks to be much the same size as the 9.7-inch iPad Air 2.

Techsmart shot a video showing the features on the 3D printed model.

Apple is known to give information to case makers in advance so there are third-party case options when a new device is launched, so this case the Techsmart folks got hold of may be real. It's important to remember it may not be, however, so Apple may still have a few surprises up its sleeve at the press event.