Motorola's Project Ara
Our Group Editor James Woodcock was recently asked in a telephone interview whether we’d be printing mobile phones in the home any time soon. The answer was, of course, was a resounding no.
The question came without any knowledge of the technology, perhaps the interviewer believed that the technology is magic? However, despite the daft questions, 3D Systems have just made that question seem a lot more grounded in realism. They have now announced a partnership with Motorola that could see the first steps of printing mobile phone parts.
The multi-year partnership is part of the Google owned Motorola Mobility’s Project Ara. Project Ara aims to develop highly custom, modular smartphones that afford users the opportunity to make functional and aesthetic choices about their device.
“With Project Ara, we asked the question, ‘How do we bring the benefits of customization and an open hardware ecosystem to 6 billion people?’ That is our driving application. It requires technical advances in areas such as material strength and printing with conductive inks for antennas. And those advances must support production-level speeds and volumes, which is a natural partnership with 3D Systems,” said Regina Dugan, Senior Vice President and head of Motorola’s Advanced Technology & Projects group.
Interestingly according to the press release this partnership stretches further than just the usual 3D printing partnerships. 3D Systems plans to substantially expand its multi-material printing capabilities including conductive and functional materials. The company also plans to combine additive and subtractive manufacturing methods, and deliver an integrated high-speed production platform. Pending successful completion of the development phase, 3D Systems is expected to manufacture 3D-printed Ara smartphone enclosures and modules as Motorola’s exclusive fulfilment partner.
“Project Ara was conceived to build a platform that empowers consumers all over the world with customization for a product made by and for the individual,” said Avi Reichental, President and CEO of 3D Systems. “3D printing promotes a level of sustainability, functionality, and mass personalization that turns these kinds of global ambitions into attainable local realities. Project Ara combines two exponential technologies, and we expect that the resulting high-throughput advanced manufacturing platform will have far reaching implications on the entire digital thread that stitches together the factory of the future.”
Though this does not mean we’ll be printing phones at home any time in the near future it does mean that the inventors of the cell-phone and the inventors of 3D printing are considering it as a possibility.