Nov.22, 2013

3D printer company 3D Systems has entered into a multi-year development agreement with Motorola Mobility LLC, A Google Company, to create a continuous high-speed 3D printing production platform and fulfilment system in support of Motorola's Project Ara.

Motorola unveiled Project Ara last month, a free, open-source initiative for creating highly modular smartphones with the goal to "do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software: create a vibrant third-party developer ecosystem." This system support third-party hardware development for individual components which will give users the power to decide what their phone does, how it looks, where and what it's made of, how much it costs.

Motorola will be working with Phonebloks creator Dave Hakkens on an "endoskeleton (endo) and modules." The Dutch designer wants to build smartphones based on modulars and has created a community for his concept. And now Motorola is putting its resources behind it. Motorola has done deep technical work and plans to engage with the Phonebloks community throughout the development process.

Suggestions for modules include anything from a new application processor to a new display or keyboard, an extra battery or a pulse oximeter. An alpha release of the Module Developer's Kit (MDK) will be released sometime this winter.

The Google subsidiary has spent the past six months to tour in the US to check out this new way of building phones. Their MAKEwithMOTO team took Sticky, a truck wrapped entirely in velcro and filled with rooted, hackable Motorola smartphones and 3D printers, across the country for a series of make-a-thons aimed at exploiting the power of open hardware and 3D printing.

Motorola and 3D Systems have partnered on the MAKEwithMOTO tour, so it is pretty nature that the two partner on this modular, custom smartphone project.

As part of this agreement, 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 fulfillment partner.


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