May 3, 2014

If you've heard about Project ARA, you might know that Google plans to release this first modular smartphone in January 2015, which will allow users to personalize their own device via miniature components and 3D printing.

Project Ara was originally announced last year, Google took a quick move by signing a deal with 3D Systems in February 2014 to create a continuous high-speed 3D printing production platform and fulfilment system in support of Project Ara. And this week, 3D Systems has provided more information about some of its early progress.

"The dynamic and evolving technology that is changing the way we think and make is also changing the way it thinks and makes," 3D Systems notes in a blog post.

According to 3D Systems, the traditional "reciprocating platform" of today's 3D printers would not keep up with the demand. Most 3D printers now move both the print head and the platform in the printing process, but it would lead to frequent acceleration and deceleration, which ultimately adds to the overall print time. The continuous system, however, would "allow the module shells to move in a continuous flow". 3D Systems said the platform would use "off ramps for various finishing steps, including inserts and other module manipulations."

Earlier, Google gave the world its first glimpse of the Project Ara modular prototype smartphone at the 'Launch' event in San Francisco. Watch the video below showing the size of the device.

"Rather than chucking your whole device for a new camera, you simply slide out the old one and clip in the new one," 3D Systems said. "Badda-bing, badda-boom: you have a better phone with less waste."

3D Systems is working with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and X5 Systems on printing functional components such as antennas. According to the company, the modules will be printable with full spectrum, CMYKWT color plus support (meaning cyan, magenta, yellow, black, white and clear, with support), in hard and soft composite materials for the optimum lifespan of parts and ultimate customization by the user.

"The combination of exponential creation technology with exponential information technology translates to unprecedented capability and adaptability for the consumer," 3DS CTO Chuck Hull said in a statement. "The scale of this project and its practical functionality are an exciting step into the future."

Google released the Project Ara Module Developers Kit (MDK) v0.10 in earlier April, providing developers details on how to create modules compatible with the smartphone. Project Ara will be sold as low as $50 for basic components.

Posted in 3D Printing Technology

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