Feb. 24, 2016 | By Alec
Remember Nascent Objects? At this year’s CES in Las Vegas they presented a very intriguing idea: what if we could use 3D printing to stop the endless consumption cycle of electronics? Some estimates say that up to 20 million tons of this kind of e-waste is produced every year, forming a serious ecological crisis. Fortunately, startup Nascent Objects presented an ingenious solution: a platform in which you can easily design and reuse modular electronics within 3D printed cases – giving hardware a much longer shelf life. Things have been moving very quickly for Nascent Objects. They now have three of their modular electronics available through an Indiegogo campaign, and have revealed more about their 3D printing platform – for which they have teamed up with EnvisionTEC.
To refresh your memories, Nascent Objects is about all the electronics that don’t need to be replaced yet. The problem is not that we want new and cooler and more shiny things, it’s that most of the stuff we are throwing away is still in perfect working condition. A broken screen or a dead battery doesn’t mean the other hardware cannot be used for another purpose. With the help of a 3D printing platform, they are seeking to redefine the product cycle of our gadgets. They are envisioning a world in which we can order the hardware we want from a set of standardized modules and package it all into a 3D printed container.
As Baback Elmieh, the startup’s CEO explained, 3D printing is a means to that sustainable end. “We have developed very innovative 3D printing intellectual property but we are not a 3D printing company, in the sense of someone that sets out to 3D print prototypes or parts. What we set out to do is make consumer electronics into a system that is sustainable, reusable, and able to really overcome the barriers to building a consumer electronics product. 3D printing just happened to be the best way to get that done.”
If you’re tired of a product and want something better, you can remove or replace those modules you no longer need, and keep the ones you do like. Your gadget can be anything, whether it’s a phone, a camera, a sensor, or whatever else you can think of. And it doesn’t stop technological development either – a study of 600 well-known electronic consumer products showed that 15 modules could be used to build over 80% of them – only the packaging changes. “The issue is always manufacturing,” Baback explains, “Because you have to build them separately, you can’t just turn one product into another. So we built a system where the last gadget that you’ll ever have to own is actually the components inside all your products.”
To realize the chassis of their concept, the “endostructure”, they have turned to 3D printing. Their core technology is a system for generating and metalizing circuitry that fits within that 3D printed polymer substrate. These electrical lines can carry signals up to 2Ghz and 120 Watts of power. Everything that connects the modules is 3D printed, Baback says. “We print the mechanics, the interconnect pathways, the connector pads, everything,” he says. All the users have to do is insert the electronics.
As they just revealed, EnvisionTEC 3SP 3D printing systems are used to prototype this intriguing concept. “We needed very high precision in order to metallize the 3D printed substrates,” Baback reveals. “EnvisionTEC offered us the best price to quality ratio, compared to other top photopolymer based 3D printer manufacturers. We wanted to make sure that our process was compatible with EnvisionTEC process and materials because our goal is to bring final costs as low as possible.”
This has already resulted in three cool electronics: the Droppler, a water conservation product, a Streaming WiFi speaker with Apple AirPlay and Spotify Support, and a WiFi HD video camera with streaming and IFTTT capabilities. All double as field tests to identify ideal production processes, and rely on 3D printed a chassis, along with some other parts. The water conservation tool, for instance, also featured some traditionally manufactured porcelain, but its parts can still be used for other products as well. This will tackle mass production problems, make repair or recycling easier and will hopefully serve as an example to large electronics corporations. It is, incidentally, also an excellent example of how 3D printers can become tools for mass production.
If you’re interested, all of these three products can now be ordered through Nascent Objects’ Indiegogo campaign, and are bundled into packages that transform the Droppler into the wifi speaker or the security camera. “All 3 products are now available for the price of one ($119) because of our modular system. If you want a new product, simply move the modules from one shape to the next, and switch functions on your smartphone,” the developers say. While most of the production line is already set up, the funds from their crowdfunding campaign will be used to kick start production and optimize their products. Could this be the future of consumer electronics?
Posted in 3D Printer Company
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