April 10, 2014

Google officially released the Project Ara Module Developers Kit (MDK) v0.10. The kit provides the information that third-party manufacturers need to get started on creating components for the modular smartphone.

Paul Eremenko, Head, Project Ara said in a Google+ post, "Today we're announcing the first release of the Project Ara Module Developers Kit (MDK) v0.10. This is a very early version but our goals are to give the developer community an opportunity to provide feedback and input, and to help us ensure that the final MDK - anticipated at the end of 2014 - is elegant, flexible, and complete."

The device will be coming in three different Ara skeleton sizes – mini, medium and large. Larger skeletons will be able to accommodate more Ara modules than smaller ones. Each size will start with a basic "skeleton" that will then accept components to build a phone, primarily sourced from third parties. There will be different device layouts available within each size category. Users will be able to choose from touchscreen-only setups, as well as options with physical QWERTY keyboard, or even a number pad.

In order to ensure all basic phone components work together, the MDK features guidelines for the size and design of these components, such as processors, display units, Wi-Fi chips, batteries, as well as reference designs and CAD files. And manufacturers will be required to follow them.

The final MDK version will be released by the end of 2014.

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.

The next generation 3D printer is capable of printing enclosures for Ara modules in volume. It will be able to print 600-dpi color images on module enclosures made out of multiple types of materials. The printer will even be able to print custom designs on the surfaces of the blocks to give buyers the look they want.

Google expects that eventually, users can print electrical elements such as the antennas using 3D printing. Avi Reichental, 3D Systems President and CEO Avi Reichental said his company's work with Google will help to overcome the challenges in this type of printing. "Some of the circuitry in the first generation will be very traditional," he said.

Reichental said the company will be able to deliver the first Project Ara modules in early 2015 since Google is apparently targeting the first quarter of next year for actual Project Ara devices and components to go on sale, alongside a dedicated marketplace for additional modules.

Google plans to hold a series of Developers Conferences, and first one kicks off next week at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.

Project Ara won't be a replacement for current smartphones but represents a good opportunity for 3D printing, said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

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.

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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