Sep 20, 2016 | By Alec

Remember Nascent Objects? Back at CES at the beginning of the year, this startup presented a very intriguing concept. What if we stop replacing our smartphones and other consumer electronics at breakneck speeds, and reuse what is still good in a new 3D printed form? According to some estimates, we collectively produce up to 20 million tons of e-waste on an annual basis – and we don’t even have to. A cracked screen doesn’t mean the electronics are outdated, and the same principle can be applied to many consumer products. We were immediately convinced, and so is Facebook apparently. The social media giant has just revealed that they have acquired the Bay Area startup.

This news might be surprising to many consumer tech experts, as a similar concept made headlines just a few weeks ago. Google had been working on the comparable Project Ara for some time, which also relied on 3D printed modules that can used for numerous purposes. Unfortunately, that dream died three weeks ago, when Google pulled the plug. That makes it extra remarkable that social media Titan (and competitor) Facebook is now moving into that same market through Nascent Objects.

But then the Nascent Objects concept has extreme potential. To refresh your memories, Nascent Objects is about all the electronics that don’t need to be replaced yet. With the help of a 3D printing platform, they are seeking to redefine the product cycle of our gadgets by reusing all those standard electronics that can have multiple applications. And there are a lot of them – a study of 600 well-known electronic consumer products showed that 15 modules could be used to build over 80% of them. Think batteries, cameras, sensors, and more. Really only the packaging and operating systems change.

Nascent Objects is thus 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 ourselves. And reuse it when and how we want. “The issue is always manufacturing,” CEO Baback Elmieh explained in January, “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.”

After their CES debut, things started moving very quickly for Nascent Objects. Within weeks, they set up a collaboration with EnvisionTEC, and even launched an Indiegogo campaign for their first three modular electronics (raising more than $60,000 in the process).

But Facebook will doubtlessly steer them in a slightly different direction, and will seek to embed Nascent Objects into their growing hardware R&D platform. It was already revealed that Elmieh is joining Facebook along with “other key members” of the startup, and Nascent will move into Facebook’s Building 8 lab, which is focused on rapid prototyping and facilitating concept-to-product moves. There, Nascent Objects will doubtlessly find the resources and funds necessary to expand their modular system and standardize their concept. It will also save them from the burdensome customer acquisition phase, for now.

Building 8 is run by Regina Dugan, formerly of Google. She already revealed Nascent Objects to the world in a Facebook post. “Imagine designing, building and delivering a hardware product in just weeks. Instead of months, or even years,” she said of the new acquisition. “Together, we hope to create hardware at a speed that’s more like software.” She also introduced the company with this cool clip (see below). It looks like a whole new chapter has begun for Nascent Objects and their 3D printed modular electronics.



Posted in 3D Printer Company



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