April 11, 2014
3D Systems Corp. is part of a new phone concept for Google Motorola which will allow phone buyers to mix and match different elements of a smartphone.
Google Motorola’s Advanced Technology and Projects group says it will launch production in early 2015. Dave Hakkens, an entrepreneur from the Netherlands, created a concept for the smartphone called Phonebloks, which combines phone technology with a little inspiration from Lego’s interlocking bricks, and is now part of the Google Motorola project.
The mobile phone will consist of a main board, or endoskeleton, onto which the user slots modules using magnets. Each module is responsible for a unique function of the phone, much as a desktop computer has a distinct sound card, processor, monitor, graphics card and power supply.
The magnets are electro-permanent so phone components can be secured or unlocked with an app: a design decision that means Project Ara phones will not need a covering or outer case.
It means that instead of replacing the entire phone when it becomes obsolete or broken, a consumer can simply replace the defective or performance-limiting part.
3D Systems, based in Rock Hill, S.C., is the manufacturing partner and has been working with Google to provide the casing for Ara’s individual modules.
“It has been a challenge producing additive manufacturing parts that are robust in the necessary colors and vibrancy at a rate of thousands in a day,’ said Geoff Blank, 3D Systems vice president of engineering and business development.
In a blog post on its website, 3D said it is working on a “new high-speed continuous 3-D printer that will be capable of producing large volumes of Ara modules, allowing phones to be customized faster than ever.”
Google, the Mountain View, Calif.-based Internet company, sold the Motorola cell phone company last year, but held onto the advanced technology group, which was involved with the Ara project.
The companies involved in the Ara launch also recently posted a video update of the development featuring Hakkens, Google and Blank