Google's Project Ara Smartphone to Use 3D Printed Parts

Google's Project Ara Smartphone to Use 3D Printed Parts

Google Project Ara Smartphone 310x

3D Systems' new printing technique is new, fast, and can handle millions of part orders.

Google wants to drastically change the smartphone hardware landscape with its Project Ara ecosystem. Imagine a smartphone that can be broken down into detachable component chunks, allowing users to upgrade a camera without ditching the rest of your perfectly capable phone.

A new vision for smartphone hardware means new methods of manufacturing, and 3D Systems is seemingly up to the task.

3D Systems (via SlashGear) has detailed its new 3D printing process, which uses consistent, unchanging printing speed.

From the blog post: "For more productive print rates (of millions and hopefully billions of units), we're creating a continuous motion system around a racetrack architecture that will allow the module shells to move in a continuous flow with additional "off ramps" for various finishing steps, including inserts and other module manipulations."

In other words: current 3D printing practices lack consistent speed, which causes longer printing time. The new process and its consistent printing speed will, in theory, be more efficient.

Along with changing 3D printing methodology, 3D Systems is developing conductive ink, which will be used in certain components (like antennas). The ink is being developed with Carnegie Mellon University, and X5 Systems.

Modular phones for consumers are a ways off, with prototypes shipping in late 2014.

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So is this like changing from a single person assembling a single item to an assembly line of people assembling the same items over and over again, but with 3d printers? That's pretty cool. The assembly line more or less kicked off the industrial revolution, so I'm looking forward to seeing how this will affect modern manufacturing. Unless I'm completely off base with this assumption that is, but it still sounds neat.

So it's basically like PhoneBloks?

And I wouldn't call late-2014 a ways off - that's pretty soon.

Extragorey:
So it's basically like PhoneBloks?

And I wouldn't call late-2014 a ways off - that's pretty soon.

Prototypes. Not complete consumer-ready products.

Oooh! I've been waiting for modular pop-electronics for ages :)
This will be awesome!

I did a presentation on electronics manufacturing recently and I closed with a few minutes on Project Ara and PhoneBloks.

The guy that conceptualized PhoneBloks said from the beginning it was a concept, something he didn't have the resources of tech skill to build. I remember when that first video launch, there was a lot of noise in the tech community saying why his exact design wouldn't work (mainly, the two screw that "hold it all in place"). After a few months, he actually started working with Google to design Ara, and (as planned) left shortly after to continue on his own project. Google set up a team in Motorola to create Ara and when Google sold Motorola to Lenovo, they kept that team.

Ara will address a lot of issues in media technology manufacturing, including conflict minerals, malicious labor practices, and e-waste (all problems that we ship overseas). The innovative "open source" phone design is fantastic, but it's great that there is a way to address those manufacturing and waste problems while creating something marketable for entirely different reasons.

3D printing components is a very cool concept, especially at the manufacturing level, but what's really cool is the idea that people can design their own modules and have them printed. I don't have those skills, but the fact that people can create their own stuff is beyond exciting.

During an April 15th talk, Google stated that the first Ara phones will be available to the public in January of 2015, with the lowest-end kits (Endo frame that they all come with, battery, screen, basic processor/memory/OS module) pricing at $50.

Extragorey:
So it's basically like PhoneBloks?

And I wouldn't call late-2014 a ways off - that's pretty soon.

If I'm remembering correctly, it's not merely 'like' PhoneBloks, it is PhoneBloks, as in Google bought/partnered with that company.

 

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