Mobile

Motorola turns to 3D printing to bring its ambitious modular smartphones to life

Above: All of these Project Ara modules will make up a smartphone.

Image Credit: Motorola

Motorola’s futuristic smartphones now have an equally futuristic manufacturing method: 3D printing.

Motorola announced today that it’s inked a deal with 3D printing giant 3D Systems to put together its Project Ara smartphones, which the company announced last month.

Essentially a Lego take on hardware, Project Aura’s modular design will give owners almost complete control over their phones’ features, letting them swap out components without buying entirely new phones. That level of customization is perfect for 3D printing, which excels at letting companies manufacture custom items in small batches.

“3D printing promotes a level of sustainability, functionality, and mass personalization that turns these kinds of global ambitions into attainable local realities,” 3D Systems CEO Avi Reichental said in a statement.

motorola project ara 1

Above: 3D printing is a perfect fit for Motorola’s modular take on smartphones.

Image Credit: Google ATAP

While 3D Systems has been making a big push into consumer 3D printing as of late, the company’s core business is selling giant industrial printers to big companies like General Electric.

That expertise will come in handy with its Motorola deal, which will require 3D Systems to create “a continuous high-speed production platform” to put Motorola’s devices together. The deal also means 3D Systems will be investing a lot more into printing with conductive inks for components like smartphone antennas.

Assuming this all works out like Motorola and 3D Systems hope, the deal could turn out to be the most high-profile proof that 3D printing will indeed be core to the next industrial revolution, as people like MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis often argue.

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