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Manufacturing technology Deal seeks to integrate 3D printing into cell phone production line

Editor: Eric Culp

A top wireless communications firm and an additive manufacturing company have joined forces.

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Project Ara consists of an endoskeleton that holds modules, which can be anything from a new application processor to a new display or keyboard or even an extra battery.
Project Ara consists of an endoskeleton that holds modules, which can be anything from a new application processor to a new display or keyboard or even an extra battery.
(Source: Motorola)

Additive manufacturing pioneer 3D Systems has announced its entry into a multi-year development agreement with cell phone producer and Google subsidiary Motorola Mobility to create a continuous high-speed 3D printing production platform.

Related: Arburg introduces a 3D printer

The partnership is part of Motorola’s Project Ara, which aims to develop highly-custom, modular smartphones that let users make functional and aesthetic choices about their device.

Regina Dugan, senior VP and head of Motorola’s Advanced Technology & Projects group, said: “With Project Ara, we asked the question, ‘How do we bring the benefits of customisation and an open hardware ecosystem to six billion people?’ It requires technical advances in areas such as material strength and printing with conductive inks for antennas. And those advances must support production-level speeds and volumes, which is a natural partnership with 3D Systems.”

President and CEO of 3D Systems Avi Reichental said the project empowers consumers all over the world so they can customise their devices. “Three-D printing promotes a level of sustainability, functionality, and mass personalisation that turns these kinds of global ambitions into attainable local realities.”

As part of this agreement, 3D Systems said it plans to substantially expand its multi-material printing capabilities including conductive and functional materials. The company also plans to combine additive and subtractive manufacturing methods, and deliver an integrated high-speed production platform. Pending successful completion of the development phase, 3D Systems reported that it is expected to manufacture 3D-printed Ara smartphone enclosures and modules as Motorola’s exclusive fulfillment partner.

The partnership pairs up sector innovators: Motorola invented the cell phone, and 3D Systems developed the first 3D printer.

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