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Motorola Partners With 3D Systems to Help Build Project Ara Modular Phones

Well, folks, Motorola’s modular smartphone platform called Project Ara has a manufacturing partner. The company is called 3D Systems, a 3D printing outfit that helped them with their MakeWithMoto campaign shortly after the Moto X launch. 3D Systems will attempt to “create a continuous high-speed 3D printing production platform and fulfillment system” to help deliver the pieces needed to make modular phones a reality.

For those not familiar, Project Ara is somewhat of a moonshot for Motorola, in that they want to build smartphones that can be pieced together with hardware modules, upgraded with individual parts, and produced at affordable prices for consumers. If you remember Phonebloks, then you’ll know Ara. In fact, Motorola has teamed up with Phonebloks to get community feedback and to help drive the initiative.

With a manufacturing partner now in place, we’re one step closer to life with modular smartphones. 3D Systems CEO had this to say about the deal, “3D printing promotes a level of sustainability, functionality, and mass personalization that turns these kinds of global ambitions into attainable local realities. Project Ara combines two exponential technologies, and we expect that the resulting high-throughput advanced manufacturing platform will have far reaching implications on the entire digital thread that stitches together the factory of the future.”

Still excited about modular smartphones? Or do you still have your doubts?

Via: ย 3D Systems
  • WyattEpp

    If I can get a proper physical keyboard, I’ll be full on chuffed. Until then, I’m ambivalent at best.

    • ho

      i think that’s the point, that you can have what you want.

      • WyattEpp

        I can have what I want…IF they make the block for it. I guess I might be an outlier in this area, but I don’t have the equipment for amateur electronic fabrication. :/

  • Colton Clark

    I actually saw this coming..but now that I think about it…I’d rather not

  • Sporttster

    Such a ridiculous concept. I don’t need a Lego phone, thanks.

  • RadicalPie

    I was wondering how this could be realistic in regards to swapping out battery sizes and screen sizes. Perhaps the other modules could fit into a standard formation including empty modules spaces for future innovation . suppose this formation could result in a 4 inch rectangle diagonaly. Then there would be several different sized displays that would have outlets to fit this 4 inch formation . Around the formation could be a rectangular “donut” shaped battery that corresponds to each display and “locks” in the other modules. So the bigger display the bigger battery. Then you could even battery swap.Just my 2ยข on how I might design it.

  • interstellarmind

    Totally on board.

    If you can build your PC, why not your android device?

    • Colton Clark

      Why not an Android PC? (That runs .exe’s and CD’s)

  • Stone Cold

    Excited personally.

  • Dan

    Hopefully one of the modules is the “big a$$ f-ing memory” module so we can stop with the SD card crap.

    • Balansi Kherwyn

      Then that would be the SDCARD itself enclosed in a square box.. right?

      • Joe

        Nah, it’ll be an iSSD or one of the faster eMMC storage in the square box. SD cards are slower than SSDs and the newer eMMCs.

  • Brady KEITH

    Unofficial render of mandatory bloatware module for VZW subscribers…

    • DoctorJB

      But how else will I know if it has 4G LTE?!?!

    • EC8CH


      No 4G LTE logo.

      • Bret

        That’s what the “other” module is for.

  • mike

    Wheres my shoutout for sending this?!

  • BenBlank

    Yeah, but can I get the latest version of Android the day it’s released….FFS

    • Just_Some_Nobody

      Only if you’re a 1%er.

      • Kebo

        I see what you did there 1/100 chance ๐Ÿ™‚

  • AbbyZFresh

    PC heads will drool over this.

    In the real-world. Nobody is going to waste time and money with all those parts tinkering with their phones like that.

    • epps720

      It all depends on how well it gets implemented and how expensive the individual parts will be. If they can make it so that all you do is unclip an 8 mp camera block and replace it with a 13 mp camera block and the phone automatically does all the software upgrades then this can definitely take off (as long as the price is reasonable). Now if the person will need to make some manual software updates on their own then this will only be a very small niche of people.

      • CHRIS42060

        I agree with this. If it is completely plug and play and at a decent price it will be a hit with a lot of consumers. I also think something else it would need is buy-in from companies like Radio Shack and Best Buy to offer a modular phone upgrade center in their stores. A consumer thinks their modular phone is slow, and they can head to the nearest Best Buy with an associate there to help them upgrade it to meet the current day specs.

  • DoctorJB

    Seems like a great idea, especially now that smartphones are (mostly) lag free and the need for continuous upgrades are less. Some concerns exist beyond the standard “Can they really even do that?!?” though. If these replacement parts are so cheap, what prevents people from cycling through a phone worth of upgrades within the same period of time they would have just bought a new phone? If they aren’t cheap, what incentive is there to go modular?

    Seems like a better move would be to get manufacturers to adapt a set of standard battery and/or screen dimensions so that the most replaced portions of cell phones could be more easily replaced. Also, economy of scale would allow for cost reduction.

  • mostKnownUnknown

    It would be nice to have attachable backs to make it feel like once solid piece while still keeping a camera hole. The more I look at the photo, the more I fear the thought of it falling, breaking like legos and the wifi module being a part of my dog’s snack time.

    • Guest

      But you’d only have to replace the WiFi module rather than the whole phone

  • EC8CH

    Hey Moto…

    Quit screwing around and partner with this guy…

    I want my wood Moto X!

    • Albert

      Haha “screwing around” is far from what Motorola is doing now. I have to say they are on top of their game now.

      • EC8CH

        yeah yeah sure sure…

        wood moto x’s now…

        pie in the sky modular phones later.

  • EC8CH

    I fail to see how 3D printing is the key to making modular phones feasible.

    Seems there are other far more important technical obstacles to overcome.

    • Kevin

      maybe they already have

  • Brady KEITH

    Kewl! True innovation.

  • PhoenixPath

    Excited as heck to see where this may yet lead, but still doubtful as all get-out seeing as how it’s still little more than just the “talking it up” stage at this point. We haven’t even begun looking at what some of the obstacles or roadblocks might be for this anywhere along the chain from concept to delivery.

    tl;dr – cautiously optimistic, but grudgingly.