The world is home to roughly one billion smartphone users, but to get the remaining six billion into the fold Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) created Project Ara. The platform essentially will provide users with a frame to support smartphone modules of the user’s choice including batteries, keyboards, and a display. The idea is that users could swap them out as they have money, pieces malfunction or newer tech becomes available. Additionally, the project could seriously reduce worldwide electronic waste, currently the biggest export of the United States by volume. The first “Ara” phone is set for release early next year with an expected price tag around $50.
Motorola came and went
The project began and was headed by the Advanced Technologies and Projects team within Motorola Mobility. Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) famously shed itself of the subsidiary after an unsuccessful stint as parent selling MM to Lenova. Project Ara and its team members, however, were kept and placed under the direction of Google’s Android division to continue the work on the open hardware platform.
Last month, Google released version 0.10 of its Module Developers Kit, which allowed developers to download the package and begin work on the platform in its infancy. 3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD), however, probably already had access to the kit as the company partnered with the Ara team at Google last year. Project Ara will rely heavily on miniature components and 3D printing making 3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD) a natural fit.
What does 3D Systems offer?
As a result of its inclusion in the project, 3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD) has fallen away from the “reciprocating platform” that defines most 3D printers and instead is focusing on a continuous motion system to bolster higher print rates that abandons the start and stop process that most 3D printers use.
“The dynamic and evolving technology that is changing the way we think and make is also changing the way it thinks and makes,” 3D Systems said in a blog post.
Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) showed a prototype of its intentionally boring “grey phone” earlier this year which shows the electro-permanent magnets that allow for the swapping of components.
“Rather than chucking your whole device for a new camera, you simply slide out the old one and clip in the new one,” 3D Systems said. “Badda-bing, badda-boom: you have a better phone with less waste.”
“The combination of exponential creation technology with exponential information technology translates to unprecedented capability and adaptability for the consumer,” 3DS CTO Chuck Hull said in a statement. “The scale of this project and its practical functionality are an exciting step into the future.”