Motorola Ara

Motorola's groundbreaking initiative to create open source phone components which can plug into a highly adaptable modular phone took another step forward when the company signed an agreement with 3D Systems to make the chassis for it.

Motorola initially announced the concept, dubbed Project Ara, in October.

"With Project Ara, we asked the question, 'How do we bring the benefits of customization and an open hardware ecosystem to 6 billion people?'" said Regina Dugan, Senior Vice President and head of Motorola's Advanced Technology & Projects group. "That is our driving application. 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."

As part of the agreement, 3D Systems 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 is expected to manufacture 3D-printed Ara smartphone enclosures and modules as Motorola's exclusive fulfillment partner.

"Project Ara was conceived to build a platform that empowers consumers all over the world with customization for a product made by and for the individual," 3D Systems CEO Avi Reichental said." (Additive manufacturing) 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."

Motorola and 3D Systems partnered on the MAKEwithMOTO tour, a series of make-a-thons at the nation's top engineering and design schools aimed at exploiting the power of open, hackable smartphone hardware and 3D printing to begin seeding an open hardware ecosystem.