Turning a jigsaw puzzle into a mobile phone – Project Ara

By Deelip Menezes

I attended the first Ara Developers Conference held in Mountain View, California, last week, where I learned quite a bit about the innards of an Ara phone. The engineering that is going into this device is astounding. Imagine hot swapping a dying battery for a charged one without disconnecting your call. Mobile phones as we know them are going to change. Completely.

3D Systems has been working very closely with Google on Project Ara, in my opinion, the next big thing in mobile technology. Ara will completely change the way we buy and experience our mobile phones. Basically, you cook up your phone by selecting which modules you want (camera, battery, speaker, display, etc.) pretty much like a jig-saw puzzle. Each phone has a frame called endo (short for endoskeleton) into which modules slide into and lock into position using electro-permanent magnets. Each module consists of (1) an aluminum base, (2) a PCB containing the electronics of the module, (3) a safety shield to project the PCB, and (4) a shell.

project ara, endo, 3d printed, phone, google

The shell is where 3D Systems comes into the picture, and we are deeply involved. The shells are being 3D printed and we are developing a new high volume 3D printer for large-scale production. The point of 3D printing the shells is to personalize your phone after you customize it. The difference between customizing and personalizing is important to understand: Customizing involves picking modules to make a phone that serves your purpose. Personalizing involves creating a truly one-of-a-kind phone that represents you as an individual. For example, you can personalize your phone by 3D printing a picture of your spouse or kids on the shells of your Ara phone.

I also presented at the Developers Conference and gave the audience an insight into a couple of other things on which we are working with Google. One of them is the Ara configurator app: This is the Android app which people will use to configure and personalize their Ara phones. This app is being developed by 3D Systems. We are also developing an entire Back Office application to run the Ara business. Orders placed in the Ara configurator app will show up in the Back Office and will be processed thereafter.

 project ara, 3d systems, 3d pint, phone, googleProject Ara is highly exciting. Stick around on this blog to see more updates as they come in, but we know we are manufacturing our future, indeed revolutionizing it, with Project Ara and 3D Systems.