In Oct ’13, Motorola announced an ambitious project. An initiative, which aimed to develop a free, open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones. The platform will include a structural frame that holds smartphone modules of the owner’s choice, such as a display, keyboard or an extra battery, for that matter. Google however, sold Motorola to the Chinese electronic giant Lenovo, later that year, the super-secret Project ARA, got surrounded in a cloud of doubts.
But now, Google is releasing more details on Project ARA. It turned out that Google was holding onto one organization within Motorola: the Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group, headed by Regina Dugan, the former director of the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The Project ARA which aims to reinvent the smartphone that consumers can configure as they choose, is expected to have an alpha version ready at the beginning of April, and a commercial release will follow soon enough. Project ARA’s creators hope to make smartphones a whole lot more interesting, by allowing users to swap out malfunctioning modules or upgrade individual modules as innovations emerge, providing longer lifetime cycles for the handset.
Google and 3D Systems team up to create a continuous high-speed 3D printing production platform and fulfilment system in support of Project ARA.
The next generation 3D printer is capable of printing enclosures for the Project ARA modules, in volume. It will be able to print 600-dpi color images on module enclosures made out of multiple types of materials. The printer will even be able to treat the enclosure as a surface for one-of-a-kind sculptures.
Google expects that eventually, users can print electrical elements such as the antennas using 3D printers. The company will distribute development kits to software developers in the coming months.