Google's 3D-Printed Parts & Electro-Permanent Magnets in Project Ara
Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group, or ATAP, is pretty busy these days. We know a lot about what they’re doing with Project Tango, an effort to build a smartphone that can create complex and accurate 3D model of an indoor environment in real-time. But before Project Tango was announced, ATAP first caught our attention with Project Ara, an initiative to build and sell a modular smartphone. Though we probably won’t see these in the wild until at least 2015, today, we’ve caught a glimpse at the team behind Project Ara, and the different team-members and companies involved with making Ara a reality.
Here’s the video:
There are some really interesting takeaways from that video. Firstly, it’s exciting to see how ATAP has figured out how to keep the modular blocks in place. Using electro-permanent magnets, the blocks will stay in place until you decide to release them. The exact process for accomplishing this isn’t made explicitly clear, but we do get a neat preview demo showing a person activating the magnets. It seems that ATAP’s already got a pretty viable solution for making Ara work in a real-world situation.
Jeff Blanks from 3D Systems, the company that makes the Cube line of 3D printers for home use—also talked about the process of developing the blocks themselves. He said that they’re trying to solve problems to allow them to manufacture thousands of pieces a day, seemingly revealing two ideas behind how these blocks will be made available for consumers. One, 3D Systems will manufacture them and sell them directly to consumers or to stores for consumer purchase. Two, 3D Systems will sell the files necessary for home users who own 3D printers to make the pieces themselves. Both ideas are interesting in and of themselves, and could upend the way that consumers buy new phones.
Finally, someone from Soso Limited also appeared to talk about the work his company is doing to develop the Ara Configurator App, a little piece of software that’ll allow users to figure out the different options they have for building a phone before they actually build them. The app is designed to be as user-friendly as possible, helping neophytes explore the idea of modular smartphone building.
In all, this video couldn’t make me more excited. What do you think?