Motorola And 3D Systems Will 3-D-Print Modular Cell Phones

Collaboration between two tech pioneers to help make Project Ara a reality.

Project Ara

Mark Serr

Last month, Motorola announced a plan for a modular smartphone. Project Ara, the company said, will be a simple way for users to individualize their phones, swapping out parts like the battery and camera until users have a phone that's just for them. How do they plan on doing that? With 3-D printing, apparently.

The company has inked a deal with 3D Systems, a global 3-D printing manufacturing company, to help produce parts of the phone. Assuming the project--still officially in development--takes off, 3D Systems would be a "multi-year" production partner, making smartphone "enclosures and modules" for the Google-owned phone company.

There's reason to be skeptical of modular phone technology, but Project Ara does get a pedigree boost from former DARPA director and now-Google exec Regina Dugan, and having the weight of a big tech company behind it doesn't hurt. Motorola says they'll be releasing more details on the project in the coming months.