3D Printing

Additive manufacturing – or 3D printing – has been around for almost 30 years now. However, 2013 could finally by the year that this technology takes off.

Printing in 3D involves sending a design file to a printer that then forms a solid three-dimensional version of that object by slowly building it up in layers of plastic.

3D printing is usually performed by a materials printer using digital technology. Since the start of the twenty-first century there has been a large growth in the sale of these machines, and their price has dropped substantially. While early 3D printers could only work in one colour, the latest versions can produce intricate, multicoloured objects.

3D printing is considered distinct from traditional machining techniques (subtractive processes) which mostly rely on the removal of material by drilling or cutting etc.

Nokia has now got in on the act. The company has just released design files that will allow owners use 3D printers to make their own phone cases for one of its Lumia smartphones.

Files containing mechanical drawings, case measurements and recommended materials have been released by Nokia. Those using the files will then be able to create a custom-designed case for the flagship Lumia 820 handset.

‘’We are going to release 3D templates, case specs, recommended materials and best practices — everything someone versed in 3D printing needs to print their own custom Lumia 820 case,” Nokia community and developer marketing manager John Kneeland said on Nokia’s blog, where links to the 3D kit can be found.

While on the one hand, Nokia is simply giving its customers the tools to build what they would otherwise have simply purchased from Nokia or a third-party maker, the move certainly can’t hurt the company’s comeback efforts – and image – by opening itself up to the growing and tech-savvy 3D print community.

Of course, designing and printing your own phone cover is just the first step. How long will it be until customers can design and make their own phone?

For more information on 3D printing, watch the following Ted Talks presentation by Lisa Harouni here.