Google Project Ara 3D printing details start to form

Truly customizable phones

Project Ara

The heart of Project Ara's hardware production lies in 3D printing, and now we're getting our first details on how Google's modular phone parts will be made.

3D Systems, which has been tasked with producing Ara's tiles, put up a blog post detailing the new 3D printing technology it's using to develop sturdy and colorful modular phones.

The company says it's pushed the limits on advancing material strength to make Ara phones more durable. Users will be able to choose between hard and soft composite materials, thus deciding the feel of their phones.

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What's more, parts can be printed in a wide assortment of colors including cyan, magenta, yellow, black, white, and a clear coating - much more interesting than your plain old white Samsung Galaxy S5.

Next-gen plastic

But customizable colors and textures aren't all. 3D systems says it's looking to integrate its additive manufacturing process to the internal components of Project Ara as well.

In conjunction with Carnegie Mellon University, the 3D printing company has developed conductive inks that could potentially make it easier for power to travel across the surface of the phone and its components.

Meanwhile, 3D Systems claims it's printed functional components such as antennas in partnership with X5 Systems, a Silicon Valley start-up specializing in advanced antenna design.

Production plans

While 3D Systems is exploring these experimental technologies, it's also developed a high-speed 3D printing production platform to create Project Ara components.

Supposedly the new system prints plastic parts on a constantly moving racetrack that's faster and more efficient than a self-contained 3D printer. Ultimately, it's a new process that should churn out parts more quickly to ensure the phones make their January 2015 launch date.

Like everything we've heard about Project Ara, all of this sounds extremely ambitious, and invariably, so unbelievable it could only exist as a concept. Still, January is half a year away, so we've got our fingers crossed Project Ara will actually become a reality by then.