Nokia releases 3D print kit for Lumia 820 cases - and hints at printable future

Nokia releases 3D print kit for Lumia 820 cases - and hints at printable future

Summary: 3D printers could be a big part of Nokia’s future, with today's early efforts potentially leading to the company selling templates for others to go and make handsets themselves, says a Nokia exec.

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In a first for the smartphone world, Nokia has taken the interesting step of releasing a 3D printing Development Kit for its Lumia 820.

The 3D kit, available on Nokia's site from Friday, includes mechanical drawings of the back shell of the Lumia 820, which will allow anyone lucky enough to have a 3D printer to print their own smartphone covers.

nokia-lumia-820-450
Nokia's 3D kit means you can print a new case for your phone yourself. Image: Nokia

"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.

Interest in 3D printing has grown rapidly with the growing availability and falling prices of 3D printers like the MakerBot, which costs around $2,000.

On the one hand, Nokia is giving customers the tools to build what they would otherwise purchase from Nokia or a third-party maker, but the move certainly can't hurt the company's comeback efforts — and image — by opening up to the growing and tech savvy 3D print community.

Nokia chief Stephen Elop had two words to say about the move on Twitter: "very cool".

Kneeland said 3D printing helps Nokia with "rapid prototyping", but it also opens up the possibility of Nokia passing the torch of making phones to others by simply selling "some kind of template".

"In the future, I envision wildly more modular and customizable phones," said Kneeland.

"Perhaps in addition to our own beautifully designed phones, we could sell some kind of phone template, and entrepreneurs the world over could build a local business on building phones precisely tailored to the needs of his or her local community. You want a waterproof, glow-in-the-dark phone with a bottle-opener and a solar charger? Someone can build it for you — or you can print it yourself!"

Topics: Nokia, Emerging Tech, Mobility, Smartphones

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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9 comments
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  • I wonder if

    Nokia can survive to see that future?
    coastin
    • surely they can

      But how much it would cost to pay the 3D printer or get it printed by third party. The concept is great, though. But I hope they would not even think about patenting the printing of phone covers - avoid following Apple business model.
      Wonder.man
  • I remember when

    I remember when laser printers cost $2000. They seemed just as far out of the reach of home users as 3D printers appear today.
    erhcanadian
  • This is AWESOME!!!!!

    It would be cool if they sell just the screen and guts and we could totally create our own custom modded phones....whoa!
    gomigomijunk
  • interesting idea but..

    Interesting idea but I really don't think many will care. Its like "MS won't let us allow custom ROMs so how about customizing the case". What happend to windows phone supposed to be about getting on with life and back to the people you love and not futzing about with a phone that supposedly you had to be a rocket scientist to use (Ballmer on android). 3D printing is gaining popularity but how many of the target customers are going to have 3D printers anytime soon.
    deathjazz
    • Good question

      But then, back in time, some people loved the Tamagotchi. Now, they have a bunch of different Tamagotchi form factors, all powered by Windows.

      The way I see this announcement is that Nokia apparently can't get enough vendors to produce cases for their phones, and they probably hope by releasing the "schematics" more will be experimenting. But then, what about the IP issues surrounding these drawings?
      Are Nokia actually releasing these designs in the public domain. If not.. I wonder who will ever waste their time printing them.
      danbi
  • 3D Printing

    3D printing truly is changing the world. At CES 2013 here in las vegas I saw a huge spotlight and crowds around a 3D printed sunglass company that is making custom fit eyewear called protos or something like that.
    RyanEinstein1
  • No more "Made in China" stamps

    3D printing is game changing, will really spark the local and small manufacturing industry.

    http://successfulworkplace.com/2012/11/05/3d-printing-and-the-end-of-made-in-china/
    TheoPriestley
  • Nothing innovative or new at all.

    The only thing is that Nokia has now done it after others.

    Many other manufacturers have released their designs what 3D printer owners can use to make new cases.

    But it isn't hard as any 3D printer owner yet knows how to meter a existing case, make a simple CAD from it and then print a own.
    Fri13