The world of mobile technology is incredibly competitive. It’s one of the fastest growing markets today, as evidenced by the huge number of people that now carry smartphones with them wherever they go. As those miniature computers, some just as powerful as your laptop show up in more and more pockets, tablet devices continue to rise in popularity as well. Many experts predict that mobile technology will take the place of home computing entirely at some point over the next two decades. Check out some of the applications you can now download on any of the major operating systems and it’s easy to see why that will be the case. But is there another technology that can change the game entirely? Enter 3D printing, a recent innovation that allows individuals to create technological devices from scratch, literally printing them one layer at a time. And smartphone manufacturer Nokia is now utilizing that technology, with the hopes of giving itself a leg up over the competition.
Nokia released a set of specifications on their developer blog this week that will allow users to create their own phone shell for the Lumia device on a 3D printer. While this is a pretty cool gimmick for those looking to try out 3D printing, Nokia went on to describe how this innovation is a drop in the bucket compared to what is possible. The designers are looking forward to a day when customers could use 3D printing to manufacture their own smartphones, customizing the technology to perfectly suit their needs. It basically takes the power of production out of the corporation’s hands and places it with customers on the local level.
It’s also a direct challenge to other smartphone manufacturers, including Apple, the industry leader. Apple is notorious for holding tightly to their hardware, not allowing modifications and strictly controlling the software allowed on their devices. With this announcement, Nokia is challenging the strength of that approach. To this point, hardware has been dominated by major corporations. Software was the arena for the small programming and development companies. But with 3D printing, hardware could end up as pliable and creative as anything you’d find in an app store.
Nokia’s vision is to eventually sell their own, perfected phone models while also providing a template phone for 3D printers to create. With that template in hand, a cottage industry could develop, with local manufacturers crafting customized Nokia phones for the needs of the community. What attracts a customer to a phone in New York City is far different than in the snowy mountains of Utah or on a farm in Iowa. 3D printing would let folks in these regions determine what it is they need from a phone, and partner with innovative companies in that creation.
The specifications released and the explanation that joined it prove that Apple does not own the world of technological innovation outright. It’s also a visionary step by Nokia. Information is meant to be shared, and this company at least isn’t afraid of what digital printing could mean to their bottom line. That willingness to adapt may just secure their future, and bring 3D printing one step closer to integration in the majority of homes.