Nokia has unveiled design files that will let owners use 3D printers to make their own cases for its Lumia phones.
Files containing mechanical drawings, case measurements and recommended materials have already been released by the phone maker.
Those using the files will be able to create a custom-designed case for the flagship Lumia 820 handset.
The project makes Nokia one of the first big electronics firms to seriously back 3D printing.
In a blogpost, John Kneeland, one of Nokia’s community managers, revealed the Finnish phone maker’s decision to release the 3D drawings.
Printing in 3D involves sending a design file to a printer that then forms a solid version of that object by slowly building it up in layers of plastic. Early 3D printers could only work in one color but the latest versions can produce intricate, multicolored objects.
Nokia has unveiled design files that will let owners use 3D printers to make their own cases for its Lumia phones
John Kneeland said Nokia was releasing what he called a “3D printing development kit” to help people produce the cases. The files are already available on the site Nokia maintains for its developers.
He said 3D printing was another way that the firm wanted to build links to that vast community of software and hardware engineers. To get the files, users must have registered with Nokia.
He said Nokia already used 3D printing internally to do rapid prototyping, but decided to back it more publicly to help the nascent technology realize its “incredible potential”.
In the future, he said, 3D printing was likely to bring about phones that were “wildly more modular and customizable”.
Nokia might just end up selling a phone template, he said, allowing entrepreneurs to use that to produce handsets that satisfy the particular needs of their locale.
“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,” he wrote.
He added that, in his view, 3D printing was a technology that justified its hype and said it was “the sequel to the Industrial Revolution”.
“However, it’s going to take somewhat longer to arrive than some people anticipate, and that may disappoint people,” he said.
Harvard computer scientists have developed the software that helps turn video game characters into real-life figures, using a 3D printer.
Computer figures created without the constraints of the physical world are difficult to print.
So the team developed a tool that identifies ideal locations for a real-world figure’s joints.
But a lawyer said if the technology were to come on the mass market, copyright issues could arise.
Three-dimensional printers, which create objects layer-by-layer using materials such as plastic, wood or chocolate, have been used to make toys, jewellery, car parts and even artificial limbs.
But making cartoon or computer games characters was more of a challenge, said Moritz Bacher, one of the researchers on the team.
Harvard computer scientists have developed the software that helps turn video game characters into real-life figures, using a 3D printer
“In animation you’re not necessarily trying to model the physical world perfectly – the model only has to be good enough to convince your eye,” he said.
“You can make a character so anatomically skewed that it would never be able to stand up in real life, and you can make deformations that aren’t physically possible.”
Moritz Bacher said although most video game characters were created with skeletons that help animators turn the figures around on the screen, they were different from those in real-life objects.
“As an animator, you can move the skeletons and create weight relationships with the surface points, but the skeletons inside are non-physical with zero-dimensional joints – they’re not useful to our fabrication process at all.
“In fact, the skeleton frequently protrudes outside the body entirely.”
The team developed software that identifies the ideal locations for a computer-game figure’s joints.
It is difficult to understand where the joints are just by looking at a character in 2D.
The software then optimizes the location and the size of the joints for the physical world and generates the best possible model.
It also analyses a computer character’s skin and enhances the texture, making it possible for details such as scales on a snake to appear on a printed object.
The researchers say the tool could be useful for artists and animators to experiment with a moving character.
“If you print one of these articulated figures, you can experiment with different stances and movements in a natural way, as with an artist’s mannequin,” said Moritz Bacher.
But if the technology were to come on the market for the mass consumer to use, a major issue could arise – copyright.
A lower jaw created by a 3D printer has been fitted to an 83-year-old woman’s face in what doctors say is the first transplant of its kind.
The transplant was carried out in June in the Netherlands, but is only now being publicized.
The implant was made out of titanium powder – heated and fused together by a laser, one layer at a time.
Technicians say the operation’s success paves the way for the use of more 3D-printed patient-specific parts.
The surgery follows research carried out at the Biomedical Research Institute at Hasselt University in Belgium, and the implant was built by LayerWise – a specialized metal-parts manufacturer based in the same country.
The patient involved had developed a chronic bone infection. Doctors believed reconstructive surgery would have been risky because of her age and so opted for the new technology.
A lower jaw created by LayerWise 3D printer has been fitted to an 83-year-old woman's face in what doctors say is the first transplant of its kind
The implant is a complex part – involving articulated joints, cavities to promote muscle attachment and grooves to direct the regrowth of nerves and veins.
However, once designed, it only took a few hours to print.
“Once we received the 3D digital design, the part was split up automatically into 2D layers and then we sent those cross sections to the printing machine,” said Ruben Wauthle, LayerWise’s medical applications engineer.
“It used a laser beam to melt successive thin layers of titanium powder together to build the part.
“This was repeated with each cross section melted to the previous layer. It took 33 layers to build 1mm of height, so you can imagine there were many thousand layers necessary to build this jawbone.”
Once completed, the part was given a bioceramic coating. The team said the operation to attach it to the woman’s face took four hours, a fifth of the time required for traditional reconstructive surgery.
“Shortly after waking up from the anaesthetics the patient spoke a few words, and the day after the patient was able to swallow again,” said Dr. Jules Poukens from Hasselt University, who led the surgical team.
“The new treatment is a world premiere because it concerns the first patient-specific implant in replacement of the entire lower jaw.”
The woman was able to go home after four days.
Her new jaw weighs 107 g, just over a third heavier than before, but the doctors said that she should find it easy to get used to the extra weight.
Follow-up surgery is scheduled later this month when the team will remove healing implants inserted into holes built into the implant’s surface.
A specially made dental bridge will then be attached to the part, following which false teeth will be screwed into the holes to provide a set of dentures.
The team said that it expected similar techniques to become more common over the coming years.
“The advantages are that the surgery time decreases because the implants perfectly fit the patients and hospitalization time also lowers – all reducing medical costs,” said Ruben Wauthle.
“You can build parts that you can’t create using any other technique. For example you can print porous titanium structures which allow bone in-growth and allow a better fixation of the implant, giving it a longer lifetime.”
The research follows a separate project at Washington State University last year in which engineers demonstrated how 3D-printer-created ceramic scaffolds could be used to promote the growth of new bone tissue.
They said experiments on animals suggested the technique could be used in humans within the next couple of decades.
LayerWise believes the two projects only hint at the scope of the potential medical uses for 3D printing.
Ruben Wauthle said that the ultimate goal was to print body organs ready for transplant, but cautioned that such advances might be beyond their lifetimes.
“There are still big biological and chemical issues to be solved,” he said.
“At the moment we use metal powder for printing. To print organic tissue and bone you would need organic material as your <<ink>>. Technically it could be possible – but there is still a long way to go before we’re there.”