3D printers are an incredibly interesting piece of technology. Not only is a machine that is capable of printing incredibly detailed 3D objects fascinating, but the potential ramifications of popularising said technology are immense.
In a world where anything plastic can essentially be scanned, uploaded as data, downloaded and then physically recreated in flawless detail, the product becomes the design itself, rather than the physical object. Many people have been making wild predictions of a future economy based solely on creativity and innovation, rather than production and distribution.
Whatever your opinion on the matter, it’s safe to say that 3D printers have been getting better, smaller and easier to obtain. This means that physical piracy, that is the acquisition of the scanned data of a physical product for at-home and unpaid replication, is actually becoming an issue. Granted for now it’s on a small scale, but in the future it mightn’t just be media production companies that feel the stab of online piracy.
As such one would expect companies to fight the sharing of 3D scan information regarding their products at every step, especially in these early stages.
Apparently not. Nokia has surprised everyone by releasing the official ‘recipe’ for printing one’s own Nokia Lumia 820 removable case. The 820 was already pretty cool, as users could buy new cases of different colours, essentially changing up the look of their device without relying on a protective cover. Now anyone with a 3D printer can do it for the price of the printing materials themselves.
We just think this is really cool. Not only is Nokia not really damaging its sales too much, as 3D printing isn’t exactly a hugely adopted practice just yet, but it’s simultaneously endorsing this new and prophesised culture of personal innovation. Users with 3D printers will be free to design their own cases with new designs, both colourful and physical. All one has to do is keep the internal shape the same and the external can take any shape.
Essentially users will be able to create anything from a cool design to something with a built-in useful functionality like a belt clip, bottle-opener or anything else that they feel would add to their device. This is really the ultimate in personal customisation for a smartphone.
“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!”
- John Kneeland, Community and Developer Marketing Manager via Nokia
Of course, you’ll need a 3D printer first.
So long as Nokia retains the rights to the case as a product itself and thus any and all changes to its design for personal use, Nokia may even be able to crowd-source any new designs and adopt them itself in future.
While the idea of printing one’s own phone case isn’t exactly the most exciting thing we’ve seen come out of a 3D printer, Nokia’s endorsement of the concept has potentially far-reaching undertones. Who knows? In ten years’ time this kind of thing might even be almost common-place. Although we wouldn’t put our money on that just yet.