This Revolutionary 3-D Printing Project Has Officially Reached the Next Level

Thanks to an organizational shake-up at Google, modular 3-D printed smartphone components are inching closer to reality.

Jan 30, 2014 at 5:59PM

You've probably heard the news that Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) will sell most of its Motorola Mobility division to Lenovo (NASDAQOTH:LNVGY) for $2.91 billion. On the surface, this allows Google to exit a maturing handset business and focus its efforts more on the Android ecosystem as a whole. Reading between the lines, it's clear that Google has kept the best parts of Motorola for itself, including the "vast majority" of its patent portfolio, as well as its advanced technology and projects group.

Within Motorola's advanced technology and projects group, there's Project Ara, a fully customizable modular handset concept that has big dreams of revolutionizing how the world buys smartphones.


Project Ara modular smartphone concept design. Source: Motorola.

Simple vision, difficult execution
By using different modular smartphone components, users can freely customize and upgrade their devices to their heart's content. In theory, strong user adoption for Project Ara could fundamentally change how the world thinks about buying and upgrading their mobile computing devices, all while significantly reducing the burden of electronic waste, which often finds its way into landfills. However, one of the biggest hurdles preventing Project Ara from getting off the ground boils down to creating a manufacturing solution that lends itself to the customized vision of the project.

That's where the magic of 3-D printing and 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) comes into play.

The factory of tomorrow
Back in November, Motorola announced a multi-year partnership with 3D Systems to develop a continuous, high-speed 3-D printing production platform and fulfillment system to support Project Ara's needs. Among other things, 3D Systems will have to significantly improve 3-D printing speeds across the board, improve its multi-material 3-D printing capabilities to incorporate conductive elements, and be able to handle the level of manufacturing capacity that Ara could one day need.

Because today's 3-D printing technology isn't advanced enough for these tasks, it essentially means that 3D Systems will have to push the boundaries of 3-D printing further into the world of finished-goods manufacturing. In other words, 3D Systems is playing a critical role that may ultimately determine the fate of Project Ara.

One happy family
The remaining 100 or so employees from Motorola's advanced technologies and projects group will move into Google's Mountain View headquarters to be integrated with the Android team. With a deeper level of integration than ever before, Project Ara has an even better chance of realizing its full potential. Google's Android team has the vision, scale, and pool of talented employees to catapult this revolutionary concept to the next level.

At the end of the day, Project Ara not only holds the potential to change how the world thinks about buying smartphones, but also how the world views 3-D printing as a viable manufacturing solution. Going forward, it's important to be mindful of the fact that this project is likely years away from becoming a reality and benefiting either Google's or 3D Systems' bottom lines. In the meantime, Project Ara holds more promise than ever before, making it worth keeping an eye on.

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Steve Heller owns shares of 3D Systems and Google. The Motley Fool recommends 3D Systems and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of 3D Systems and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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