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What Google’s Sale of Motorola Means for 3D Systems Corporation and Project Ara

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Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) is making big news with its recently announced sale of its Motorola Mobility unit to China's Lenovo  (NASDAQOTH: LNVGY  ) for $2.9 billion. The price was nearly a cool $10 billion short of the $12.5 billion that Google paid in 2011 for the early cell phone maker and current manufacturer of the Moto X, Moto G, and DROID smartphones.

The headlines have largely been reading something to this effect: "Google sells Motorola, but keeps most of its patent portfolio." If you're following the hot 3-D printing space and, most especially if you're an investor in 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD  ) , your first thought upon seeing the headlines was likely the same as mine: BUT what about Project Ara?

Well, 3D Systems' shareholders can rest easy, as Google's not only keeping most of the Motorola patents (which should be useful in helping fend off patent infringement claims related to its Android operating system), it's also keeping Motorola's advanced technology and projects group. This is the group working on Project Ara, and led by former DARPA head, Regina Dugan.

The goal of Project Ara is to create a large-scale 3-D printing manufacturing platform capable of producing customizable open-source modular smartphones. Motorola had been working on customizable smartphones for about a year before it teamed with 3D Systems last November. Naturally, Project Ara's mission entails integrating the 3-D printing of various types of materials into this platform, including conductive materials to produce electronic circuitry. This is a capability 3D Systems doesn't yet possess, but most surely will be working on developing and/or acquiring.

Google's too smart to let the top team it's been assembling at Motorola's advanced technology and projects group get away and lose the opportunity to be involved in what could be a watershed moment for U.S. manufacturing. If successful -- and with Google's megadeep pockets, I'm betting it will be -- Project Ara seems like it has the potential to be a landmark moment in the transitioning of 3-D printing from a technology used primarily to make prototypes and produce small-run production batches to one that will be used in large-scale manufacturing, as well as "micro-manufacturing."

The fact that Google has shed the rest of Motorola means it will have more time and financial resources to focus on this key group and its projects, which should speed things along with Project Ara.

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Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (8)

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  • Report this Comment On February 01, 2014, at 8:52 AM, 3Dexplosion wrote:

    Google and 3D Systems are very disruptive on their own but those two innovative companies collaborating together will give 3D systems a significant advantage over its competitors. Google is going to dominate it's competition anyways as it is the most innovative company in the world today, and is branching out into areas that will be transformative for future society. 3D Systems is also trying to branch out more than its 3D competitors through acquisitions to be the most dominate player in the 3D printing space and is doing a good job of it, although they have a lot more risk compared to Google which is unstoppable. I own a lot of both of those companies stocks and am very happy to see them working together. Google and 3D Systems will be a great collaborative partnership going forward.

  • Report this Comment On February 03, 2014, at 6:44 PM, cgarchitekt wrote:

    @3Dexplosion - I totally agree.

    And in therms of printing fully working modular and customizable Smartphone parts including conductive materials to produce electronic circuitry I can imagine, if CAMTEK is successful with it's Greenjet printer, the company is going to be on their acquisition focus to realize such challenges.

    We will see. I'm curious about it an how it will continue.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 8:32 PM, TMFMcKenna wrote:

    @3Dexplosion -- Agree, two disruptive companies combining forces often benefit from synergy. 1+1 could equal 3 or 4 or 5.

    @cgarchitekt -- I've previously written about the conductive materials 3-D printing space, and have a piece in the works now. Stay tuned!

    Thanks for adding to the discussion.

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