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Ewloe, United Kingdom
Writing, tweeting, debating and occasionally getting a little over-excited about 3D Printing. But always aiming to keep it real!

Tuesday 22 January 2013

3D Printing Mobile Developments and Motivation

When the news broke just before the weekend that Nokia was embracing 3D printing in an outward facing way, that’s to say for its consumers (of the Lumia820) rather than in-house for its own product development processes, it went viral pretty quick. The excitement was almost palpable.

It was a notable development particularly because it is a large OEM, albeit one that has lost a great deal of market share to Apple and Samsung in recent years, that has taken the first step towards customization enabled by 3D printing. It’s really just a baby step, but it is headline grabbing (something the company needs) and Nokia will go down in history as one of the first big companies to do it. While 3D printed phone covers have proved to be one of the consumer success stories for the tech to date, it has been largely in the hands of 3rd party service providers.

Talking of which, I found it particularly interesting that two such 3rd parties — i.materialise and Sculpteo — picked up on the news pretty quick, downloaded the files and produced some test prints. They were quick to share.

I found myself wondering about the motivation, with a couple of conclusions. As specialists in this field, who better to test the process and the 3DP files offered by Nokia — and more specifically, the results. They have the expertise and knowledge of 3D printing that is still a prerequisite for successful results and imparted that to the community and world at large. On the other hand, this ‘sharing’ was also a great way of advertising their services and their ability to produce the Lumia820 covers for all those that want them 3D printed but don’t have their own 3D printer — and let’s face it, that’s probably most of Nokia’s customer base!

i.materialise’s “myth-busting” post on this is here, while Sculpteo’s somewhat more positive take on it is here


  1. The iMaterialise video I think shows this for what it is - a straight upload of non critical manufacturing data that is likely to get copied anyway (in the same way that there are hundreds of online files for iPhones etc).

    iMaterialise should be congratulated in trying this out though. But to be honest whoever did this at Nokia should be hauled over the coals as it is a terrible marketing exercise designed only to gain media coverage on the back of all the current 3D printing hype.

    In releasing these files as "ready to use" they show that either they have no understanding of AM production issues, or that they just plain don't have the sense to send the files to companies like Materialise and ask them to test it.

    For the price of a few thousand £ they could have had Materialise take the files, adapt them for different printing process and release.

    That Sculpteo says "the cases are a bit think but easy to alter" is avoiding the issue, and, to be honest I'm surprised they say that. Don't they have a file screening facility for online orders?

    This sort of thing will happen more and more, but hopefully Nokia and others will realise that just because the test files print out nicely on their in house Objet Connex, doesn't translate to them printing at all on a typical consumer FDM printer. If they are serious about doing this they need to design new cases and covers SPECIFICALLY for AM and test them.

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