Motorola gives 3D Systems the go-ahead to build modular Ara phones in multiyear deal

Motorola and 3D systems have entered a multiyear contract that will provide "the factory of the future", or a smartphone manufacturing process and platform for Motorola's Project Ara

Motorola wants to do for hardware what Android did for software, by creating an open platform for a smartphone where you add and remove options and specifications to suit your own needs. It is a system as easy as adding and removing Lego blocks.

To get this ambitious initiative going, Motorola announced last month that it had created Project Ara. The project - being lead by Motorola's Advanced Technology and Projects group - will consist of an endoskeleton to which you can attach modules (ie, body chassis, battery and more) to build your own perfect smartphone.

Project Ara is open too, meaning it will include third-party hardware modules. You could therefore end up with a handset that performs all manner of different functions. Motorola had said it would invite developers to start creating modules for the Ara platform.

READ: Motorola Project Ara modular smartphone: Build your dream phone from blocks

Now Motorola has exclusively given 3D Systems, a South Carolina-based 3D printing company, the go-ahead to create "multi-material printing capabilities including conductive and functional materials" for fabricating modules. If it can create a successful manufacturing platform, 3DSystems will build its own Ara enclosures and modules "as Motorola’s exclusive fulfilment partner".

In reality, there's no time table for when you'll be able to build your own Motorola Ara smartphone with 3D systems' modules, but it looks like Motorola has its mind set on shaking up the industry, and certainly the traditional phone upgrade cycle.