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Nokia offers 3D printing facility on smartphones

Recent news from the CES tech show in Las Vegas suggested that 3D printers might be the must-have gadget of 2013. All the same, it does seem a little premature for Nokia to make the first move by a smartphone manufacturer to secure the early adopters.

The company is releasing a 3D printing template for its Lumia 820 Windows smartphones in an attempt to grab a head-start over competitors. The template would allow 3D printer owners to create their own case for the phone. That might seem mildly pointless, but is the kind of flashy gimmick that tends to impress tech-heads.

Nokia community and developer marketing manager John Kneeland issued a blog that amounted to a slightly more dignified way of saying "Yah, boo, we were first". "We are going to release 3D templates, case specs, recommended materials and best practices," he wrote,. "Everything someone versed in 3D printing needs to print their own custom Lumia 820 case. We refer to these files and documents collectively as a 3D-printing Development Kit, or 3DK for short."

Beyond the initial excitement of creating a phone case. Kneeland sees 3D printing as a key element of Nokia’s future plans. "In the future, I envision more modular and customizable phones," he said.

The 3D printing technology could be used by customers to help customise or modify their phones. "Perhaps in addition to our own beautifully-designed phones, we could sell some kind of phone template," Kneeland suggested, "and entrepreneurs the world over could build a local business on building phones precisely tailored to the needs of his or her local community. 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!"

Of course, it will then just be a matter of time before some Pirate Bay equivalent is offering free to download, print-your-own phones. Nokia is embracing 3D printing whole-heartedly, but there must be plenty of digital Luddites beginning to wish the technology had never been invented.

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