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Need a smart phone case? Nokia lets you 3-D print your own.

Nokia released templates for Lumia 820 cases, letting owners customize and create their own with 3-D printers.

By Steph Solis / January 18, 2013

Nokia released the templates for its Lumia 820 case so that customers can create their own using 3-D printers.

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Nokia users may soon be able to create their own cellphone cases with help from a 3-D printer.

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The company released mechanical drawings of the Lumia 820’s back shell as part of a 3-D printing Development Kit (3DK). John Kneeland, a community manager for Nokia, says in the Nokia Conversations blog that Lumia 820 owners may use the drawings as templates to start creating their own phone shells with 3-D printers.

“Internally it helps us with rapid prototyping as we, to borrow [Nokia CEO] Stephen Elop’s words, ‘increase the clock speed of Nokia,’” Mr. Kneeland says in the blog post. “In the future, I envision wildly more modular and customizable phones.... 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."

As Kneeland put it, Nokia has come a long way since the Nokia 5110 and its multi-colored collection of removable faceplates, which date back to 1998. Nokia aims to take advantage of increasingly popular 3-D printers, which he described as a sequel to the Industrial Revolution.

“[I]t’s going to take somewhat longer to arrive than some people anticipate, and that may disappoint people,” he says in the Nokia Conversations blog. “For now, it’s a bleeding-edge technology for bleeding-edge early adapters—which is exactly where Nokia is aiming its 3-D printing community efforts.”

Until now, Nokia offered cases for its Lumia 820, which has a removable back shell. The Nokia-made cases came in different colors, some offering extra shock protection or wireless charging.

Kneeland says the 3DK could not only lead to varied homemade designs, but also an increase in local businesses dedicated to increasingly specialized phones.

"Perhaps in addition to our own beautifully designed phones, we could sell some kind of phone template, and entrepreneurs the world over could build a local business on building phones precisely tailored to the needs of his or her local community." 

Nokia is the first major phone company to offer 3-D printing options for its products, according to Kneeland. However, 3-D printing has emerged in other areas, such as video game memorabilia

World of Warcraft offers its players 3-D statues of their avatars through FigurePrints. The 8-inch-tall replicas, which cost $129.95, are made of plaster-like powder that is bonded and sealed.

WoW members can order a statue by submitting information about their avatar, including its name, realm, and gear. The digital design is then printed, hand finished, and mounted into a glass display case before being shipped.

The statues appear similar to the characters on the screen, but they are not necessarily exact, according to the website. 

3-D printing has gained momentum in fashion, from jewelry designs to footwear. Continuum fashion sells 3-D-printed dresses, lingerie, and shoes, including a fantasy-inspired shoe collection called “strvct,” according to the website. The collection emphasizes its strength and lightweight feel and, with some shoes, the uncanny designs that aim to push boundaries on the shape and concept of a shoe.

The “strvct” shoes, which cost $900 a pair, are made of 3-D-printed nylon. Styles range from a classic wedge pump with a triangular design, to a sandal encased in origami butterflies.

And they are wearable, according to the website, although there are few details on how comfortable they are. The soles are lined with a leather inner sole and synthetic rubber on the bottom for traction.

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