Open Source 3-D Printing from OpenMoko

OpenMoko, a developer of open source mobile devices, is offering its phone case CAD files to the world. With these files and a 3-D printer, anyone can make plastic parts for their mobile phone. Users will be able to customize handsets to unique specifications.

“We want people to create their own flesh for their phone,” said Steve Mosher, VP of marketing at OpenMoko.

OpenMoko CAD files are available under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license.

In the past, said Mosher, creating a unique plastic part might cost a $100,000. “But today, with desktop manufacturing, you can build parts on your desktop for $3,500,” he said.

The cost of 3-D printers is a factor that may inhibit home molding of plastic parts. Low-end commercial printers sell for around $20,000 but a cheap non-commercial unit like Fab@Home Project Model 1 costs about $2,500. 3-D printing is being compared to the revolution of desktop publishing in the 1980’s. As prices of software and hardware are lowered, more people are expected to make augmentations for mobile devices at home.

Last year, OpenMoko released its Neo 1973 handset for developers; the phone is currently sold out. The company’s first consumer release, the Neo FreeRunner ($450), is slated for release sometime this spring. A $600 advanced version for developers is also planned.

OpenMoko is an independent subsidiary of FIC, a Taiwanese electronics manufacturer. The company was founded on the premise that devices should be completely open. “The thought was that if you freed the software up to people outside the company, you’d unleash an army of Davids, who had at least as much imagination as people inside the company,” said Mosher. “The makers of things that are outside the company will help us create insanely great products.”