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OwnFone Launches PrintFone, The 3D Printable Customizable Mobile Phone
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By Brian Krassenstein | 3DPrint

Back in May of last year, we covered a company based in Britain called OwnFone, who had decided to offer a phone produced specifically for the vision impaired. Called the OwnFone Braille, the device was a simple mobile phone which could be customized online before being 3D printed by the company. The customization options allowed those with visual impairments to 3D print out specific names in braille which acted as a tactile face plate for the device. This enabled the user to both physically and virtually program specific names and numbers into their customized phone, and thanks to 3D printing, have the device in their hands within weeks. Thus far the phone has been quite a success, and the company is now looking to expand, this time taking even more advantage of the technology known as 3D printing.

The company has just launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise £200,000 by March 21. The funds will be used to launch a new product for the company, simply called the OwnFone, as well as the 2D and 3D printable kits called PrintFone. The OwnFone will be a mobile phone which can be 2D/3D printed, both at home or through the company. These are completely customizable devices which are perfect for those looking for a simple, affordable, completely customizable 2G phone. Perhaps you are one of those people who don’t want to be bothered with all the complicated options found within a typical smartphone; you just want to touch a button and have a call made, or perhaps you want an easy to use phone for emergency use.

“While the circuit board is not printed – we think this is the closest anyone has come to 3D printing a mobile phone and the whole exterior and functional details are printed in a single print run,” Thomas Sunderland, Founder and CEO at OwnFone Ltd. told 3DPrint.com. “The process that we have developed effectively encases the phone’s circuit board in printed material.”

Users have the option of designing their custom phone online via a web or mobile app, selecting custom designs for the face plate filled with names and numbers, as well as the case which encapsulates the ‘Seed’ or internal components of the phone. If a customer has a 3D printer that they have access to, then a second option is available. OwnFone will make available an entire kit called the PrintFone Development Kit, which includes the Seed as well as 3D printer filament, software, and more. The skin for the phone can be printed using a 2D inkjet printer or a 3D printer if 3D features are desired. The shell of course will need to be printed on a 3D printer.

“With the Kit anyone with a desktop PLA 3D printer can start experimenting with printing their own phones and this freedom means we don’t know what people are going are going to make, but it’s sure to be interesting,” explained Sunderland.

While PLA is the most common material to use in FFF/FDM printers, the company has also been experimenting with more exotic filaments including ones which glow in the dark, as well as wood-like filaments and even flexible materials. Below you will find a video of the company printing a waterproof emergency phone shell on a MakerBot Replicator.

The OwnFones, which are created online or via the 3D printing kit, will work on a 2G network, and will require a SIM card on a Pay As You Go or Pay-Monthly plan. The PrintFone kits are available on Kickstarter starting at $150 for the 2D kit, and $180 for the 3D kit. Those looking to purchase more than one kit will save even more money. It will certainly be interesting to see just where this project goes next. If the idea behind OwnFone takes off, who knows what will come next? A 3D printable, totally customizable smartphone?

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