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Nokia Wants World to Make 3D Cases for Lumia 820

Nokia’s heading for uncharted waters in the world of smartphone cases. Today the Finnish phone maker announced a 3D-printing developing kit, or 3DK, for cases designed to fit the Lumia 820 Windows 8 for AT&T.

Custom-designed 3D cases made with 3D printers were certainly popular at CES 2013 and Nokia has spotted the trend and jumped in early. The 3DK software allows anyone with a 3D printer to custom design and manufacture their own hard-shell covers, or soft-shell ones for that matter.

According to John Kneeland, a Nokia Community & Developer Marketing Manager, the printing process, as it stands now, can support two different materials. That means, with the proper printer, amateur or entrepreneurial 3D case makers can whip up a protector for the Lumia 820 with a durable back and soft-touch interior or a textured, soft back with hard-shell extremities.

At the same time, making the 3DK available to any developer frees up the specifications for cases to anyone with a 3D printer, that means any Lumia owner or anyone who wants to go into the case making business.

At CES 2013, France-based 3D case-maker Sculpteo earned attention for its line-up of customizable 3D cases that include raised skull designs, colorful materials, textured etchings, and custom-cut-out text. For example, you could have Sculpteo carve your name out of the center of the case in cursive font.

Nokia’s strategy here mimics its emphasis on product versatility. The company's Lumia smartphones stand out for their bright, pastel chassis, their availability with distinct charging solutions and their range of price points. The Lumia 820 costs just $49 with a two-year contract from AT&T, making it an easily attainable smartphone for case developers to start designing for and an easy-sale for consumers.

While the Lumia 820 3DK is certainly forward thinking for today, Nokia’s looking even further into the future of what 3D printing technology can do. Kneeland says he sees the technology branching out into chassis design for devices. One day he thinks manufacturers could sell a phone with replaceable casing: “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!"

We'd just settle for the built-in bottle opener.