3D Printing: Adoptability, Assurance, IP and Consumer Concerns

“3D printing is as easy as printing a letter on your desk jet printer on the one hand, and as difficult as setting up a lathe machine on your tabletop on the other. Considering all of the variables, is 3D printing adoptable for the average consumer?”

3D PrintingConceiving of an idea and then turning that idea into an actual end-product were two distinct processes prior to the era of 3D printing. But thanks to recent advancements in technology, what used to take a number of days can now become a reality with just one click. However, that “single click” involves generating a computer-aided design (CAD) model, creating the required Standard Triangle Language (STL) file, converting it into machine codes, pre-setting the machine for the desired material, and then, finally, printing it.  3D printing is thus as easy as printing a letter on your desk jet printer on the one hand, and as difficult as setting up a lathe machine on your tabletop on the other. Considering all of the variables, the question becomes, is 3D printing adoptable for the average consumer?

The Technology

3DP encompasses more than a dozen similar and dissimilar technologies, including selective laser sintering (SLS), stereolithography (SLA), selective laser melting (SLM), fused deposition modeling (FDM) and many more, priced from as little as $99 to completely unaffordable for consumer-level applications. Though one technology can serve the purpose for many types of applications, for certain technologies some are better than others. For example, in dental applications, SLA, Digital Laser Processing and UV LCD are preferred. There are organizations like Nextdent, Peopoly, SprintRay and Photocentric that specifically target the resin market with their tailored products. Similarly, in the aerospace sector, SLS, SLM or Binder Jetting are preferred, and organizations like ConceptLaser, SLMSolutions and 3DSystems have captured the market.

Looking to 2D

Based on the example of conventional 2D printers, one may wonder if there is a company working to standardize the process of selecting 3D printer materials based on consumers’ needs. 2D printing as we know it today has a well-established consumer market. That’s because there is a limited amount of technology and materials, and paper sizes are standardized. The 3D printing industry should leverage the know-how, historical growth and wide acceptance of 2D-printers.

One way to get around the hassle of experimenting with materials and technologies to find the best output is to hire a third- party platform like Shapeways, 3DHubs, Pinshape or Sculpteo to print the model and send it back to the consumer. Problem solved? Not really. There are intellectual property and security concerns associated with this option. Are you willing to send your CAD model or STL file to be stored at a third-party server? Or to expose yourself to the risk of hacking?

Let us suppose that you’re just playing around with 3D printing for fun; in that case, you may be safe. But if you are an independent researcher, scientist, freelancer, designer, etc. who cares about their content, you may find it risky to share it with third-party platforms. Even a single misstep could put your efforts of years at stake and sabotage the potential profits you may have earned from it.

Liability

Intellectual property is one of the most important issues, as, in the case of mishandling of a file, determining the liability for infringement is key. But who would be liable? Printer owner, consumer or the person who created the file?

Such problems always arise when a new technology is launched under the old legal regime, as we don’t find any direct analogy or precedence. The same issues arose with the launch of home video recording devices such as Betamax (1970) or other VCRs and peer-to-peer file-sharing technology. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that recording of copyrighted content by consumers was fair use in Sony Corp. v. Universal Studios, while in MGM v. Grokster, peer-to-peer sharing was found to be an infringing use. The court held software providers liable for contributory infringement if they expressed clear intent to infringe copyright. 3D printing technology implementation is likely to mirror the peer-to-peer situation, considering its impact on the value chain across industries.

Solutions

While there are many challenges ahead for 3Dprinting, there are also potential solutions. The first step towards solving the adoptability challenges might demand amalgamation of different 3D printing manufactures and material suppliers. These companies need to work together towards standardization of output, the establishment of technology benchmarks and leveraging one another’s technology and patent and trademark portfolios. For instance, patent pooling of existing technologies will not only open the possibility of cost-cutting but will also push the R&D towards new grounds of inventions.

A marketplace could be developed to control the printing environment, i.e. remote printing, of the files on a 3D printer while keeping a record by using blockchain technology. This would help to associate liability; however, all the printer manufacturers need to come forward in this move.

Lastly, the challenges concerning security may demand additional incorporation of third-party security solutions such as Crowdstrike, Fireye, Palo Alto Network, F5 Networks and Symantec in order to prevent leakage of digital models stored in online repositories.

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The Author

Sukhdeep Singh

Sukhdeep Singh is a Patent Research Associate with IDS Infotech Limited, where he manages various IP related projects, such as novelty search, invalidation, infringement analysis, FTO and technology scouting. He is enthusiastic towards new technology advancements, specifically in the field of 3D Printing, IoT, biomedical devices, and connected vehicles.

He earned his Master’s in CAD/CAM Engineering from Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology, where his work majorly revolved around 3D Printing based manufacturing of conventional machining tools, assistive robotics and IoT based physiological parameter monitoring.

Sukhdeep Singh

Akashdeep is a Patent Research Associate with IDS Infotech Limited, where he manages and performs various IP related projects like novelty search, invalidation, infringement analysis, FTO and technology scouting. He is enthusiastic towards new technology advancements, specifically in the field of 3D Printing, IoT and smart electronic devices.

He earned his Bachelor’s in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Rayat Bahra Institute of Engineering and Nanotechnology.

Sukhdeep Singh

Vinay Sharma is an IP professional and a technology consultant with more than a decade of experience in advising global clients on critical aspects of IP strategy, technology/product development, portfolio management, go-to-market strategy, and strategic alliances. He holds a Master’s of Science (Consultancy Management), backed by a B.Tech (Electronics & Communication). Having obtained his Bachelor’s of Law (LL.B), he is also an advocate in addition of being a registered Indian Patent Agent.

He currently works with IDS as a Strategy Consultant. Throughout his career, Vinay has worked on various assignments relating to technology analytics and research, market research, market sizing studies, industry analysis, technology assessment, technology landscape, technology roadmap, technology scouting, monetization, patent-product overlap analysis, out-licensing of technologies and patent valuation.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author as of the time of publication and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 6 Comments comments. Join the discussion.

  1. Simran Kaur October 19, 2020 1:24 am

    Well described the IP issues and security concerns to prevent the leakage of digital models and this is really important to protect the all the 3DP files stored in online repositories. The cyber security technologies can help in the protection of these files. The 3D printing is the future trend of almost every industries and nowadays 4D printing concept has arrived in which the fourth dimension is the time that uses the smart-materials which molds their geometry or shape with in some time therefore, this technology is an eye opener for every industry and they should start looking forward to secure their content.

  2. Simran Kaur October 19, 2020 1:32 am

    Well described the IP issues and security concerns to prevent the leakage of digital models and this is really important to protect all the 3DP files stored in online repositories. The cyber security technologies can help in the protection of these files. The 3D printing is the future trend of almost every industries and nowadays 4D printing concept has arrived in which the fourth dimension is the time that uses the smart-materials which molds their geometry or shape with in some time therefore, this technology is an eye opener for every industry and they should start looking forward to secure their content.

  3. Amir Veresh October 19, 2020 5:17 am

    “the question becomes, is 3D printing adoptable for the average consumer?” is this really the question? In my opinion, this question was already resolved a while ago and the answer is NO. It is a mistake to compare desktop 3D printers to home 2D printers. There are and will be use of 3D printers by consumers, but these are and won’t be the average consumers.

    Additive Manufacturing will become a mainstream manufacturing method, mostly used by OEMs (as opposed to consumers. Then matters such as IP rights and liability will be dealt with in a more structured and centralized manner

  4. blockchain training in hyderabad October 19, 2020 7:58 am

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  5. Himangi Sood October 19, 2020 7:59 am

    Yes, its true security concerns for 3D printing remain a major focal point that needs to be resolved. Apart from the big third-party security providers, many university researchers and startup are also specifically focusing on providing viable solutions to resolve these security concerns in form of streaming the 3d design directly to the 3D printers without even exposing the design file in the path which should more effectively be used.

  6. Anon October 19, 2020 11:40 am

    Barely hinted at, there are huge Business and Legal issues with the intersection of digital goods and LACK of patent protection for things considered to be too “software-y.”

    Views that this technology would find no place in the average person’s home are reminiscent of the same comments vis a vis personal computers (which most anyone nowadays having a smart phone, literally dwarfs the capability of personal computers at the time of that naysaying.

    Further, the call to “must work together,” flies in the face of history. It’s like suggesting that Beta and VHS had to work together.

    They did not / the notion of competition is no less real now.

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