What IT admins need to know about 3D printing technology

3D printing has made significant inroads in the enterprise. It offers an efficient way to prototype ideas, generate samples and build products, but it presents new challenges for admins.

3D printing technology is still relatively young, and it comes with a unique set of challenges — along with a hefty price tag. But as prices drop and technology improves, 3D printing opens the door to new opportunities for innovating and conducting business.

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The reason 3D Printing could be huge – huge! – by 2025 has to do with privacy

The first time intellectual property attorney John Hornick saw a 3D printer at work, he thought it was a joke. It wasn’t until a friend at Johns Hopkins University convinced him that the tech was the real deal that Hornick took a deep dive into how 3D printing machines could change the world.

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Hornick’s findings are collected in the new book, 3D Printing Will Rock the World, and below he tells Inverse exactly how most people may own a 3D printer by 2025, no matter how implausible that seems now.

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When eBay sellers try to defend their illegal sale of 3D models from Thingiverse, comedy ensues

It was bound to happen of course. When 3D printables files are available online for free and easily shared there was always going to be someone who would be willing to take advantage of that freedom. 3D printing technology is going to completely alter copyrights, trademarks and IP law dramatically over the next few years simply because there really are not a lot of ways to stop people from duplicating, and in some cases stealing and taking credit for, 3D content. Currently there are only two real defenses that 3D model designers have to prevent their work from being stolen; respect for the Creative Common licenses attached to 3D models and the ethical fortitude to not violate those licenses.

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3D Printing use gaining ground, but data issues persist

With a drop in material and machine prices, advanced software integration and faster printing, 3D printing could potentially revolutionize automotive production, supply chain and the aftermarket, according to Frost & Sullivan.

The application scope of 3D printing technology is currently restricted to the production of extremely low volume parts and production tooling, the firm says. This is mainly due to the high costs of the machinery and raw materials, slow printing speeds and reduced levels of software optimization.

New analysis from the firm finds that the technology will generate $4.3 billion from the automotive industry by 2025, and achieve deeper penetration in automotive production and the aftermarket. As a result, 3D printing could deliver substantial savings to manufacturers, suppliers and consumers.

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What are the legal aspects of 3D printing? A European law firm weighs in

3D printed guns and firearms have once again become a hot-button issue within the 3D printing industry, as the world’s first 3D printed revolver has just come to light while the New South Wales government has implemented a law that specifically makes owning a 3D printed gun illegal. Yet even if firearms aren’t your cup of tea, if you either design or create 3D printed products, you could be infringing on IP law, copyrights, or a host of other legal issues without even knowing it.

As a topic that easily generates a lot more questions than answers, we could probably all use a little brushing up on the legal aspects surrounding 3D printing. Luckily, Dutch law firm De Clercq Advocaten Notarissen has just issued a brief yet educational white paper that covers everything from intellectual property law (IP) to copyright law, to the especially murky waters of product liability, all within the new reality of the 3D printing industrial revolution. Though written based on Dutch law and regulations, these are generally implemented based on the European Directives, and thus will be consistent with many other European countries, and in some cases perhaps not so far off from US or other nations’ policies.

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3D printing brings out the full potential of topology optimization

Why marry 3D Printing with Topology Optimization?

Topology optimization is an additive design approach to produce models to fit the operation conditions. Image courtesy of solidThinking.3D printing gives engineers the freedom to design products that cannot be manufactured any other way.

The process of adding material, as opposed to subtracting material, allows for more intricate shapes. This has given engineers an unprecedented chance to design lighter, more organic looking products.

Historically, the way we make objects has influenced the way we design them. “When we use a traditional CAD to design a part, the CAD is based on Boolean operations or subtractive design,” said Jaideep Bangal, senior application engineer at solidThinking.

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The 3D printing revolution: Prepare for the risks, leverage the opportunities

3D printing is not just for tchotchkes anymore.  Technological advancement paired with decreasing costs to build and/or purchase 3D printers create the perfect storm for the next industrial revolution.  3D printing technology will virtually transform the way companies conduct business, affecting manufacturing processes, disrupting the supply chain, and transforming  primary and logistics businesses.  Just as importantly, 3D printing, once it takes hold, will have substantial implications on intellectual property (“IP”):  patents, copyrights and trademarks.

Analysts at Gartner predict that “[b]y 2018, 3D printing will result in the loss of at least $100 billion per year in intellectual property globally.”  Gartner Reveals Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users for 2014 and Beyond, October 8, 2013.  It is easy to imagine why.  For example, today there are a number of “online maker sites.” On Shapeways, users can upload digital design files of products, which Shapeways uses to 3D print products and ship back to the users.  Shapeways also hosts online “shops” for users to sell their 3D printed products.  Through Thingiverse, users can download other users’ design files to print products or “remix” products by modifying a file or merging multiple files.

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The limits of 3D printing

Contrary to what some say, 3D printing is not going to revolutionize the manufacturing sector, rendering traditional factories obsolete. The simple fact of the matter is the economics of 3D printing now and for the foreseeable future make it an unfeasible way to produce the vast majority of parts manufactured today. So instead of looking at it as a substitute for existing manufacturing, we should look to new areas where it can exploit its unique capabilities to complement traditional manufacturing processes.

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Additive manufacturing, or “3D printing” as it is commonly known, has understandably captured the popular imagination: New materials that can be “printed” are announced virtually every day, and the most recent generation of printers can even print several materials at the same time, opening up new opportunities. Exciting applications have already been demonstrated across all sectors — from aerospace and medical applications to biotechnology and food production.

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Innovations emerge to pre-empt the counterfeit threat of 3D printing

The anxiety that 3D printing could lead to a new front in the war against counterfeiting and trademark infringement has increased exponentially this year, thanks to a predicted ‘explosion’ in the new technology due to the expiration of some key patents. Welcome new innovations could ease those worries but there is still much to be done.

3D printing and additive manufacturing technology is advancing at a startling rate, meaning more companies are introducing it as a means of cheaper and more efficient manufacturing. It also means much easier pirating of protected designs, as it requires just a digital 3D blueprint to be downloaded and printed to create an identical-looking copy. Gartner predicted earlier in the year that the emergence of 3D printing will create “major challenges” in relations to IP theft, predicting a loss “of at least $100 billion per year in IP globally” by 2018.

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