Three-dimensional printing can be used to create all sorts of physical objects, from small toys to entire houses. Whole economies may be transformed if it’s cheaper to print products near where they’re sold instead of importing from faraway lands, and the effects on society don’t end there. Three-dimensional printing is also called additive manufacturing. It shapes raw materials into the desired form without the waste caused by subtractive manufacturing, or machining, where machines cut pieces of raw material to create objects.
As it becomes more widespread, 3D printing will affect many lawyers, and not just in the courtroom. “My firm has represented clients involved in 3D printing,” said Maya Eckstein, a Richmond, Va.-based partner and head of the intellectual property practice group at Hunton & Williams LLP. “It isn’t a huge part of anybody’s practice at this point,” she added.