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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How 3D Printing is transforming Industry – Infographic

While some companies are succeeding at producing high-quality molds, tooling, and manufacturing aids with 3D printers, others are still scrambling to figure out how best to incorporate the new technology into their systems. That’s according to this infographic recently published by PTC.

The majority of companies now have access to 3D printers, but not all of them are confident they are making the most of them.

That’s not surprising. Often the machines aren’t seamlessly integrated into the product development cycle. And to make matters worse, the journey from CAD design to printed artifact can require data to pass through multiple steps and often multiple applications before reliably building on the 3D printer tray.

Despite the uncertainty with this new technology, most agree that 3D printing is already transforming the way we manufacture products. That’s because it’s an approach that can offer more design freedom, faster time to market, lighter weight options for parts, waste reduction, and, best of all, cost reductions.

And the good news is that we’re quickly overcoming barriers to efficient design for additive manufacturing. Technology is beginning to connect printers directly to CAD systems, and as a result  it’s becoming easier to find and correct problems in the digital design before they become problems in the physical product.

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Is 3D printing the future of sustainable manufacturing?

3D printing3D printing increases efficiency and reduces waste, making it a valuable tool in efforts to make manufacturing more sustainable. Its applications range from medical devices to aerospace — and possibly even drinking water.

Earlier this month General Electric announced a project with the Department of Energy that uses 3D printed turbines in a process that could make desalinated seawater 20 percent less costly to produce.

The environmental and economic benefits of 3D printing have the potential to transform traditional manufacturing through cost reductions, energy saving and reduced CO2 emissions, according to a paper published last month in the journal Energy Policy. 3D printing can potentially reduce manufacturing costs by $170 billion to $593 billion, energy use by 2.54–9.30 exajoules (EJ) and CO2 emissions by 130.5 to 525.5 metric tons by 2025, the paper says. The range within the savings is due to the immature state of the technology and the associated uncertainties of predicting market developments.

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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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3D Printing changes the supply chain

I rec3d printing of a handently took a trip to my local big box electronics store, and saw a 3D printer on display. I asked what they were printing, and the response was “plastic components”, which were being sold in the store. The salesperson was busy, so I did not have the chance to find out exactly what those plastic components were, but I thought, wow, they can make parts for sale right there in the store. Retail is changing for sure. I then decided to do a little more checking on 3D printers when I got home. I learned about biofabrication, a recently created word that means the convergence between technology and medicine, to print items to be used in the human body. Living cells are used as the “printer ink”. Visions of the Terminator came to mind. I also discovered, from an article the Guardian that the U. S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first 3D printed drug, called Spritam (levetiracetam). It controls seizures coming from epilepsy. The drug manufacturer, Aprecia Pharmaceuticals, uses 3D printing to create a more porous pill. This means the pill dissolves more quickly with liquid, making it much easier for the patient to swallow higher doses.

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3D printing and the future of food

Printing out your meal may not sound appealing, but 3D technology could revolutionize food manufacturing. There could come a day in the near future when it’s a tablet to table kind of lunch.

It’s Friday night and you want a pizza, but instead of calling the local pizzeria for delivery, you just print out your dinner. Think that sounds a bit too farfetched? Think again.

Foodini from Natural Machines is a 3D printing kitchen appliance that makes pizza, pasta, breads and cookies. It assembles layers of fresh ingredients to take a complex process, like making ravioli, and simplifies the steps, as well as easing the kitchen clean up which is a big value-add.

Initially targeting professional chefs, Natural Machines’ co-founder Lynette Kucsma envisions a time in the near future when a 3D food printer will be a common kitchen appliance. Foodini, which is currently available in limited production with general availability in 2016, will cost about $1,500, according to the Natural Machines website. And, as competitors hit the market and prices start to plummet, a 3D printer could be a convenient way for consumers to make healthy meals on-the-go rather than turning to highly-processed foods packaged for the microwave.

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Don’t want to invest in 3D printing? Let someone else source the parts

Don’t Want to Invest in 3-D Printing? Let Someone Else Source the Parts In 2013 3Discovered was founded to become the first independent online exchange platform to facilitate the buying, selling, and fabricating of commercial-grade 3-D printed parts and products.

“We were intrigued by the notion that 3-D printing makes it easy to split a transaction for an object into its physical component (fabrication) and its intellectual property component (design),” the company explains on its website.

“Combine that with other 3-D printing benefits such as making what’s needed, when needed, where needed, and the freedom to design without constraints, and we saw an opportunity. So we set out to integrate these features by combining software and business processes with a network of multiple service bureaus in a commercial-grade cloud-based exchange platform.”

The company says that it offers a solution for any supply chain impeded by minimum order quantities, aging inventories, “long tail” products, legacy machines and discontinued parts.

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Military 3D printing projects face challenges

Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, has the potential to revolutionize the U.S. military’s logistics system. But numerous hurdles stand in the way of that dream becoming reality, experts said.

Unlike the traditional manufacturing process, which creates items by taking raw materials and subtracting from them by drilling or whittling, additive manufacturing takes digital data and creates 3D objects by stacking printed layers of raw materials.

Brennan Hogan, a program manager at LMI — a Virginia-based not-for-profit corporation that is consulting with the Defense Logistics Agency about the implications of 3D printing — said additive manufacturing provides an opportunity for “turning the supply chain on its head.”

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Design-Driven Manufacture: 3D printing is reshaping industry

The new Cube 3D printer and the CubePro Duo 3D personal printer, both from 3D Systems.Put down your tools and throw away those molds — 3D printing means customized complex geometries can be produced en masse at a fraction of the cost.

From watch cases and spikes on running shoes, to rocket engine components and implants for the human body, 3D printers can be used to make virtually anything out of virtually anything. Materials are printed layer-by-layer into such intricate devices that designers and manufacturers are being forced to rethink their entire approach to construction.

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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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