The industrialisation of 3D printing: Why companies must now especially protect their IP and data

Dr. Andreas Leupold has been advising and representing clients from Germany, England, USA and many other countries mainly in IT Law, Technology, 3D Printing, Media and Trademark Law, Copyright and Unfair Competition Law.

Leupold_highres_rgb_01.jpgDr. Leupold is the editor and co-author of the handbook “3D Printing” which he wrote with a team of over 30 contributors that features industry leaders such as Terry Wohlers of Wohlers Associates and Peter Sander of Airbus Industries. He is a founding member of the supervisory council of the network “Mobility goes additive” initiated by the German Railway Deutsche Bahn. Here, he discusses the importance of protecting intellectual property and data in additive manufacturing. 

2018 will be an exciting year for 3D printing. Additive manufacturing (AM) has, for a long time, been mainly used in tool and prototype construction, and it is now moving into series production. Adidas recently announced that in the coming year it will be producing 100,000 Futurecraft sneakers using Carbon’s digital light synthesis technology and Airbus is cooperating with Daimler and the systems producer EOS in the additive mass production of aluminium parts.

These and other developments in AM have not escaped the eyes of lawyers for emerging technologies following market changes and their effects on the legal prerequisites for reducing business risks. With the rapidly advancing industrialisation of 3D printing, the legal questions that these pose are gaining importance, in particular, intellectual ownership of construction data and 3D printable designs and 3D models.

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Digital security for the 3D printing supply chain

Identify3D Protect software, is available stand-alone or in optional embedded format (shown here within Siemens NX design software). In this first of three software tools, users control design content, manufacturing policies and licensing policies within the digital supply chain of AM parts. (Image courtesy Identify3D)No matter the specific process, additive manufacturing (AM) can’t exist without a digital stream of data. From 3D CAD design through to final inspection, computer files define the intellectual property (IP) of the part itself, the build set-up, process settings, any monitoring steps, and complete provenance.

In this age of hacking and cyber attacks, manufacturers must consider whether this data is vulnerable to being stolen, misused or purposely corrupted. One company tackling this problem is Identify3D, founded in 2014 and about to launch a trio of targeted software tools in Q1 2018.

Stephan Thomas, co-founder/chief strategy officer, Identify3D, says he met Joe Inkenbrandt, the other company co-founder/CEO, at a business lecture. Thomas comes from a background of supply chains and operations and Inkenbrandt is experienced with IT security. Thomas notes, “I was fascinated by the potential supply-chain problems that AM could solve, i.e., the benefits of decentralized manufacturing, and Joe was already thinking about IP protection in additive.”

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Renishaw and Identify3D offer industrial answer to IP protection

OEM Renishaw has collaborated with software company Identify3D to produce an end-to-end, secure digital manufacturing process.

The collaboration between Renishaw and Identify3D will deliver secure manufacturing to supply chains in the aerospace, automotive, defence and medical sectors, as these industries make the leap to 3D printing.

Denial, compromise, sabotage, disaster

The issue of protecting intellectual property (IP) has faced almost all industries that use 3D printing, from design to manufacturing. It has formed the basis of questions that 3D Printing Industry has put to experts across the field, with many agreeing that additive manufacturing does not readily fit into existing IP protection structures.

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Encryption platforms for 3D printers prevent intellectual property losses

Danish 3D printing research company Create it REAL has developed a new platform for 3D printers with a focus on IP protection. The platform allows users to 3D print files without actually having access to the original 3D file. The process is enabled by directly decrypting the file onboard the printer using the Create it REAL processing chip.

Create it REAL previously developed the RTP real-time processor in 2013 which claims to increase the speed of FDM and SLA 3D printing. Since then, the company has worked on various other solutions based around this technology, such as software that can prevent the 3D printing of firearms and also developed software to preview prints in augmented reality.

The encryption and decryption process. Image via Create it REAL. Currently, Create it REAL has produced a number of prototypes which it intends to use in large-scale pilot programs before full release by the end of this year.

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Researchers report cybersecurity risks in 3D printing

Additive manufacturing (AM), commonly called 3D printing, is a $4 billion business set to quadruple by 2020. One day, manufacturers may print everything from cars to medicines, disrupting centuries-old production practices. The Federal Aviation Administration recently certified the first 3D-printed part for GE commercial jet engines, and companies like Ford Motor Company are using AM to build products and prototypes.

But the new technology poses some of the same dangers unearthed in the electronics industry, where trusted, partially trusted, and untrusted parties are part of a global supply chain.

That finding, along with initial recommendations for remedies, was reported by a team of cybersecurity and materials engineers at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering in JOM, The journal of the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society.

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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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