Industry Insights

Research looks at 3D printing within the law

Do you know your rights when it comes to 3D printing and design?

In Legal Aspects of Protecting Intellectual Property in Additive Manufacturing, authors Brown, Yampolskiy, Gatlin and Andel, from the School of Computing at the University of South Alabama, examine this topic at from four different stages of the design process: the blueprint; the print process; a finished object; and the embellishments to the object’s design.

Fig 2. From Legal Aspects of Protecting Intellectual Property in Additive Manufacturing Via: Brown, Yampolskiy, Gatlin & Andel

Fig 2. From Legal Aspects of Protecting Intellectual Property in Additive Manufacturing Via: Brown, Yampolskiy, Gatlin & Andel
Fig 2. From Legal Aspects of Protecting Intellectual Property in Additive Manufacturing Via: Brown, Yampolskiy, Gatlin & Andel

The authors reach the conclusion that ‘Until sufficient deterrents are in place to render Internet piracy manageable, federal protections will be insufficient to deter many forms infringement’. This issue is by no means unique to the digital design files in the 3D printing industry with online theft, from music to movies an issue already faced by these industries. The question is whether the 3D printing industry will learn from the lessons in the music and movie business.

Plunderbuss Pete by bendansie on Thingiverse.
Plunderbuss Pete by bendansie on Thingiverse.

 

As we saw earlier this week, software companies are increasingly taking a new approach to Internet piracy and moving to a subscription based model. In cases where Internet connectivity is a requirement to use software this can provide a solution.

For 3D printed objects several companies are working on solutions to add watermarks to prints in a bid to prevent unauthorized copying. One example is InfraTrac, a company who use full-spectrum spectroscopy to scan for a “chemical fingerprint.” Another method might be the work done in HP’s R&D labs looking at using “quantum dots” and a digital reader to identify 3D printed components, although this is not yet ready for the public at large.

HP Multi Jet Fusion embedded Quantum Dots. Photo by Michael Petch
HP Multi Jet Fusion embedded “Quantum Dots”. Photo by Michael Petch

The full paper is certainly interesting food for thought and a useful contribution to the ongoing conversation in this area.

Featured image is Pirate 128mm by RazaTaj via Shapeways.