Is 3D Printing the Future of Innovation or Asking for Trouble?

by Jessica Aiko Vann on May 29, 2013

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3D Printing has been around since the 80’s when it was invented by Chuck Hull.  Traditionally used by big companies the cost varied from $100,000 to a $1 million, but has recently been made available to the masses.  Now, an industrial 3D Printer can be purchased for $15,000 and a home version for a little over $1,000.

There are people and companies who are using this technology for innovation and creating innovative and exciting products.

There are many examples of this extraordinary development of 3D printing technology.  One has given a British man his life back.  Eric Moger lost a large portion of his face due to a cancerous growth that had to be removed.  With the work of dental surgeon and implant specialist, Dr. Andrew Dawood and 3D printing technology; Eric received a 3D printed face, which can help him eat, drink and speak correctly again.  There have also been cases of organs being printed from these 3D machines.

Founded in 2009 by an Industrial Designer and an Orthopedic Surgeon and a leader in the movement towards individualized medicine Bespoke Innovations a San Francisco company uses 3D printing technology to produce customized prosthetics.  They manufacture customized prosthetic limb coverings, or “fairings,” that perfectly mirror the sculptural symmetry and function of the wearer’s remaining limb and capture the wearer’s particular fashion sense.  Scott Summit, an industrial designer and co-founder of Bespoke Innovations states “We’re turning something ordinary and dehumanizing into something cool and amazing.”

There has been some controversy surrounding the idea of 3D printing regarding intellectual property and the content that the printers can produce.  Most recently there has been some concern about a 3D printed gun known as the “Liberator” that was produced by a nonprofit organization called Defense Distributed.  It has been tested and is able to fire a real bullet.  The Liberator is comprised of 16 interchangeable pieces, with a nail for a firing pin.  You can create these parts with a 3D printer, $50 – $60 in materials and about an hour of your time.

There has also been some debate about how 3D printing could jeopardize IP.   The main concern is not the 3D Printer Machine itself, but of the files it uses. To print from a 3D machine, you will need a Computer Aided Design (CAD) file of the product you want to reproduce as well as specialized software that tells the printer how to lay down the material (that the product will be made out of).   The object that is printed from the CAD file would be a copy or reproduction of the original product and these files could be copyright protected.

As with every new technology, there are always going to be people who will push it to the limits. It is how we use that technology in the end that will tell the tale.  3D Printing innovation or trouble…you decide.

Innovate Product Design helps individuals design, develop and protect their new inventions and ideas.  We have award winning design engineers, researchers, business development professionals and Intellectual Property experts, with experience in all areas of IP, product design and manufacture.  With in-house expertise, we can take your idea from paper to product, providing you with the best chance of success at market. http://how-to-patent-an-idea.net/

About the author: Jessica works for Innovate Product Design, a company that helps inventors design and development their new inventions and ideas. Innovate can help inventors develop, visualize and conceptualize their idea and give them the tools they need to present to industry. She comes from a family of inventors and has a keen sense of the process an inventor goes through of bringing their idea to life.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Monica - Rubber Track Dumpers May 31, 2013 at 5:49 am

3D printing is opening up doors for both small business owners looking to expand their offerings and have readily available replacement parts for things. Also the DIY-ers are getting into 3D printing making the manufacturing monopoly burst because not anyone with a decent credit card can get a pro-sumer quality printer and offer their own products.

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Hannah July 29, 2013 at 3:40 am

Great post Jessica! This thought has gone through my head as well, and I think the benefits might outweigh the possible concerns. Who knows only time will tell?

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Jessica August 5, 2013 at 11:09 pm

Hi Hannah,

I agree. It will be interesting to see how things progress.

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