3-D Printing and the New Manufacturing

3-D printing has been around for a number of years. It has allowed creators to design objects on their computers, and then “print out” prototypes, with the printer layering material such as plastic or metal. A recent New York Times video (below) and article show just how far this technology has already come. Prototypes with fully moving parts can be printed–without assembly–and individual customized objects can be created.

The most fantastic use–shown in the second half of the video–are prosthetic limbs that are made to fit the individual at a fraction of the previous cost. As well, these limbs can be customized: the video shows hand-crafted metal and leather added to a leg.

When I first read about 3-D printers, the idea was that we would each have one in our homes and, when a part in one of our items broke, we could print out a new one for ourselves. With the cost in 3-D printers coming down (as low as $5,000 according to the video), this day is not too far off.

What areas of law will be affected by the use of these printers? If we are printing out our own parts and consumer goods, where does this leave manufacturers, designers and intellectual property?

Video source – New York Times. Unfortunately this video may not be viewable on mobile devices.

[Hat tip: Roger Summit]

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