Every time I hear about 3 D printing, I hear a lot of FUD and it makes me nuts. I know very little about 3 D printing, because as far as I am concerned, it is one of those hands-on-crafty things that will frustrate me every time I start to get really into it. But you know, if I keep hearing about it, I'll feel better if I have a sense of what's going on out there.
GigaOm coverage of IP issues: http://gigaom.com/2013/09/18/can-3d-printing-avoid-a-napster-moment/
The concern appears to be that without standardization of files, the market will not develop (people won't want to buy stuff they aren't sure will work with their printer -- and they won't want to buy a printer unless they can buy files for the printer) BUT with standardization the potential for piracy increases. There are also quality issues, because no one out there is ensuring that the designs actually work. This reduces consumer confidence.
Here's more about how to stop people from using a technology before it has actually gotten going as an industry:http://www.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/blog/guest-comment/2013/10/3d-printing-protecting-intellectual.html
I can't decide whether this is a good faith effort to apply existing law and practice to a new technology, an effort to drum up new business for lawyers (by getting people who make tchotchkes and toys to pay a lawyer money to register it so that they can then pay a lawyer even more money later to sue someone for making a physical copy of it by whatever means, possibly including 3D printing, thus leading to complex trials about whether the copy is a close enough copy and/or whether the copier had any idea the original object existed, etc.), or someone churning out words to justify their (paid) existence.
In a nice example of how copylefting differs from other more official forms of IP, it's apparently legal to copy an item which was patented but the patent has expired -- as long as you don't also copy the trademark on it.
Meanwhile, GE is trying to use 3D printing to take advantage of additive manufacturing's ability to reduce assembly costs (weight of resulting product, labor, etc.).http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-11-27/general-electric-turns-to-3d-printers-for-plane-parts
In turn, they are running up against throughput issues, as they attempt to use an experimental/crafty/prototype oriented technology for production purposes.
Can additive processes make organs? Well, prosthetics, for less!http://venturebeat.com/2013/11/29/3d-printings-oddest-application-yet-cheaper-better-prosthetic-eyes/
Unclear what/whether there is a market for this. The eyes can't see.
Economist blogger dissing HP for entering 3D printing "late". http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2013/11/three-dimensional-printers
An interesting overview of the market and tech so far. Given where it is, and given the kind of company that HP is, entering now and growing their own is the only sensible thing to do. But lots of people misunderstand HP, so hardly surprising that the commentary is what it is.http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/171614-scientist-develops-nanoparticle-ink-to-3d-print-batteries
This is way out on the r&d end of things, interesting for several points. Notably, a state change from solid to liquid to solid trigger by _pressure_ rather than temperature, exploited in the printing process. Pretty cool! Also, this paragraph:
"It may be possible to construct entire devices — battery, electronics, and casing — with 3D printing technology that don’t have to be assembled by man or machine. You just input a design, and the finished product comes out ready to use."
gives a clear indication of the goal of this technology. Manufacturing moved from north to south, and then overseas, to reduce labor costs. Along the way automation becomes a factor, either in delaying or reversing a move (by reducing labor and thus costs associated with labor). If 3D printing as a dream or ideal is achieved, manufacturing could happen anywhere -- but you wouldn't be getting very many "jobs" with it.
So what about 3D printed organs?http://www.livescience.com/41480-3d-printed-kidneys-take-small-steps.html
Yeah, that'll be Not For A While Yet.
The hope is that they could "print" a cellular scaffold in organ-shape, and then populate the functional components using stem cells. I feel like several breakthroughs are required before this might be possible.http://www.genengnews.com/gen-articles/3d-printing-may-revolutionize-drug-r-d/5062/
We can make industrial diamonds -- they just aren't very interesting from a jewelry perspective. Similarly, we might be making organ tissues for industrial drug development purposes before we're making organs for transplant. Like, (a) might happen and (b) sort of never actually occur.
It's important to understand that the substrate (?), the "ink" being printed with here is _cellular_. The printing process is a mechanism for creating structure.
FDA blog on the subject of additive manufacturing and regulation:http://blogs.fda.gov/fdavoice/index.php/2013/08/fda-goes-3-d/
The focus is, appropriately, on _devices_, rather than drugs. And they are paying attention to the aspect that worries me the most: will an item made "traditionally" (heat and pour type stuff) vs additively behave differently in a way that matters?
"At our Laboratory for Solid Mechanics we’re investigating how different printing techniques and processes affect the strength and durability of the materials used in medical devices. What we’re discovering will be valuable to our reviews of devices down the road; it will help us to develop standards and set parameters for scale, materials, and other critical aspects that contribute to product safety and innovation."
There's a guy, Lee Cronin, who is attempting to create an additive manufacturing version of a chemistry set, with the goal of "make anything", which would include pharmaceuticals, hypothetically. He's been talking up this idea in various media outlets for _years_, and at the obligatory TED talks. And I think that's sort of worth noticing: he's been talking it up for years, at various media outlets, but, you know, we're sort of just now arriving at GE making fuel nozzles, maybe, in a couple generations, and FDA thinking about testing and regulating printed devices. Honestly, this is what happens when iffy science interacts with creative thinkers: Not Reality Based. (Do you think if you had all the right molecules on your chemputer and the "right" blueprint file, you could print some DNA? I wanna see that tech. Seriously.)
I think I'm just about done, because after seeing several of these things go by, I remember a lot of the stuff we used to talk about when we read journal articles about nanotech, or when Computer Numeric Control/CNC machines started to be more common. And we _still_ aren't doing the stuff we talked about then. We do now have ebooks, and packet radio really did become a thing, but I will note that micropayments are conspicuously absent from our economy, at least as conceptualized in the early 1990s.
Additive manufacturing will be an important part of our future economy. But it won't look like the stuff imagined by people trying to proactively regulate, and it won't look like the kind of FUD that is resulting in municipal legislation against 3d printed guns, and it won't look (much) like what shows up occasionally as a plot point in Hollywood scripted drama. Ballistics is a staple of cop shows, and _it_ doesn't actually work well in real life, either.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballistic_fingerprinting#Ballistic_fingerprinting_aids
Also, I'd like to point out this remark in that wikipedia article:
"California, for instance, passed a bill AB 1471 which requires all new models of handguns to be equipped with microstamping technology by 2010. However, due to the way the California law was written, microstamping cannot be implemented currently due to patent encumberment."
So you might want to slow down on the IP concerns, if you want to make other regulatory goals achievable.