3D Printing May Face Legal Challenges

Posted by Roger 
I know the subject of 3D printing has come up from time to time here, but I can't find the old threads.

[hardware.slashdot.org]
josh fraser (Moderator)
Cheaper to buy most of the objects rather than 3d print, and you have limitations on the materials you can use anyway.

We have 6 Objet printers here which is much better than the C&C machine, but the stability of materials is not that great compared to the originals.
The article isn't so much about the state of technology now as what kind of things will develop in the future.
Sanjeev (Admin)
Incidentally, it's "CNC", not "C&C"...and, yeah, 3d printing is much faster and usually cheaper...but CNCed parts tend to be superior because of a much wider material selection (and often better surface finish).

Anyway, the article has a good point. Patent seekers should really include something about the "3D likeness" of their inventions because scanning and printing is becoming easier and easier.
josh fraser (Moderator)
You can patent function based design, What it does, how it does it, but good luck getting a patent on specific design flourishes or elements.

Instead of worrying about individuals printing parts for their laptops, I would worry more about factories that sell proprietary designs from one brand to others many times during manufacture. Crappy but true. You can buy cads and any 3d file from any shoes brand for the right price, and design the product before it comes out from the originator of the design.

It is tough to patent visual identity or non functional design aspects. We deal with that in shoes, apparel and accessories all day long. Beyond a cease and desist, the legal costs are not worth it for many companies for product that has a quick consumer lifespan anyway.

But in terms of the idea that individuals will make cut into company profits...I think we are far away from that. Even with lowered costs, and access to blueprints, do you think most people are motivated enough to make their own products?

Sure digital media has hurt the music industry, but there are risks for illegal downloads. And like aftermarket parts, you risk voiding warranty and the fact is I doubt anyone is going to give 3d files away for free. Those that hold them are going to hold onto them and try to make a profit. There is no profit in sharing these files for nothing. And at the end of the day, unless raw materials get cheaper, you might be hard pressed to make anything for cheaper than you could get at a Walmart.

All raw material costs are likely to rise not fall. Right now it costs 400-1000 for a standard Zcorp model from 8-12 inches. You would need to revolutionize how things are produced to affect a change to make it remotely profitable for the consumer to DIY it.

Just my two cents...but what do I know.
josh fraser (Moderator)
Plus, price goes down as units go up. Our FOBs are just as dependent on how many units the factory is making as it is for the actual cost of manufacture. You leverage your high tier low volume product with lower price distribution higher volume to get prices to a place they will be cheap enough to make a profit. Individual costs of parts in many cases are not taken into account for the bottom line. each item is averaged out and then a deal is made based on the total units made/sold.

This alone would make home projects less likely than some speculate in my opinion because if you price it out, the retailer will likely still be cheaper after costing out what you put into it via, material cost, initial machine cost and upkeep, and time involved.

Ok I will shut up now. But it is something I think about a lot.
josh fraser Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> You can patent function based design, What it
> does, how it does it, but good luck getting a
> patent on specific design flourishes or elements.


Yes, you can patent both trade dress and/or design elements (different things). Design patents protect the “ornamental” design of a product or component of a product so long as the design satisfies three basic requirements: (1) the design must be “new”; (2) the design must be “nonobvious” compared to prior known designs in the marketplace or in prior patents; and (3) the design must be ornamental and not solely functional. Design patents remain in effect for 14 years.


> Instead of worrying about individuals printing


> It is tough to patent visual identity or non
> functional design aspects. We deal with that in
> shoes, apparel and accessories all day long.
> Beyond a cease and desist, the legal costs are not
> worth it for many companies for product that has a
> quick consumer lifespan anyway.


True, that - it's probably the toughest protection to get. But fashion has it's own set of challenges. I think it's easier to patent, say, a home interior ornamentation element than a clothing element, since clothing designs traditionally have very little (almost no) protections - has to do with the seasonality of fashion retail. Some feel this is actually better for the economy and innovation, others disagree.



> But in terms of the idea that individuals will
> make cut into company profits...I think we are far
> away from that. Even with lowered costs, and
> access to blueprints, do you think most people are
> motivated enough to make their own products?
>
> Sure digital media has hurt the music industry,
> but there are risks for illegal downloads. And
> like aftermarket parts, you risk voiding warranty
> and the fact is I doubt anyone is going to give 3d
> files away for free. Those that hold them are
> going to hold onto them and try to make a profit.
> There is no profit in sharing these files for
> nothing. And at the end of the day, unless raw
> materials get cheaper, you might be hard pressed
> to make anything for cheaper than you could get at
> a Walmart.
>
> All raw material costs are likely to rise not
> fall. Right now it costs 400-1000 for a standard
> Zcorp model from 8-12 inches. You would need to
> revolutionize how things are produced to affect a
> change to make it remotely profitable for the
> consumer to DIY it.
>
> Just my two cents...but what do I know.


A lot! I've learned all kinds of stuff from you.

Personally I agree with most of that, and I think that personal fabrication (3D printing at home) will apply to a new class of consumables that haven't quite been invented yet, I don't know, like printed batteries or something? Medical/health monitoring devices? You know - disposal yet complicated stuff. Unfortunately, we're still stuck thinking in terms of what we already buy today.

Also, I think this is going to be a little like video phones: we've been able to do it for a long time, it's a super-compelling idea that appeals to people, yet for 30 some-odd years, I couldn't break through in the culture in terms of usefulness.
josh fraser (Moderator)
For your own inventions, I can see this at low production, but unless you have major startup cash, all the things I mentioned are still in effect.

The machine is not the ongoing cost as say the raw materials. Those prices have not really gone down from what I see. But I could eat my words when these mini DIY shops pop up.


I should get my 3d guy in on this conversation, I think he is still a member here.
josh fraser Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> I should get my 3d guy in on this conversation, I
> think he is still a member here.

You rang? ;-)

I think its inevitable that issues like this will arise as 3D printing technology becomes more common, heck you can build your own homebrew 3D additive printer for $500-$1000 and buy commercial FDM printers that can print some very accurate ABS or photo polymer parts in the $9000-$20,000 range. I can see the threat there, but I think companies that design 3D printers feel the threat with the homebrew 3D printer community exploding as well. I mean when you look at the fundamentals of additive manufacturing, the process is actually far more simple than traditional machining methods and anybody with half a brain can buy one of these homebrew 3D printer kits to make one themselves.

But as some have you already said--- The material limitation is where the infancy and cost is and this is where conventional methods are still a lower cost option currently. However the gap is closing very quickly with commercial suppliers pouring tons of money and resources into material research and homebrew 3D printer enthusiasts being quite crafty with using current low cost plastics and resins for the most robust components. Heck their printers out there that can 3D print steel and aluminum that have always been around that can make toolings with far less resources and time.

Multi-material printers were just released a few years ago that can mix 2 different polymers to give you a wide array of engineered properties. Imagine down the road in the future being about to plug in whatever metal, plastic, silicon, etc... materials you want into a 3D printer that will be able to make any kind of electronic device you want. I think these types of 3D technologies will pave the way for direct 3d printer mass production, once they work out to be economical, I personally don't think were too far from it.
Sanjeev (Admin)
Luca in the house! I still owe you some Blu Fin! ;)

Y'know, even if we're still some ways away from fully-engineered products coming fully cooked outta some machine in our basements, it's still amazing to me that we are at the point where inexpensive 3D printings can be made, and then post-processed in more conventional ways to produce parts that can run the gamut in terms of material properties.

Sure, we don't have Star Trek replicators just yet, but I don't think most people really grasp the scope of what can be done with what we have now...
josh fraser (Moderator)
Luca! Alen might be contacting you soon bro. Sanjeev is not the only one who owes you lunch ;-)



Well if we are not too far away, I can't wait to make my own machined missile firing chogokin Kappa .
Sanjeev Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Luca in the house! I still owe you some Blu Fin!
> ;)

Hahaha! we definitely need to get together!

> Y'know, even if we're still some ways away from
> fully-engineered products coming fully cooked
> outta some machine in our basements, it's still
> amazing to me that we are at the point where
> inexpensive 3D printings can be made, and then
> post-processed in more conventional ways to
> produce parts that can run the gamut in terms of
> material properties.



> Sure, we don't have Star Trek replicators just
> yet, but I don't think most people really grasp
> the scope of what can be done with what we have
> now...

Oh no doubt and it will only get better and more affordable to the masses. Just imagine what the future will bring for 3D printing technology if they can control part creation at the raw material molecular level and having a vast array of options from detailed material properties to an array of surface finishes without post processing.


Here's one of the DIY 3D printer kits I was mentioning yesterday that you can buy.

[store.makerbot.com]

This is also a cool site dedicated to open source 3D printing. Reprap gives you the instructions on how to build it and all you have to do is source the parts and assemble it yourself.

[reprap.org]
Sanjeev (Admin)
That RepRap video was great. Love the concept of the self-replicating machine...though the bees/flowers analogy was mad corny! ;)

Anyway, I'm of course all for such technology, but *my* main concern isn't so much the open source-ness of it all, the self-replicating-ness, the multi-media-ness, or any of these sorta big picture attributes.

My main concern for these machines right now is resolution. I've seen 3D printers pump out a variety of coarseness in terms of surface finish. Some shit just barely recognizable as what it's supposed to be! And the more coarse a printout is, the more sophisticated the post-processing will have to be.

I'd just love to see a machine be able to print something like a brand new golf ball: glossy finish with perfectly-formed dimples. THAT would be something!
A friend of mine is one of the co-founders of Makerbot. They had a little convention yesterday:

[blog.makerbot.com]

I love the idea of it, and I don't think we're too far off where they can print something with the finish of a LEGO brick. So many people are experimenting with these things, and that "open source attitude" is bringing a lot to the table.
Anonymous User
Not a 3d Printer, but still awesome and affordable!

[kotaku.com]
I hope we all see where this is going...every market that has been left untapped due to having a miniscule fan base will now get limited runs of action figures. Imagine the shelves of your collection lined with the likes of characters from:

The Newhart Show...BOB...he's a psychologist...he's a robot skull...he's...?

Bill Bixby from The Courtship of Eddie's Father...not quite hulking, more like sulking.

The gals from Petticoat Junction...just because someone out there would probably want those (innocent whistling...)
[www.huffingtonpost.co.uk]
Most of this article is typical hypothetical hyperbole, but it's interesting that Pirate Bay is getting fully behind the concept of file-sharing of designs for 3d printing:
[thepiratebay.org]
It looks like a lot of the items in these torrents are being offered by their original creators. Some of them are pretty amusing:
[thepiratebay.org]

-Paul Segal

"Oh, the anger is never far, never far." -SteveH
Sanjeev (Admin)
I really hope the over-valuation of companies like 3D Systems doesn't fuck them in the long run.

Anyway, good article...I just get annoyed by the absurd hyperbole:

"Now, with increasingly cheap and easy-to-use three-dimensional printers, they can turn out such gifts [as Legos and Star Wars toys] in the comfort of the family living room or garage."

"Copyright holders will cringe, but people are already using printers to make Star Wars battle cruisers or a cheaper alternative to Lego or Mattel Inc toys."

C'mon now...
Quote
Sanjeev

"Copyright holders will cringe, but people are already using printers to make Star Wars battle cruisers or a cheaper alternative to Lego or Mattel Inc toys."

C'mon now...

Ha Ha, I've seen one of those Lego alternatives for real today, and let me tell you, it sucked big time. Zero holding power and shit fit. Granted, it came out of one of those "assemble it at home"-3D printers, but the design itself was not as smart as Lego is.

Home 3D printers are nowhere near the quality of real toys yet. Besides, how long before some kid manages to impale himself on the very realistic toy sword daddy made on the garage 3D printer?
That patent for Lego blocks is long expired. Anyone can make Lego bricks as long as they don't have the Lego trademark on them. This is stupid.

-Ginrai
Golden Gate Riot on dead trees at: [www.destroyallcomics.com]



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/16/2012 02:25PM by Ginrai.
Quote
Ginrai
That patent for Lego blocks is long expired. Anyone can make Lego bricks as long as they don't have the Lego trademark on them. This is stupid.

The patent for the original lego brick has expired, but the newer pieces have not. This why Lego introduces new pieces every year.

-Randall
It's cheaper to print a copy of TBDX using Shapeways than it is to buy one at Toys R Us.

I'm sure there's a joke in there about making a self-replicating copy of the Rev'rend's diamond studded junk in your very own living room, but, uh, I guess I just told it?
Announcement coming up at Makerbot in 30 minutes:

[makerbot.com]
Sanjeev (Admin)
Well...I had the countdown going in another tab...and when it finally loaded the livestream, it just sat there and counted up to some 400 viewers. But then nothing.

I tried reloading the page, and I got a "This website if offline" CloudFlare window.

Sadness.
Sanjeev (Admin)
Was that you demanding a goodie bag, Roger??? LOL

Anyway, so a $2200 100 micron resolution...FDM printer? I've never been a huge proponent of FDM, but in a thread on the TF board, Tom mentioned a company called Mojo that makes a 170 micron resolution FDM printer that actually prints its own support material. That's HUGE. Being able to print its own support material effectively allows the machine to create any geometry you want...crazy undercuts and everything. Do you happen to know if the Replicator 2 prints support material?

Tom, are you lurking? What do you think of this machine? And did you ever get a price quote on the Mojo so we can compare?
Yes, I want a goodie bag!

EDIT: After reading the press release, still no idea about the support material issue but you could probably email them about it. But check it out, it says "experienced users" using their software can print down to 20 microns.

For those interested:

1) There's a Replicator 2 coming, higher resolution and larger build platform and optimized for PLA:

[www.makerbot.com]

2) There's a Replicator 2X on the horizon, going to be optimized for ABS:

[www.makerbot.com]

3) There's new Makerware being released:

[www.makerbot.com]

4) They're opening a retail store in Manhattan, complete with gashapon.

[www.makerbot.com]



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/19/2012 04:06PM by Roger.
Sanjeev (Admin)
I kinda want a goodie bag too...and the snacks they offered. :P

Anyway, I didn't realize the 2x was being optimized for ABS--that's huge. ABS is obviously super-tough and super-light...and most importantly, super-cheap. Like, orders of fucking magnitude cheaper than SLA photopolymers. The Mojo already uses ABS, so that's a plus in its favor....but then again, the build platform on the Replicator 2 absolutely smokes the Mojo's 5" cube.

I'm definitely interested in checking out the retail store in NY next time I make it out there...
Sanjeev (Admin)
So this is pretty fucking cool:
[www.youtube.com]

Just for the fuck of it, I posted a comment on MakerBot's youtube video for the Replicator 2 mentioning the support material question...and they actually replied, stating that they do actually print their own break-away support material.

I don't know if they offer this service for prospective buyers...but I'd love to send them an STL of one of my MUSCLE figures to get a test print. If this machine's good enough to print one of those adequately, I'd certainly be interested in buying one!
I saw your comment and their response and I seem to remember them mentioning how the software takes the STL and adds support material to it so that it will print correctly. I'm pretty sure this print of the Combat Shell (done on the first Replicator) had support material under the forearm that was subsequently clipped off:

[www.flickr.com]

I'm not sure how ideal the printer would be for your MUSCLEs, though, even on the newer machine. They're still going to have that layered texture to it (seen in that photo) which could obfuscate the details, and I'm not sure PLA is ideal to use as a master for casting (if that's what you're planning).

What I would recommend is find a hackerspace near you and find out if they have a Makerbot printer or another RepRap derivative. Ask if they'll do a high-res print commission for you, and that will give you a rough idea of what the output is like using older hardware.

What I think would be pretty cool to make with this are custom Jumbos. The PLA material isn't exactly like polyethylene but I can imagine it would feel right if you made a big 2 foot robot out of it. And the build platform on this is pretty damn big, so you probably wouldn't even have to slice up the model much.

Matt-o-chan should get someone to model his Kappa Machinder and do prints of it using this. If you look in Makerbot's store I think they have all of the necessary colors available in PLA.
Also, this rules:

[www.thingiverse.com]
Sanjeev (Admin)
Huh, guess I missed the bit about the support material--maybe it was in the livestream before I could tune in. Anyway, that's obviously a big deal. As for the resolution being good enough for something as tiny and detailed as a MUSCLE guy, yeah, it's really pretty impossible to know without getting an actual test print. I mean, the Replicator 2 boasts resolution of .1mm...but that .1mm may be very different from the .1mm advertised for the 3D Systems machine Shapeways uses. Or...who the fuck knows--maybe the Replicator 2 *is* all that and can FDM-print as precise as 3D Systems' SLA. I doubt it, but that's what the number say. Without side-by-side prints of the same file, there's no way to tell.

Anyway, if the resolution DID ultimately end up being "good enough" on the Replicator 2, I wouldn't be getting it to make casting masters. For one-time jobs like that, it would make sense just to send it to Shapeways, i.materialise, or some such company. I'd be getting the machine to do production printing. One $50 spool of PLA is enough plastic to make at least a few hundred MUSCLE figures. So fuck casting! If you can pump out a couple dozen MUSCLEs in one night for under a quarter a whack, you'd be crazy not to!


Quote
Roger
What I think would be pretty cool to make with this are custom Jumbos. The PLA material isn't exactly like polyethylene but I can imagine it would feel right if you made a big 2 foot robot out of it. And the build platform on this is pretty damn big, so you probably wouldn't even have to slice up the model much.

^^Also something that's crossed my mind! At the risk of violating yet more IP that doesn't belong to me, I've been strongly considering doing a 24" Dairugger XV. Then again, Alen has an in with WEP now... ;) But either way, Jumbo's are a possibility that becomes MUCH more...possible...with something that can operate as cheaply and efficiently as a Replicator 2.

Exciting times!
You should definitely investigate it but I think in the end, printouts of your MUSCLEs won't carry the "keshigomu no damashii" due to the properties of PLA. I feel like making little stuff like army men or little dinos, or larger stuff like Jumbos, would "fit" more, but you're going to be the best judge of of how your own project might work when you handle the output yourself.

Some people are doing great stuff like these little UFO playsets:

[www.thingiverse.com]

I've also played with several of these, incredibly awesome even when they're not running:

[www.thingiverse.com]
Sanjeev (Admin)
Oh, of course: straight 3D prints of a MUSCLE-style figure would hardly be Soul of Eraser (we should totally copyright that name!). If anything, the stuff the LRG fellas are doing these days with home-cast rubber would be SoE...but while those toys are fantastic, they're very pricey and very limited.

What I'd love to do is more in line with hard plastic army men or dinos, like you mentioned. Better yet, Garbage Pail Kids "Cheap Toys"...heh, remember those?? I only continue to use "MUSCLE" when describing my minis because they fit that size and quasi-SD aesthetic. But as long as the toys are fun in-hand, cheap, and not limited...I'm good. FDM printing (as opposed to far more expensive SLA or SLS) can cover the cheap aspect...but again, it all comes back to resolution and what sort of geometry can effectively be done by the machine...
Sanjeev (Admin)
Fff-fffffff-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa...

I just found out MakerBot sells glow ABS filament. So it can print in GID material!!
cae
now you can finally give yourself head - and me, too!

---------------------------------
hassenpfeffer
Sanjeev (Admin)
Roger, where'd you get the scan done? That's pretty cool shit! I'm just curious if they'll scan other items. Might be hilarious to scan a Nag^3 and bootleg it! LOL

Anyway, I know you brought a Forever War mini printed in stainless steel to the Summit, and I've handled the Bounce Tortoise mini Ben had done in steel...so I figured what the fuck...

I got my MUSCLE Gin Gin from Shapeways last night. And holy fuck...it's awesome:



There are more pic on my blog, along with my take on the quality of the print. The short version: 1.3 ounces of indestructible awesome...I fucking love it...even if it's over $40.
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