Public Knowledge has published a provocative paper on 3D printing, entitled: "It Will Be Awesome If They Don’t Screw It Up: 3D Printing, Intellectual Property, and the Fight Over the Next Great Disruptive Technology", The document summarises the battle lines around 3D printing, according to Public Knowledge, a Washington DC …
Won't catch on
In reality the printer will cost £50 and the ink/liquid about £500 a litre.
It will probably work out cheaper to buy what you're printing rather than make your own.
Stop, Mr cynical.
Doing a quick search, HP printer ink can be anything from £1000 - £2400/litre.
However, if you make your own reprap printer (reprap.org), the printer can cost around $1000 or assembled for around $1500.
There are no proprietary "inks", but the ABS plastic filament used can be had for $50-60 for a 5lb spool.
If you want to go proprietary, yes you can pay 10x that or more.
But it's the "open-source" nature or the diy designs which could have it really taking off.
And there's the rub
With it becoming easier and easier to duplicate things, copyright and patent laws are running headlong into the fact that they're nothing more than state-granted monopolies and not any actual form of property, with no basis in anything but politics. You can't stop human ingenuity forever.
re And there's the rub
Biotube, you are a bit off the point of patent and copyright laws - they were intended to protect and encourage innovation, not stifle it. It is abuse of these laws that is causing issues and they need to be modified to suit modern life and business, not scrapped.
Patent law was originally set up (some) centuries ago when master craftsmen were developing new techniques and needed to train apprentices (think Renaissance) without risk that the apprentice would use the new technique to steal business. Patents expire after a few years (20 or thereabouts, quicker if you don't renew them); the original thinking being that the master would have moved on / died / whatever and the apprentice could then use those skills. Applied in this way, patent law really does promote innovation and should be applauded. The main problem with patent law these days is that when two people innovate in the same way, the first one to patent the tech. can prevent the second one from using it - this leads to massive abuse of the system by various megacorps from pharmaceuticals to software. The obvious change would be to change the law to prevent copying / reverse engineering - one reason this has not been implemented is that it would be next to impossible to police effectively. IMHO, the easiest short-term fix would be to force patent owners to license their designs for a reasonable fee but I do not know enough about business / economics to know if this is feasible.
Regarding copyright law, I fully accept that anybody who writes, sculpts, draws or otherwise creates something should be entitled to the proceeds of selling it and that third parties are entitled to take a cut for selling them. The only real argument here is the pricing of such things as CDs, DVDs, etc. which really does smack of price fixing. In this case, I think the law is fine as it is.
How does the law work when you need a spare part and the manufacturer won't sell you one? Let's say you have a plastic Apple* thingamajig. Apple would prefer that if/when you crack the plastic bit you go and buy a new one and thusly don’t exactly have a storeroom full of plastic thingamajigs to sell you.** You reproduce the plastic widget so as to repair your device, but with it you reproduce the iconic Apple logo.
In your mind you are only restoring your device to its original state by printing off a part that Apple doesn’t stock. Apple probably wouldn’t actually care that you printed a replacement part…but (unless I completely misunderstand the law) they are bound to protect against infringement of their copyright or risk losing it. That means that Apple have to go and sue you for printing the apple logo on that widget that you made simply to restore your device to its original function.
If my interpretation of the laws on this are correct, then what is needed is a special exemption regarding printing replacement parts with copyrighted logos/images/what-have-you. Only in narrow cases however: it shouldn’t be allowed for commercial gain and it should only be if restoring a device to its original condition.
Additionally, I posit that it should be required that all companies licence their logos and intellectual property on FRAND terms to individuals. If – for example – I wanted to make a casemod to honour my great love of all things Apple*** I should be able to licence the use of the Apple logo if (and only if) they don’t sell something similar to the widget/bit that I need with their logo on it for my project.
Thoughts? Discussion? This is pretty new territory…these are really only preliminary thoughts based on trying to spur innovation whilst allowing corporations to meet their requirements to protect their copyright.
*Replace Apple and the Apple logo with any company.
**Not actually true - Apple have moved to metal and glass casings largely to avoid this kind of problem, but bear with me.
***That’ll be the day.
or similar epoxy putties.
or cast resin
they'll both be cheaper than a 3d printing, and you've learnt another skill.
Your understanding is not correct.
What you are referring to is trademarks. Specific art work or typography that is registered, and unique to the company for the life of the company. . Not surprising, as the article is also wrong in it's lego reference.
A trademark must be protected. Because it's real purpose is to differentiate one brand or source from another.
To use the lego example. I can sell as many lego bricks as I want. I can even call them lego, although I could possibly be in trouble then, as it is close enough to cause confusion.
Why? because lego is not trademarked. "LEGO" however, is. Capitalise it, and I'm definitely guilty of trademark infringement. If I call them interlocking construction blocks, I'm in the clear.
Lego has been available for around 70 years. The patent on the traditional rectangular blocks has long expired everywhere. Mindstorms and other newer types....Who knows.
So I can copy the design with no fear of legal consequences. The LEGO company can do nothing about it. And 40 years ago, I can remember there being lego bricks that were not made by LEGO.
LEGO bricks are NOT copyright protected. Despite the article's assertion. Copyright does not cover physical designs. Artwork, photos, drawings, text.. yes. But not the dimensions and mechanical characteristics of a small plastic brick.
So print as many lego bricks as you like, in any substance you like. LEGO can't touch you so long as you do not include their logo. And if you want a ready made lego brick model, try http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:591
And pay special attention to the distinct lack of the word LEGO in all caps.
You're thinking of...
> but (unless I completely misunderstand the law) they are bound to protect against infringement of
> their copyright or risk losing it. That means that Apple have to go and sue you for printing the apple
> logo on that widget that you made simply to restore your device to its original function.
Trademarks. Copyrights are not lost. Trademarks are.
I wonder if that is another reason for the decline in more traditional LEGO pieces.
I mean, the older designs were made up of lots of smaller bricks, which encourage experimentation. The newer designs are heavily dependant on larger custom pieces that are useful for that model and that model only. Granted a large part of that must be cost cutting, the larger custom pieces will be cheaper to mold, but also maybe it lets them reprotect the idea for a while.
Wrote a short story called Printcrime about how the authorities are just going to love 3D printing:
That's where I had heard this before...
I remembered this story as I read the article but I couldn't place where I knew it from.
How is a DESIGN (the Lego brick) protected by copyright? Or is it actually TRADEMARK that protects it?
If you design an object with a special visual feature then you can, for a fee, register the design. Perhaps a stick with a horse's head handle. Anyone could crib the technical aspects of your product but not the unique design feature that sets your apart in the market. I think this is the protection that Lego have. You can make a Lego like brick but it must look different.
And the discussion about products not made. If a patented invention is not put to market then anyone can request a licence from the patent owner, then if that fails take the owner to court seeking a licence on reasonable terms. The judge decides.
That's essentially trademarking.
Thus we have the term "REGISTERED Trademark" (or its shorthand, the encircled "R"—®). Registerd trademarks have the full legal backing of whatever the Patent and Trademark Office is in your home country (standard trademarks have some legal protection in the way copyright has some automatic protections, but the full legality comes from registering it with the PTO).
Hand-crafted copyright infringement is epidemic,
I went through a few pages from the ebay link and the only thing I saw that might have been "hand-crafted" were some pins. The rest appears to be the normal made in China knock-off crap. There is no way a 3D printer will be able to compete with China.
A few people might go to jail for creating 3D Simpsons porn though.
Size, speed & cost
The reality is that people don't do it now is because of the cost. Rapid prototype machines are expensive but that isn't the only reason they aren't cranking out toys like Santa's workshop. The biggest problem is actually time. It is called rapid prototype because it's faster and cheaper than building all the tooling to make a part. Just to clarify I said a part not a few hundred parts, not a few thousand parts and certainly not a hundred thousand parts.
If someone thinks they are going to get rich spinning out a few thousand Mikey Moose toys they can think again. 3D printing is perfect for making a few, perhaps into the tens of parts or even a hundred, if they are small enough to do a dozen or so at a time, but it's still a slow process and it isn't uncommon to kick large parts off just before you tick off the lights and let it run over night. Don't get me wrong, that's a heck of a lot faster than designing molds, making metal chips and firing off the injection molding machine to make _a_ part. That said, once the mold is made the high volume setup is done and parts come out like popcorn. In between, there are CNC machines that are program once and run them for a week and you will have far more parts than you could ever hope to produce on a 3D printer.
There you have it. 3D printers are great when you need a half dozen or so items the next day and if people could have made them suitable for mass production, they would have. This really is the specialty space for those people who make a living doing one-offs. It's for those artists who don't have the manual dexterity to paint the next Mona Lisa and the inventors wanting to do something different.
Lego bricks? At a tick over $20 for over 400 bricks it just isn't worth it. It would cost more in electricity to run the printer.
Quite right in everything you say, and for that reason, a future of 3D printing would be an ecological nightmare. Millions of consumers downloading the pattern and printing their own parts at a cost of massively increased electricity requirements and lots of waste printer goop.
Centralisation of production has increased in years, to the point where the world's supply of most goods is now China. The printer won't change that....
Mickey Mouse controls copyright laws
Copyright was supposed to have a limit. It still has a nominal limit now, but the duration of copyright has been repeatedly extended to prevent Mickey Mouse from becoming public domain. By all means have a term long enough to recoup investment, but the current term is too long.
...machines." That's the term affectionately used by Don Lancaster (author of the TTL cookbook and many other books) to describe 3-D printing.
He has written an excellent overview (.pdf) here:
Even though it was written in 1994, most of the techniques are still in use.
My favorite is using inkjet technology to print a layer at a time on clay microballs with water/detergent/colorants. The unprinted balls support overhangs, etc. The unwetted clay is brushed away and the clay object is then is then fired. This technology can be used to produce standalone ceramic objects, (statue,coffeecup,etc.,) or used as molds for casting other material, even molton metals, to make rings/gears/whatever.
Utter Hogwash !
Having done a bit of Rapid Prototyping in my time, I have to say this piece is garbage on many counts.
Owning a 3D printer doesn't make you a manufacturer any more than owning a paintbrush makes you Van Gogh.
Owning a Lexmark now doesn't make you Harper Collins!
The CAD files that are used to create things are never released to the public. There are 3D laser scanners in existence but they can't reverse engineer!
How many people could turn a kit of parts into a new Robosapien, car or TV?
You can buy home CNC lathes and milling machines but Ford is still in business isn't it?
>>>>"3D model complete with cavities, but without overhangs (as these would have to be suspended in the air while the connections were laid down)"<<<<
NO! 3D printers can extrude at least 2 materials already. One, the build material and one for the support matrix. So something like an open umbrella can be grown self-supporting. The support matrix is soluble and washes off leaving the finished part.
It will be a good hundred years before these machines can make other machines or replicate themselves. Making a cosmetic shell is one thing. Making high value structural parts is currently inconceivable.
You want a Daily Rail red-top scare story? People could "print" knives and guns AGGGHHHHHHH !!!
BAN THEM, think of the children etc. etc. etc.
Don't extrapolate a Bit Torrent into the real world.
If 3D printers are a problem, there's going to be trouble when the replicators get invented...
Now that could be REAL handy - especially when composites and even metal casting comes into the picture....
Oh I have metal 3D printing right now, it's called an arc welder.....
"the creation of replacement parts without a licence"
And gods forbid that you can create a little plastic connector or whatever that will fix your washing machine instead of having to fork out £50 for a whole new sub-assembly and then probably pay someone else another £30 to fit it...
it's the end of the world, I say
I seem to remember Captain Picard mentioning that the economy of Earth was almost destroyed when the matter replicator was invented, until people learned not to covet "things".
Many manufacturers find replacement parts to be a very profitable business, and will want to copyright any number of wear items so they can keep the price up.
Someday society are going to have to deal with the problem that maximum profit is not in the public interest, though some degree of profit arguably is.
"Going back to our Lego example: Lego bricks used to be protected by patent – not the nobbles on the top but the tunnels underneath that grip them – but these days it's the copyright* (which doesn't wear out) that protects the iconic Lego brick."
What? What? What?
Since when can you copyright a brick? If that were possible, no one would need to bother with patents or trademarks. Clearly compatible clones of many items are legally offered for sale, despite the best efforts of manufacturers to prevent them.
If Lego has won a judgement anywhere on the basis of copyright, it is a travesty and would certainly be overturned if a competent defence had been offered.
Since this is the conclusion of your article it would have been nice to have a citation of what you base this statement on.
They are more capable that you state.
To correct a point in the article, there have been 3D printers that will print objects with overhangs for some time.
They use either unset filler or a different, removable 'ink' to for support under or around objects.
Much ado about nothing?
This does not change the landscape much. Copyright works the same as it does in print or other media(setting aside the longer discussion of how WELL it works). A home inventor can make whatever original work they want, and they will hold full rights to whatever they create just like any other media. If they copy someone else's copyrightable design the existing laws already apply. One thing to keep in mind is that ORDINARY 3d objects are hard to protect via copyright. The light cycle above would be a good example, as the artist's design is iconic and original. If you cracked the back plate of your old iPod and molded a new one you would be pretty safe, provided you drop the apple logo. Might void the warranty but that is about it.
Patents get trickier, for example if you made a replacement mag-safe cord for your macbook. You would still infringing that patent on a technical level.
None of this is new, it applies to anything molded cast or carved by traditional means, and is enforced all the time with trademark, copyright, and both technical and style patents.
As long as we hold the line and prevent any jackass from claiming the uptake of 3d printers mandates the granting of new draconian powers for "rights holders" inventors should be fine. As for a tidal wave of home infringement, and attempt to produce tangible goods leaves tangible evidence. And the source meshes and models that tell the printer how to make things no different than software or music files. Not easy to control, but manageable. And the degree of difficulty to produce a workable mesh is way higher than copying a cd.
The technology to scan or produce a 3d wire frame automatically from a non-trivial object is still so blue-sky that I'd bet the farm it is not going to arrive before a working home fusion reactor. Sure there will be something that can scan a coffee cup or a golf ball in a couple of decades, but really think about the tiny number of objects one of these setups could manufacture in a single step.
And if you really need and entire machine shop in addition to your 3d printer to make most useful items you come full circle to were we are now. Committed people with resources can duplicate things and they can be caught, tried and jailed under existing law. Something that happens often enough to keep commerce mostly honest, part of the time, unless you wander by the garment district and want a "Goochi" handbag or some "Channel" sunglasses.
Are you sure a lego brick is protected by copyright?
I seem to have read exactly the opposite in an equally credible article.
It's all irrelevant anyway. 3D priinting is not going to be able to undercut the mass-produced plastic crap that is available at a sensible price from outlets such as Asda, Tesco, Poundland, ...
Ceci n'est-ce pas un title
I'm guessing Bill hasn't come face to face with either (a) a modern 3d printer or (b) a part made by one. For example, overhangs and voids are easy, if your process includes some sort of soluble support material. You'd also be surprised at the precision available. Never mind Lego, try gears that mesh and jars with twist-on lids that fit.
3d printing is replacing CNC machining right now in a lot of design and engineering shops for prototyping - I've had the experience of going from idea to physical widget in about an hour or so, and it is a game-changer for a development engineer.
The kit is getting cheaper and more accessible - even HP are selling 'em now - but fundamentally it still has limits. You're limited to single materials, typically ABS or HDPE. Smooth or shiny parts are nigh impossible without post-processing. You can't generally make anything bigger than a shoebox. And it's not cheap - maybe £10 for a part that would cost pennies to stamp out or injection mould.
For this reason I can't really see it catching on for vast armies of copyright-infringing toy makers - for much the same reason that there aren't more people with lathes and milling machines in their domestic workshops busy knocking off copies of car parts.
Anyway, surely the issues around copyright are the same regardless of the technology - if I decide to make a replica of R2D2, it's the same law at work, whether I choose to use marble, wool, old sink plungers and squeezy bottles, Honduran rosewood, or ABS plastic?
Modern 3D printers...
I agree with AC above. The latest 3D printers are quite something. I recently saw a video of the Up! 3D printer producing a fully functioning roller-bearing. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOEbZ98J1Ks and www.PP3DP.com.
An important distinction... or not?
It was my understanding that you could create, for example, all the R2D2 replicas you wanted - you just weren't allowed to sell them. Just like you could paint a picture of Winnie the Pooh in your kid's room or DIY your own Mickey mouse t-shirt.
Maybe that distinction is just in effect as other than content (music/video) nobody really seems to care about pursuing non-commercial infringement.
Anyone kind enough to enlighten me on this? Is there any sort of real legal distinction here? Does it differ depending on the type of non-commercial infringement (trademark vs. patent vs. copyright)?
fully functioning roller-bearing
How many seconds would it last if you actually tried to use it?
The 3D printer issue typifies the traditional struggle against information that cries to be free and those that wish to constrain it. And the issues are only going to get worse.
Before recording of sound was quick and convenient, nobody was bothered about bootleg copying. It was easier and cheaper to go out and buy the product rather than making it yourself and you can see the obvious benefit of this. A soon as replicating sound was as easy as copying a file, this became an issue.
It begs the question though, what are you actually paying for when purchasing an item in a shop or off a website? Since the production of a record or CD involves technology, materials and people's time, it is seen by most people as reasonable to pay money for something that has worth. It becomes less defensible to require the same amount of money for something that requires practically no duplication effort whatsoever. And this is the key issue in most people's eyes.
There is a big debate at the moment as to whether th whole idea of copyright protection laws are really supportable in the modern age. Some argue that they are MORE important than ever because of the modern means of duplication of "protected ideas".
My personal view is that the way people earn money and the way businesses work will have to change in the face of the future. Like it or not, the public have always been OK with paying for things that they cannot make themselves. Having a law that says you cannot make something yourself (for yourself even) is really not something that has the support of people at large.
More and more technology is going to put us ever more at odds with patent and copyright holders because it is lowering the cost of manipulating information and therefore their physical manifestations.
Not quite there yet
I've been using 3D printing and similar for almost twenty years. I first saw it at University. It's very useful for visualising a 3D space quickly but even today using cutting edge machines and very good craftspeople to finish the parts by hand nobody would ever say the quality was as good as something coming from an injection mould.
I can see a big possibility for hobbyists for whom the current technology is too expensive (just like they may have a CNC mill in their garage) but I'm not seeing a future where the masses download a 3D design and build it at home.
Now here is an idea...
Would be nice to have a electronics Printer.
It would etch out or drop down chemicals onto a substrate that would lead to a 3D PCB layer. Sort of like a giant Integrated Circuit board?
Resistors, capacitors, inductors, tracks, diodes and other semi's could be laid down layer by layer by spraying conductive and partly conductive paints, semiconductors junctions could be made up perhaps?
What do you think? Do able?
Perhaps, but not yet.
The big thing is all the metal in a PCB. 3D printing technology is mostly limited to plastics at the moment and will need a few technological jumps to work their way up to metals (and metalloids like silicon).
Closer than you think
A lot of the major aerospace companies are looking at electron deposition with metals as they don't have to manufacture critical components out of huge pieces of billet. Ok you can't just walk into a shop and buy one, but the technology is not completely out of reach.
There are companies out there with inks that can literally print integrated circuits, with what is basically an inkjet printer.
I'm not saying the technology is ready, but at the same time the technology is not beyond us.
3D products produced on an industrial scale automatically attract "unregistered design right" in the UK, rather than copyright. This is like copyright in that you have to prove copying for there to be infringement, but its duration is much shorter (10 years from "first marketing" of an article made to the design). However parts of designs that must fit or must match another part are not covered. Parts of a design where there is some design freedom are covered.
Broadly this means that an aftermarket for spare parts is legitimate, provided that the aftermarket manufacturer copies only those parts of a product they have to for the part to fit the original. This can be very complicated to assess, as one of the leading cases in this area, involving parts for Dyson vacuum cleaners, shows:
You can also pay a fee to register your design. If you do you can get longer cover and don't need to prove copying. But registered designs don't cover hidden parts of complex products, parts fitting other parts, or parts whose appearance is solely dictated by function, again leaving the door open for aftermarket companies to operate if they are careful.
If you patent aspects of products, like the Magsafe connector on Macbooks, then the aftermarket needs a licence to reproduce that. This is why savvy OEMs will try and patent these kinds of features.
As for Lego - the basic connection was patented in the late 50s, so has long expired, and any other rights in the basic blocks have expired. I believe Lego may have tried to get a 3D trade mark registration for the block and failed. However the word Lego is a registered trade mark.
This means that a third party could make a brick that is the same as the bricks that date back to the 50s. Stamping Lego into it would be TM infringement (upper/lower case would make no difference). They could say their brick fitted Lego bricks provided they made it clear that it was not an original Lego brick.
The UK-IPO (Patent Office as was) explains the difference between these various types of protection here: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types.htm
PS don't take this as legal advice... it's late
Spare parts indeed?
Thinking about all the things that are broken around my house and the spare parts they'd need, I can't see a 3D printer being much use. Mostly they need specialised materials (ever heard of metal?), specialised finishes or need to withstand wear, corrosion or support loads in particular ways. Sticking tiny blobs of plastic together isn't going to get very close.
Can you imagine anyone making replacement hips on a 3D printer? (Not that I need one just yet.)
"Public Knowledge believes such freedom is under imminent attack from dark forces, which "will likely seek to criminalise the creation of replacement parts without a licence".
Not only that, but these dark forces "could sue manufacturers of 3D printers on the grounds that 3D printers are required to make copies"."
I often make replacement parts for things in my shed. Does that mean that the manufacturers of tools like my lathe, pillar drill and milling machine could be sued too? The thing is that sometimes it's cheaper and easier to buy a replacement part than make my own, sometimes it isn't, but (here comes the biggy) sometimes the replacement part simply isn't available and I would need to buy a complete new item just because one part has failed. Any manufacturer trying to prevent me making a replacement part in that situation would find themselves up against it, they would be saying that they were totally against the principal of the four Rs; Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle? Nah, were going to sue you because you didn't scrap it an buy a new one. That would go down well.
Also bear in mind that although the motor industry have repeatedly tried to prevent the sale of "pattern" parts with the EU they have failed on every occasion. If they've failed why would anybody else succeed?
Of course the manufacturers of 3D printers couldn't be (successfully) sued. If providing a means of reproducing a copyright item could be sued, then every manufacturer of scanners, printers, photocopiers, CD/DVD burners etc. would be in the courts (note that a produce designed to overcome DRM technology is different).
The collection of levies on blank media (in some countries) is not a matter of civil law. It's no different to the PRS having the power to extract money for public performances. A matter for parliament, and not a civil court case.
"3D printers work in a similar way to ink-jet printers, but squirt drops of molten plastic instead of ink. When one layer has been finished the head lifts slightly and deposits another layer, building up a 3D model complete with cavities, but without overhangs (as these would have to be suspended in the air while the connections were laid down)."
Actually, that's just one type of 3D printer, there are several others. Some use a bath of some kind to allow for overhang. Others (my personal favourites) use a combination of special talcum-powder-like substance and special inks to create a solid object with as many overhangs as you want - and (joy) as many colours as the printer is set up to handle.
Please do a little research into the devices before making sweeping statements.
overstating the state of the art?
bicycle chainring printed out of UV cured resin on a Fab@home open source 3d printer.
Me wants a 3D printer
To do what?
For example, each time the frame in my reading glasses break I would print a new frame and fit the glasses.
Not to mention if I can make my own plastic cutlery, mugs, etc.
I'm AutoCAD savvy and not too complex 3D part design is trivial for me.
I realize this is a long way off for me, so I will start training the kids into 3D part design.
Perhaps the real fears?
Perhaps one real fear is that people will be able to make themselves perfectly good, perfectly legal gizmo's instead of buying one at the store? You know people -- just like freeware, there will be people designing items and giving away their design, trying to be the most popular.
And I think the corporations that currently have the huge resources needed to design, prototype, and injection mold products are afraid that the activity will be now open to all, just like book publishers now compete with the Internet.
"Lego bricks are about the level we're at today"
You've got that back-to-front. The tolerances on Lego are minute. When we get a 3D printer that can print a decent quality Lego brick I'll get one.
Currently, even commercial clones like Cobi and Megablocks are shit compared to Lego.
...dark forces, which will likely seek to criminalise the creation of such parts as replicas of your love muscle or that of your hubby.
A bit daft I know,
but I wonder if you could pirate vinyl records with one?
- Does Apple's iOS 7 make you physically SICK? Try swallowing version 7.1
- Pics Indestructible Death Stars blow up planets with glowing KILL RAY
- Hands on Satisfy my scroll: El Reg gets claws on Windows 8.1 spring update
- Video Snowden: You can't trust SPOOKS with your DATA
- 166 days later: Space Station astronauts return to Earth