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Download Dangers: The Age of 3D Printing

27 March 2014

Mason Hayes & Curran Technology Law Blog

by Jevan Neilan, Associate

The former warning against VHS piracy famously involved the phrase “you wouldn’t steal a car”. In the era of file-sharing, the Internet’s mocked and reworked version resulted in the phrase “you wouldn’t download a car”. Now, it seems, that day may have come.

The phenomenon of 3D printing is being heralded as “the third industrial revolution”. This is the era of all things ‘personal’ and ‘digital’. Analysts have suggested that the market for 3D printing equipment and services will triple by 2018. However, alongside the numerous opportunities, the emergence of this form of manufacturing poses many legal issues.

3D printing is a computer-driven manufacturing technology which is ‘additive’ by nature, involving the addition of layers of material to create a finished product.  This additive manufacturing process is being utilised to produce an array of products in a variety of materials, ranging from toys, mobile phone covers and jewellery to engine parts, weapons and food. Due to the expiration of a number of key patents in the past few years, the cost of 3D printers has fallen and a range of affordable desktop printers has emerged.