With 3D printing growing in popularity, the technology is changing the way businesses operate and the way people work. But with the new production frontier come questions about safety and intellectual property rights that the European Parliament is working to address.
Science fiction is now reality. 3D printing has morphed into the mainstream. From consumer use to medical domains, the technology is upending business. With printers ranging from home use to industrial scale, the technique uses a digital file to create a 3D object. Multiple layers of material, usually plastic, are constructed according to the design. From creating hard-to-find parts to developing model prototypes for the aviation industry, the practice allows objects to be customized in ways not previously seen. But with the endless possibilities arise many questions surrounding regulation. If I sell a 3D printer to someone, I can't be responsible for what he will do. There are lots of resources online and people can download a lot of stuff for themselves. This is why the Parliament is looking at ways to address intellectual property and civil liability issues. It wants to create a legal framework for 3D printing services. Possible solutions are encryption and file protection in order to avoid illegal downloading and reproduction or files or objects, as well as identifying the illegal 3D supply chains. Developing a legal framework would especially benefit the prosthetics industry, which now has the ability to tailor-make products to meet patient's specific needs. Any new regulation shouldn't hamper innovation, but rather take stock of existing rules and future needs.