3D Printers Disrupting Copyrights and Patents (2013)

3D-Printed Slide-TogetherIt wasn’t too long ago that DIY 3D printers started making the news in geek circles. It captured the imagination of some and was largely ignored by others. I was somewhere in between until a few days ago. I’ve since slid somewhere closer to imagination, perhaps because someone printed a rotor from a Wankel engine and posted it on Facebook.

This got me thinking that in a few years, I could quite literally have a custom Wankel engine printed. Factor in last month’s Scientific American article, “Information Is Driving a New Revolution in Manufacturing“, things get even more interesting. Still, it enters a new dimension when in the future, having a 3D printer may be as normal as it is to have a printer now. And we all know those ink cartridges are ripoffs.

It’s going to get really interesting. Already a 3D gun has been printed and test fired, creating a bit of panic with some. The government is acting predictably. This is hopefully not the highlight of 3D printing’s contribution to society; I’d have preferred not to mention it but there’s no getting around it. We’ll get past that speed bump or we’ll all die in a crossfire of 3D printed guns.

Back to printing an engine. Or parts for your car. Or parts for your computer. Then we get into the costs of the raw materials and an economic upheaval as people who fabricate things become less and less needed. What the printing press was to scribes 3D printing is to the majority of fabricators.

But wait. There’s more.

You know all those copyright and patent issues we have with technology and, yes, even agriculture (Monsanto vs. Farmer). What happens when 3D designs escape into the wild, as the 3D printed gun already has? How are companies going to control that?

They won’t. They’ll try, but in the long run they won’t.

It’s a strange new world coming. Some people are going to become very upset.

Image at top left courtesy Flickr user fdecomite, made available under this Creative Commons License.

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