||It has been suggested that 3D microfabrication be merged into this article. (Discuss) Proposed since October 2016.|
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3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing (AM), refers to processes used to synthesize a three-dimensional object in which successive layers of material are formed under computer control to create an object. Objects can be of almost any shape or geometry and are produced using digital model data from a 3D model or another electronic data source such as an Additive Manufacturing File (AMF) file.
Futurologist Jeremy Rifkin claimed that 3D printing signals the beginning of a third industrial revolution, succeeding the production line assembly that dominated manufacturing starting in the late 19th century.
The term "3D printing"'s origin sense is in reference to a process that deposits a binder material onto a powder bed with inkjet printer heads layer by layer. More recently, the term is being used in popular vernacular to encompass a wider variety of additive manufacturing techniques. United States and global Technical standards use the official term additive manufacturing for this broader sense. ISO/ASTM52900-15 defines seven categories of AM processes within its meaning: Binder Jetting, Directed Energy Deposition, Material Extrusion, Material Jetting, Powder Bed Fusion, Sheet Lamination and Vat Photopolymerization.
- 1 Terminology and methods
- 2 General principles
- 3 Processes
- 4 Applications
- 5 Legal aspects
- 6 Safety
- 7 Impact
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Terminology and methods
Early additive manufacturing equipment and materials were developed in the 1980s. In 1981, Hideo Kodama of Nagoya Municipal Industrial Research Institute invented two AM fabricating methods of a three-dimensional plastic model with photo-hardening polymer, where the UV exposure area is controlled by a mask pattern or the scanning fiber transmitter. But on July 16, 1984 Alain Le Méhauté, Olivier de Witte and Jean Claude André filed their patent for the stereolithography process. It was three weeks before Chuck Hull filed his own patent for stereolithography. The application of French inventors were abandoned by the French General Electric Company (now Alcatel-Alsthom) and CILAS (The Laser Consortium). The claimed reason was "for lack of business perspective". Then in 1984, Chuck Hull of 3D Systems Corporation developed a prototype system based on a process known as stereolithography, in which layers are added by curing photopolymers with ultraviolet light lasers. Hull defined the process as a "system for generating three-dimensional objects by creating a cross-sectional pattern of the object to be formed," but this had been already invented by Kodama. Hull's contribution is the design of the STL (STereoLithography) file format widely accepted by 3D printing software as well as the digital slicing and infill strategies common to many processes today. The term 3D printing originally referred to a process employing standard and custom inkjet print heads. The technology used by most 3D printers to date—especially hobbyist and consumer-oriented models—is fused deposition modeling, a special application of plastic extrusion.
AM processes for metal sintering or melting (such as selective laser sintering, direct metal laser sintering, and selective laser melting) usually went by their own individual names in the 1980s and 1990s. At the time, nearly all metal working was produced by casting, fabrication, stamping, and machining; although plenty of automation was applied to those technologies (such as by robot welding and CNC), the idea of a tool or head moving through a 3D work envelope transforming a mass of raw material into a desired shape layer by layer was associated by most people only with processes that removed metal (rather than adding it), such as CNC milling, CNC EDM, and many others. But AM-type sintering was beginning to challenge that assumption. By the mid 1990s, new techniques for material deposition were developed at Stanford and Carnegie Mellon University, including microcasting and sprayed materials. Sacrificial and support materials had also become more common, enabling new object geometries.
The umbrella term additive manufacturing gained wider currency in the decade of the 2000s. As the various additive processes matured, it became clear that soon metal removal would no longer be the only metalworking process done under that type of control (a tool or head moving through a 3D work envelope transforming a mass of raw material into a desired shape layer by layer). It was during this decade that the term subtractive manufacturing appeared as a retronym for the large family of machining processes with metal removal as their common theme. At this time, the term 3D printing still referred only to the polymer technologies in most minds, and the term AM was likelier to be used in metalworking and end use part production contexts than among polymer/inkjet/stereolithography enthusiasts. The term subtractive has not replaced the term machining, instead complementing it when a term that covers any removal method is needed.
By the early 2010s, the terms 3D printing and additive manufacturing evolved senses in which they were alternate umbrella terms for AM technologies, one being used in popular vernacular by consumer - maker communities and the media, and the other used officially by industrial AM end use part producers, AM machine manufacturers, and global technical standards organizations.
Both terms reflect the simple fact that the technologies all share the common theme of sequential-layer material addition/joining throughout a 3D work envelope under automated control.
(Other terms that had been used as AM synonyms (although sometimes as hypernyms), included desktop manufacturing, rapid manufacturing, agile tooling [as the logical production-level successor to rapid prototyping], and on-demand manufacturing [which echoes on-demand printing in the 2D sense of printing].) The 2010s were the first decade in which metal end use parts such as engine brackets and large nuts would be grown (either before or instead of machining) in job production rather than obligately being machined from bar stock or plate.
Agile tooling is a term used to describe the process of using modular means to design tooling that is produced by additive manufacturing or 3D printing methods to enable quick prototyping and responses to tooling and fixture needs. Agile tooling uses a cost effective and high quality method to quickly respond to customer and market needs. It can be used in hydro-forming, stamping, injection molding and other manufacturing processes.
3D printable models may be created with a computer-aided design (CAD) package, via a 3D scanner, or by a plain digital camera and photogrammetry software. 3D printed models created with CAD result in reduced errors and can be corrected before printing, allowing verification in the design of the object before it is printed.
The manual modeling process of preparing geometric data for 3D computer graphics is similar to plastic arts such as sculpting. 3D scanning is a process of collecting digital data on the shape and appearance of a real object, creating a digital model based on it.
Before printing a 3D model from an STL file, it must first be examined for errors. Most CAD applications produce errors in output STL files: holes, faces normals, self-intersections, noise shells or manifold errors. A step in the STL generation known as "repair" fixes such problems in the original model. Generally STLs that have been produced from a model obtained through 3D scanning often have more of these errors. This is due to how 3D scanning works-as it is often by point to point acquisition, reconstruction will include errors in most cases.
Once completed, the STL file needs to be processed by a piece of software called a "slicer," which converts the model into a series of thin layers and produces a G-code file containing instructions tailored to a specific type of 3D printer (FDM printers). This G-code file can then be printed with 3D printing client software (which loads the G-code, and uses it to instruct the 3D printer during the 3D printing process).
Printer resolution describes layer thickness and X-Y resolution in dots per inch (dpi) or micrometers (µm). Typical layer thickness is around 100 µm (250 DPI), although some machines can print layers as thin as 16 µm (1,600 DPI). X-Y resolution is comparable to that of laser printers. The particles (3D dots) are around 50 to 100 µm (510 to 250 DPI) in diameter.
Construction of a model with contemporary methods can take anywhere from several hours to several days, depending on the method used and the size and complexity of the model. Additive systems can typically reduce this time to a few hours, although it varies widely depending on the type of machine used and the size and number of models being produced simultaneously.
Traditional techniques like injection moulding can be less expensive for manufacturing polymer products in high quantities, but additive manufacturing can be faster, more flexible and less expensive when producing relatively small quantities of parts. 3D printers give designers and concept development teams the ability to produce parts and concept models using a desktop size printer.
Seemingly paradoxically, more complex objects can be cheaper for 3D printing production than less complex objects.
Though the printer-produced resolution is sufficient for many applications, printing a slightly oversized version of the desired object in standard resolution and then removing material with a higher-resolution subtractive process can achieve greater precision.
Some additive manufacturing techniques are capable of using multiple materials in the course of constructing parts. These techniques are able to print in multiple colors and color combinations simultaneously, and would not necessarily require painting.
Some printing techniques require internal supports to be built for overhanging features during construction. These supports must be mechanically removed or dissolved upon completion of the print.
All of the commercialized metal 3D printers involve cutting the metal component off the metal substrate after deposition. A new process for the GMAW 3D printing allows for substrate surface modifications to remove aluminum or steel.
Several 3D printing processes have been invented since the late 1970s. The printers were originally large, expensive, and highly limited in what they could produce. A large number of additive processes are now available. The main differences between processes are in the way layers are deposited to create parts and in the materials that are used. Some methods melt or soften the material to produce the layers, for example. selective laser melting (SLM) or direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), selective laser sintering (SLS), fused deposition modeling (FDM), or fused filament fabrication (FFF), while others cure liquid materials using different sophisticated technologies, such as stereolithography (SLA). With laminated object manufacturing (LOM), thin layers are cut to shape and joined together (e.g., paper, polymer, metal). Each method has its own advantages and drawbacks, which is why some companies offer a choice of powder and polymer for the material used to build the object. Others sometimes use standard, off-the-shelf business paper as the build material to produce a durable prototype. The main considerations in choosing a machine are generally speed, costs of the 3D printer, of the printed prototype, choice and cost of the materials, and color capabilities.
Printers that work directly with metals are generally expensive. However less expensive printers can be used to make a mold, which is then used to make metal parts.
Fused deposition modeling (FDM), derives from automatic polymeric foil hot air welding system, hot-melt gluing and automatic gasket deposition. In fused deposition modeling, the model or part is produced by extruding small beads or streams of material which harden immediately to form layers. A filament of thermoplastic, metal wire, or other material is fed into an extrusion nozzle head (3D printer extruder). The nozzle head heats the material and turns the flow on and off. FDM is somewhat restricted in the variation of shapes that may be fabricated. For example, FDM usually cannot produce stalactite-like structures, since they would be unsupported during the build. Otherwise, a thin support must be designed into the structure, which can be broken away during finishing.
Another 3D printing approach is the selective fusing of materials in a granular bed. The technique fuses parts of the layer and then moves upward in the working area, adding another layer of granules and repeating the process until the piece has built up. This process uses the unfused media to support overhangs and thin walls in the part being produced, which reduces the need for temporary auxiliary supports for the piece. Laser sintering techniques include selective laser sintering (SLS), with both metals and polymers (e.g., PA, PA-GF, Rigid GF, PEEK, PS, Alumide, Carbonmide, elastomers), and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). Selective laser melting (SLM) does not use sintering for the fusion of powder granules but will completely melt the powder using a high-energy laser to create fully dense materials in a layer-wise method that has mechanical properties similar to those of conventional manufactured metals. Electron beam melting (EBM) is a similar type of additive manufacturing technology for metal parts (e.g. titanium alloys). EBM manufactures parts by melting metal powder layer by layer with an electron beam in a high vacuum. Unlike metal sintering techniques that operate below melting point, EBM parts are void-free.
Another method consists of an inkjet 3D printing system. The printer creates the model one layer at a time by spreading a layer of powder (plaster, or resins) and printing a binder in the cross-section of the part using an inkjet-like process. This is repeated until every layer has been printed.
Photopolymerization is primarily used in stereolithography (SLA) to produce a solid part from a liquid. Inkjet printer systems like the Objet PolyJet system spray photopolymer materials onto a build tray in ultra-thin layers (between 16 and 30 µm) until the part is completed. Each photopolymer layer is cured with UV light after it is jetted, producing fully cured models that can be handled and used immediately, without post-curing. The gel-like support material, which is designed to support complicated geometries, is removed by hand and water jetting. It is also suitable for elastomers. Ultra-small features can be made with the 3D micro-fabrication technique used in multiphoton photopolymerisation. Due to the nonlinear nature of photo excitation, the gel is cured to a solid only in the places where the laser was focused while the remaining gel is then washed away. Feature sizes of under 100 nm are easily produced, as well as complex structures with moving and interlocked parts. Yet another approach uses a synthetic resin that is solidified using LEDs. In Mask-image-projection-based stereolithography, a 3D digital model is sliced by a set of horizontal planes. Each slice is converted into a two-dimensional mask image. The mask image is then projected onto a photocurable liquid resin surface and light is projected onto the resin to cure it in the shape of the layer. Continuous liquid interface production (CLIP) is another form of additive manufacturing that uses the DLP based photo polymerization process to create smooth-sided solid objects of a wide variety of shapes. The continuous process of CLIP begins with a pool of liquid photopolymer resin. Part of the pool bottom is transparent to ultraviolet light (the "window"). Like DLP systems before it, ultraviolet light beam shines through the window, illuminating the precise cross-section of the object. The light causes the resin to solidify. The object rises slowly enough to allow resin to flow under and maintain contact with the bottom of the object.
In powder-fed directed-energy deposition, a high-power laser is used to melt metal powder supplied to the focus of the laser beam. The laser beam typically travels through the center of the deposition head and is focused to a small spot by one or more lenses. The deposition head is moved up vertically as each layer is completed. Metal powder is delivered and distributed around the circumference of the head or can be split by an internal manifold and delivered through nozzles arranged in various configurations around the deposition head. The powder fed directed energy process is similar to Selective Laser Sintering, but the metal powder is applied only where material is being added to the part at that moment.
As of October 2012, additive manufacturing systems were on the market that ranged from $2,000 to $500,000 in price and were employed in industries including aerospace, architecture, automotive, defense, and medical replacements, among many others. For example, General Electric uses the high-end model to build parts for turbines. Many of these systems are used for rapid prototyping, before mass production methods are employed.
Higher education has proven to be a major buyer of desktop and professional 3D printers which industry experts generally view as a positive indicator. Significant desktop 3D printer purchases by both K-12 and universities help sustain a desktop 3D printer market that has had problems in 2015-2016, while universities are filling a current talent gap that is expected to bolster the industry in years ahead. Libraries around the world have also become locations to house smaller 3D printers for educational and community access.
Several projects and companies are making efforts to develop affordable 3D printers for home desktop use. Much of this work has been driven by and targeted at DIY/Maker/enthusiast/early adopter communities, with additional ties to the academic and hacker communities. RepRap Project is one of the longest running projects in the desktop category. The RepRap project aims to produce a free and open source hardware (FOSH) 3D printer, whose full specifications are released under the GNU General Public License, which is capable of replicating itself by printing many of its own (plastic) parts to create more machines.
The cost of 3D printers has decreased dramatically since about 2010, with machines that used to cost $20,000 now costing less than $1,000. For instance, as of 2013, several companies and individuals are selling parts to build various RepRap designs, with prices starting at about €400 / US$500. The open source Fab@Home project has developed printers for general use with anything that can be squirted through a nozzle, from chocolate to silicone sealant and chemical reactants. Printers following the project's designs have been available from suppliers in kits or in pre-assembled form since 2012 at prices in the US$2000 range. Several new 3D printers are aimed at the small, inexpensive market including the mUVe3D and Lumifold. Rapide 3D has designed a professional grade crowdsourced 3D-printer costing $1499 which has no fumes nor constant rattle during use. The 3Doodler, "3D printing pen", raised $2.3 million on Kickstarter with the pens selling at $99, though the 3D Doodler has been criticized for being more of a crafting pen than a 3D printer.
Microelectronic device fabrication methods can be employed to perform the 3D printing of nanoscale-size objects. Such printed objects are typically grown on a solid substrate, e.g. silicon wafer, to which they adhere after printing as they are too small and fragile to be manipulated post-construction. In one technique, 3D nanostructures can be printed by physically moving a dynamic stencil mask during the material deposition process, somewhat analogous to the extrusion method of traditional 3D printers. Programmable-height nanostructures with resolutions as small as 10 nm have been produced in this fashion, by metallic physical vapor deposition Mechanicalpiezo-actuator controlled stencil mask having a milled nanopore in a silicon nitride membrane.
AM technologies found applications starting in the 1980s in product development, data visualization, rapid prototyping, and specialized manufacturing. Their expansion into production (job production, mass production, and distributed manufacturing) has been under development in the decades since. Industrial production roles within the metalworking industries achieved significant scale for the first time in the early 2010s. Since the start of the 21st century there has been a large growth in the sales of AM machines, and their price has dropped substantially. According to Wohlers Associates, a consultancy, the market for 3D printers and services was worth $2.2 billion worldwide in 2012, up 29% from 2011. McKinsey predicts that additive manufacturing could have an economic impact of $550 billion annually by 2025. There are many applications for AM technologies, including architecture, construction (AEC), industrial design, automotive, aerospace, military, engineering, dental and medical industries, biotech (human tissue replacement), fashion, footwear, jewelry, eyewear, education, geographic information systems, food, and many other fields.
Additive manufacturing's earliest applications have been on the toolroom end of the manufacturing spectrum. For example, rapid prototyping was one of the earliest additive variants, and its mission was to reduce the lead time and cost of developing prototypes of new parts and devices, which was earlier only done with subtractive toolroom methods such as cnc milling and turning, and precision grinding, far more accurate than 3d printing with accuracy down to 0.00005" and creating better quality parts faster, but sometimes too expensive for low accuracy prototype parts. With technological advances in additive manufacturing, however, and the dissemination of those advances into the business world, additive methods are moving ever further into the production end of manufacturing in creative and sometimes unexpected ways. Parts that were formerly the sole province of subtractive methods can now in some cases be made more profitably via additive ones. In addition, new developments in RepRap technology allow the same device to perform both additive and subtractive manufacturing by swapping magnetic-mounted tool heads.
Industrial 3D printers have existed since the early 1980s and have been used extensively for rapid prototyping and research purposes. These are generally larger machines that use proprietary powdered metals, casting media (e.g. sand), plastics, paper or cartridges, and are used for rapid prototyping by universities and commercial companies.
Additive manufacturing of food is being developed by squeezing out food, layer by layer, into three-dimensional objects. A large variety of foods are appropriate candidates, such as chocolate and candy, and flat foods such as crackers, pasta, and pizza. NASA has considered the versatility of the concept, awarding a contract to the Systems and Materials Research Consultancy to study the feasibility of printing food in space. One of the problems with food printing is the nature of the texture of a food. For example, foods that are not strong enough to be filed are not appropriate for 3D printing.
Surgical uses of 3D printing-centric therapies have a history beginning in the mid-1990s with anatomical modeling for bony reconstructive surgery planning. By practicing on a tactile model before surgery, surgeons were more prepared and patients received better care. Patient-matched implants were a natural extension of this work, leading to truly personalized implants that fit one unique individual. Virtual planning of surgery and guidance using 3D printed, personalized instruments have been applied to many areas of surgery including total joint replacement and craniomaxillofacial reconstruction with great success.[clarification needed] Further study of the use of models for planning heart and solid organ surgery has led to increased use in these areas. Hospital-based 3D printing is now of great interest and many institutions are pursuing adding this specialty within individual radiology departments. The technology is being used to create unique, patient-matched devices for rare illnesses. One example of this is the bioresorbable trachial splint to treat newborns with tracheobronchomalacia  developed at the University of Michigan. Several devices manufacturers have also begin using 3D printing for patient-matched surgical guides (polymers). The use of additive manufacturing for serialized production of orthopedic implants (metals) is also increasing due to the ability to efficiently create porous surface structures that facilitate osseointegration.
3D printing has entered the world of clothing with fashion designers experimenting with 3D-printed bikinis, shoes, and dresses. In commercial production Nike is using 3D printing to prototype and manufacture the 2012 Vapor Laser Talon football shoe for players of American football, and New Balance is 3D manufacturing custom-fit shoes for athletes. 3D printing has come to the point where companies are printing consumer grade eyewear with on-demand custom fit and styling (although they cannot print the lenses). On-demand customization of glasses is possible with rapid prototyping.
In early 2014, Swedish supercar manufacturer Koenigsegg announced the One:1, a supercar that utilizes many components that were 3D printed. In the limited run of vehicles Koenigsegg produces, the One:1 has side-mirror internals, air ducts, titanium exhaust components, and complete turbocharger assemblies that were 3D printed as part of the manufacturing process. Urbee is the name of the first car in the world car mounted using the technology 3D printing (its bodywork and car windows were "printed"). In 2014, Local Motors debuted Strati, a functioning vehicle that was entirely 3D Printed using ABS plastic and carbon fiber, except the powertrain.
In May 2015 Airbus announced that its new Airbus A350 XWB included over 1000 components manufactured by 3D printing. 3D printing is also being utilized by air forces to print spare parts for planes. In 2015, a Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet flew with printed parts. The United States Air Force has begun to work with 3D printers, and the Israeli Air Force has also purchased a 3D printer to print spare parts.
In 2012, the US-based group Defense Distributed disclosed plans to design a working plastic 3D printed firearm "that could be downloaded and reproduced by anybody with a 3D printer." Defense Distributed has also designed a 3D printable AR-15 type rifle lower receiver (capable of lasting more than 650 rounds) and a 30-round M16 magazine. The AR-15 has multiple receivers (both an upper and lower receiver), but the legally controlled part is the one that is serialized (the lower, in the AR-15's case). Soon after Defense Distributed succeeded in designing the first working blueprint to produce a plastic gun with a 3D printer in May 2013, the United States Department of State demanded that they remove the instructions from their website. After Defense Distributed released their plans, questions were raised regarding the effects that 3D printing and widespread consumer-level CNC machining may have on gun control effectiveness. In 2014, a man from Japan became the first person in the world to be imprisoned for making 3D printed firearms. Yoshitomo Imura posted videos and blueprints of the gun online and was sentenced to jail for two years. Police found at least two guns in his household that were capable of firing bullets.
3D printing has been used to print patient specific implant and device for medical use. Successful operations include a titanium pelvis implanted into a British patient, titanium lower jaw transplanted to a Belgian patient, and a plastic tracheal splint for an American infant. The hearing aid and dental industries are expected to be the biggest area of future development using the custom 3D printing technology. In March 2014, surgeons in Swansea used 3D printed parts to rebuild the face of a motorcyclist who had been seriously injured in a road accident. Research is also being conducted on methods to bio-print replacements for lost tissue due to arthritis and cancer.
As of 2012[update], 3D bio-printing technology has been studied by biotechnology firms and academia for possible use in tissue engineering applications in which organs and body parts are built using inkjet techniques. In this process, layers of living cells are deposited onto a gel medium or sugar matrix and slowly built up to form three-dimensional structures including vascular systems. The first production system for 3D tissue printing was delivered in 2009, based on NovoGen bioprinting technology. Several terms have been used to refer to this field of research: organ printing, bio-printing, body part printing, and computer-aided tissue engineering, among others. The possibility of using 3D tissue printing to create soft tissue architectures for reconstructive surgery is also being explored.
In 2005, a rapidly expanding hobbyist and home-use market was established with the inauguration of the open-source RepRap and Fab@Home projects. Virtually all home-use 3D printers released to-date have their technical roots in the ongoing RepRap Project and associated open-source software initiatives. In distributed manufacturing, one study has found that 3D printing could become a mass market product enabling consumers to save money associated with purchasing common household objects. For example, instead of going to a store to buy an object made in a factory by injection molding (such as a measuring cup or a funnel), a person might instead print it at home from a downloaded 3D model.
In 2005, academic journals had begun to report on the possible artistic applications of 3D printing technology. Some of the recent developments in 3D printing were revealed at the 3DPrintshow in London, which took place in November 2013 and 2014. The underlying theme of these advances was that these printers can be used to create parts that are printed with specifications to meet each individual. 3D printing is becoming more popular in the customisable gifts industry, with products such as personalized mobile phone cases and dolls, as well as 3D printed chocolate.
Some early consumer examples of 3d printing include the 64DD released in 1999 in Japan. As of 2012, domestic 3D printing was mainly practiced by hobbyists and enthusiasts. However, little was used for practical household applications, for example, ornamental objects. Some practical examples include a working clock and gears printed for home woodworking machines among other purposes. Web sites associated with home 3D printing tended to include backscratchers, coat hooks, door knobs, etc. The open source Fab@Home project has developed printers for general use. They have been used in research environments to produce chemical compounds with 3D printing technology, including new ones, initially without immediate application as proof of principle. The printer can print with anything that can be dispensed from a syringe as liquid or paste. The developers of the chemical application envisage both industrial and domestic use for this technology, including enabling users in remote locations to be able to produce their own medicine or household chemicals.
3D printing, and open source 3D printers in particular, are the latest technology making inroads into the classroom. 3D printing allows students to create prototypes of items without the use of expensive tooling required in subtractive methods. Students design and produce actual models they can hold. The classroom environment allows students to learn and employ new applications for 3D printing. Some authors have claimed that 3D printers offer an unprecedented "revolution" in STEM education. The evidence for such claims comes from both the low cost ability for rapid prototyping in the classroom by students, but also the fabrication of low-cost high-quality scientific equipment from open hardware designs forming open-source labs. Future applications for 3D printing might include creating open-source scientific equipment.
In the last several years 3D printing has been intensively used by in the cultural heritage field for preservation, restoration and dissemination purposes. Many Europeans and North American Museums have purchased 3D printers and actively recreate missing pieces of their relics. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the British Museum have started using their 3D printers to create museum souvenirs that are available in the museum shops. Other museums, like the National Museum of Military History and Varna Historical Museum, have gone further and sell through the online platform Threeding digital models of their artifacts, created using Artec 3D scanners, in 3D printing friendly file format, which everyone can 3D print at home.
3D printing has existed for decades within certain manufacturing industries where many legal regimes, including patents, industrial design rights, copyright, and trademark may apply. However, there is not much jurisprudence to say how these laws will apply if 3D printers become mainstream and individuals and hobbyist communities begin manufacturing items for personal use, for non-profit distribution, or for sale.
Any of the mentioned legal regimes may prohibit the distribution of the designs used in 3D printing, or the distribution or sale of the printed item. To be allowed to do these things, where an active intellectual property was involved, a person would have to contact the owner and ask for a licence, which may come with conditions and a price. However, many patent, design and copyright laws contain a standard limitation or exception for 'private', 'non-commercial' use of inventions, designs or works of art protected under intellectual property (IP). That standard limitation or exception may leave such private, non-commercial uses outside the scope of IP rights.
Patents cover inventions including processes, machines, manufactures, and compositions of matter and have a finite duration which varies between countries, but generally 20 years from the date of application. Therefore, if a type of wheel is patented, printing, using, or selling such a wheel could be an infringement of the patent.
Copyright covers an expression in a tangible, fixed medium and often lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years thereafter. If someone makes a statue, they may have copyright on the look of that statue, so if someone sees that statue, they cannot then distribute designs to print an identical or similar statue.
When a feature has both artistic (copyrightable) and functional (patentable) merits, when the question has appeared in US court, the courts have often held the feature is not copyrightable unless it can be separated from the functional aspects of the item. In other countries the law and the courts may apply a different approach allowing, for example, the design of a useful device to be registered (as a whole) as an industrial design on the understanding that, in case of unauthorized copying, only the non-functional features may be claimed under design law whereas any technical features could only be claimed if covered by a valid patent.
Gun legislation and administration
The US Department of Homeland Security and the Joint Regional Intelligence Center released a memo stating that "significant advances in three-dimensional (3D) printing capabilities, availability of free digital 3D printable files for firearms components, and difficulty regulating file sharing may present public safety risks from unqualified gun seekers who obtain or manufacture 3D printed guns," and that "proposed legislation to ban 3D printing of weapons may deter, but cannot completely prevent their production. Even if the practice is prohibited by new legislation, online distribution of these 3D printable files will be as difficult to control as any other illegally traded music, movie or software files."
Internationally, where gun controls are generally stricter than in the United States, some commentators have said the impact may be more strongly felt, as alternative firearms are not as easily obtainable. Officials in the United Kingdom have noted that producing a 3D printed gun would be illegal under their gun control laws. Europol stated that criminals have access to other sources of weapons, but noted that as the technology improved the risks of an effect would increase. Downloads of the plans from the UK, Germany, Spain, and Brazil were heavy.
Attempting to restrict the distribution over the Internet of gun plans has been likened to the futility of preventing the widespread distribution of DeCSS which enabled DVD ripping. After the US government had Defense Distributed take down the plans, they were still widely available via The Pirate Bay and other file sharing sites. Some US legislators have proposed regulations on 3D printers, to prevent them being used for printing guns. 3D printing advocates have suggested that such regulations would be futile, could cripple the 3D printing industry, and could infringe on free speech rights, with early pioneer of 3D printing Professor Hod Lipson suggesting that gunpowder could be controlled instead.
3D printers have been noted to be an environmental hazard due to them emitting microscopic particles and chemicals that have been linked to asthma. A National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) report notes these emissions peaked a few minutes after printing started and returned to baseline levels 100 minutes after printing ended. The problem was reduced by using manufacturer-supplied covers and full enclosures, using proper ventilation, keeping workers away from the printer while wearing respirators, turning off the printer if it jammed, and using lower emission printers and filaments (It must also be noted that 3D printing drastically reduces the wastage of material, resulting in less pollution, and is therefore safer for environment.)[original research?]
Additive manufacturing, starting with today's infancy period, requires manufacturing firms to be flexible, ever-improving users of all available technologies to remain competitive. Advocates of additive manufacturing also predict that this arc of technological development will counter globalization, as end users will do much of their own manufacturing rather than engage in trade to buy products from other people and corporations. The real integration of the newer additive technologies into commercial production, however, is more a matter of complementing traditional subtractive methods rather than displacing them entirely.
Since the 1950s, a number of writers and social commentators have speculated in some depth about the social and cultural changes that might result from the advent of commercially affordable additive manufacturing technology. Amongst the more notable ideas to have emerged from these inquiries has been the suggestion that, as more and more 3D printers start to enter people's homes, the conventional relationship between the home and the workplace might get further eroded. Likewise, it has also been suggested that, as it becomes easier for businesses to transmit designs for new objects around the globe, so the need for high-speed freight services might also become less. Finally, given the ease with which certain objects can now be replicated, it remains to be seen whether changes will be made to current copyright legislation so as to protect intellectual property rights with the new technology widely available.
As 3D printers became more accessible to consumers, online social platforms have developed to support the community. This includes websites that allow users to access information such as how to build a 3D printer, as well as social forums that discuss how to improve 3D print quality and discuss 3D printing news, as well as social media websites that are dedicated to share 3D models. RepRap is a wiki based website that was created to hold all information on 3d printing, and has developed into a community that aims to bring 3D printing to everyone. Furthermore, there are other sites such as Pinshape, Thingiverse and MyMiniFactory, which were created initially to allow users to post 3D files for anyone to print, allowing for decreased transaction cost of sharing 3D files. These websites have allowed greater social interaction between users, creating communities dedicated to 3D printing.
Some call attention to the conjunction of Commons-based peer production with 3D printing and other low-cost manufacturing techniques. The self-reinforced fantasy of a system of eternal growth can be overcome with the development of economies of scope, and here, society can play an important role contributing to the raising of the whole productive structure to a higher plateau of more sustainable and customized productivity. Further, it is true that many issues, problems, and threats arise due to the democratization of the means of production, and especially regarding the physical ones. For instance, the recyclability of advanced nanomaterials is still questioned; weapons manufacturing could become easier; not to mention the implications for counterfeiting and on IP. It might be maintained that in contrast to the industrial paradigm whose competitive dynamics were about economies of scale, Commons-based peer production 3D printing could develop economies of scope. While the advantages of scale rest on cheap global transportation, the economies of scope share infrastructure costs (intangible and tangible productive resources), taking advantage of the capabilities of the fabrication tools. And following Neil Gershenfeld in that "some of the least developed parts of the world need some of the most advanced technologies," Commons-based peer production and 3D printing may offer the necessary tools for thinking globally but acting locally in response to certain needs.
Larry Summers wrote about the "devastating consequences" of 3D printing and other technologies (robots, artificial intelligence, etc.) for those who perform routine tasks. In his view, "already there are more American men on disability insurance than doing production work in manufacturing. And the trends are all in the wrong direction, particularly for the less skilled, as the capacity of capital embodying artificial intelligence to replace white-collar as well as blue-collar work will increase rapidly in the years ahead." Summers recommends more vigorous cooperative efforts to address the "myriad devices" (e.g., tax havens, bank secrecy, money laundering, and regulatory arbitrage) enabling the holders of great wealth to "avoid paying" income and estate taxes, and to make it more difficult to accumulate great fortunes without requiring "great social contributions" in return, including: more vigorous enforcement of anti-monopoly laws, reductions in "excessive" protection for intellectual property, greater encouragement of profit-sharing schemes that may benefit workers and give them a stake in wealth accumulation, strengthening of collective bargaining arrangements, improvements in corporate governance, strengthening of financial regulation to eliminate subsidies to financial activity, easing of land-use restrictions that may cause the real estate of the rich to keep rising in value, better training for young people and retraining for displaced workers, and increased public and private investment in infrastructure development—e.g., in energy production and transportation.
Michael Spence wrote that "Now comes a … powerful, wave of digital technology that is replacing labor in increasingly complex tasks. This process of labor substitution and disintermediation has been underway for some time in service sectors—think of ATMs, online banking, enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, mobile payment systems, and much more. This revolution is spreading to the production of goods, where robots and 3D printing are displacing labor." In his view, the vast majority of the cost of digital technologies comes at the start, in the design of hardware (e.g. 3D printers) and, more important, in creating the software that enables machines to carry out various tasks. "Once this is achieved, the marginal cost of the hardware is relatively low (and declines as scale rises), and the marginal cost of replicating the software is essentially zero. With a huge potential global market to amortize the upfront fixed costs of design and testing, the incentives to invest [in digital technologies] are compelling." Spence believes that, unlike prior digital technologies, which drove firms to deploy underutilized pools of valuable labor around the world, the motivating force in the current wave of digital technologies "is cost reduction via the replacement of labor." For example, as the cost of 3D printing technology declines, it is "easy to imagine" that production may become "extremely" local and customized. Moreover, production may occur in response to actual demand, not anticipated or forecast demand. Spence believes that labor, no matter how inexpensive, will become a less important asset for growth and employment expansion, with labor-intensive, process-oriented manufacturing becoming less effective, and that re-localization will appear in both developed and developing countries. In his view, production will not disappear, but it will be less labor-intensive, and all countries will eventually need to rebuild their growth models around digital technologies and the human capital supporting their deployment and expansion. Spence writes that "the world we are entering is one in which the most powerful global flows will be ideas and digital capital, not goods, services, and traditional capital. Adapting to this will require shifts in mindsets, policies, investments (especially in human capital), and quite possibly models of employment and distribution."
Forbes investment pundits have predicted that 3D printing may lead to a resurgence of American Manufacturing, citing the small, creative companies that comprise the current industry landscape, and the lack of the necessary complex infrastructure in typical outsource markets.
- 3D Manufacturing Format
- Additive Manufacturing File Format
- Cloud manufacturing
- Computer numeric control
- Laser cutting
- Limbitless Solutions
- List of 3D printer manufacturers
- List of common 3D test models
- List of emerging technologies
- List of notable 3D printed weapons and parts
- Magnetically assisted slip casting
- MakerBot Industries
- Milling center
- Self-replicating machine
- Volumetric printing
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