3D Printing Is Here! And So Are the Copyright Police


40Tech is pleased to present this guest post by Kyle from hpinkcartridges.com.

3D printing at the moment is slowly becoming a more publicly available technology. In the not so distant past the technology was only really used by big companies in industries such as engineering to create prototypes, models, etc, but within the last few years there has been a big increase in public availability with a number of cheaper 3D printers appearing on the market.

While the increase and development of the technology is most certainly exciting, the possible flaws and problems that could arise from further development are obvious.

A few criminal situations that involved 3D printers have already occurred. You may have previously heard the stories of criminals using 3D printers to create ATM card skimmers. It’s no doubt that even if 3D printers didn’t exist, the criminals still would have found another way to manufacture the skimmers. Still, the technology certainly made it easier to get a high level of detail and quality on the cheap.  In another case, a German lock picking group (legally) proved a point by printing a fully functioning handcuff key using nothing but a  photograph of a key hanging from a police officer’s belt and a 3D printer.

So on a small scale the problems are already becoming apparent, but the real weaknesses still lie ahead. The main problem, or at least obstacle, that will eventually arise is that of copyright.

A few issues have already arisen; the case of Thomas Valenty is an interesting one. Thomas bought a cheap 3D printer (a Makerbot to be precise) and started to design and print a few “Warhammer” style figurines. He also uploaded a few of the designs to Thingiverse, a community site that lets you use other peoples designs to print in 3D.

Once uploaded the company that makes Warhammer figurines had Thingiverse remove the 3D designs from their site. Now personally I don’t believe Game-Workshop had the right to do this, as the designs were unique and were only in the “style” of Warhammer figurines. But the issues that this story points out is that there will be copyright problems in the future.

Being able to print any figurine, toy or simple object so easily is going to create problems -there is no doubt about that. It could become the new “piracy” to download the 3D designs of the latest toy and simply print them. This is obviously an issue for manufacturers everywhere. One of the things I do not want to see happening is the big companies preventing the development of this technology because of the legal complications it may cause. Although the technology can be used to copy and duplicate, I believe that the opportunity that it creates to allow people to create is far greater.

So what do you think about 3D printers… Will they destroy the manufacturing world as we know it? Or will it create endless new opportunities? Let us know in the comments.

Kyle is a writer and web developer for the ink cartridge blog and store www.hpinkcartridges.co.uk. You can check out them out on twitter at @hpinkcartridges.


  1. Or will the owners of 3D intellectual property let you download a DRMd file and then you manufacture their product for yourself using your own 3D printer?

  2. WOW…At first glance you think awesome, 3D printers sound pretty cool. But after reading the article you truly are enlightened at all the problems and issues they can cause in the world. Being able to print form a single photograph makes me reluctant to see these things in the future. There will have to be many precedents set on how we can use this technology morally and in a productive manor.

  3. I remember watching a show on the discovery channel where they made a monkey wrench out of polymer and thought it was amazing. Then I read an article about them being able to “print out” drugs and thought, great, lower the cost of pharmaceuticals, but the problem I see is a country there is no copy right infringement law deciding to pump out, like in the example in this article, warhammer figurines. Then importing them to countries for half hte price of the real deal. We already see it with electronics and clothing knock offs but the material costs for these 3D printers seem like they will be significantly cheaper. Only time will tell I guess.

    • I’d be curious to see how effective “printed” drugs are. I imagine they’d need to know all the ingredients and other aspects of it in advance, which in the end might not end up being too different from how other people copy drugs.

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