I recently read an article in The Economist about the emerging technology of printing 3D “things”. The article is entitled “Print Me a Stradivarius” and appears in the February 12, 2011 issue.
Essentially, technology exists – though not for the public at large, to purchase printers that can essentially print things. Yes, three-dimensional objects. The printers are called “fabbers”. In my previous search, the least expensive 3D printer I found was $150,000. Apparently, there are cheaper ones. See http://tinyurl.com/4lhooxq.
As the article states, so-called 3D printers cost less today than a black and white laser printer cost in 1985.
The idea of 3D printing will certainly raise its share of IP issues. As 3D printers become more accessible to the masses, people will be able to “print” their own products. In much the same way that the internet has facilitated the sharing of software, music and movies – and by sharing, I mean illegal sharing – 3D printers will allow people to share electronic profiles of product, which you can then “print” at home. I envision a peer sharing system when people share the electronic blueprints for products like they currently share music files. Once downloaded, you will be able to print your own item at home – paying only for your 3D “ink” to print the item.
It should be interesting to see how the IP implications develop as this technology becomes available to the public at large.
At the moment, there are limited things one can print in 3D; however, undoubtedly the 3D “ink” will expand and likely rapidly.
For more about this technology, you may read here.