"You wouldn't download a car" - Piracy and 3D printers

Does anyone feel that within the foreseeable future we'll ever get to the stage where a manufacturer of physical goods is suing people for piracy (or IP infringement, or whatever name they give it next Tuesday)?

It seems plausible to me that just as copying data has become easier over the years, 3D printing will probably become more common and cheaper to access, and cheaper to produce and end product with. Comparing this with devices capable of putting data on a optical disc, at first you could only get a disc at a pressing plant, then burner drives came along and were initially super-expensive, and as time and tech progress and refined the design they became cheaper and more common, up to the point where it's probably impossible to get a computer without one (in fact, you're probably more likely to get a bare bones computer without an optical drive at all than a ROM drive).

Right now, if I wanted to make a replica car I could measure up an original and fabricate my own, and I don't think anyone would care because the effort and resources to do it make it infeasible to do in quantity. What happens when you scale this up, when you can take the design to a local 3D printer shop, or your own personal 3D printer. Does Ford now become a small design company in one or two offices and not the large company that handles everything from design to servicing the end product?

How do you copy protect a physical object (PRM, Physical Rights Management?)? I can't help thinking of the humongous trade in bootleg knock-off items and how they'll never stop that. What do companies do when potentially all the items in someone's house could be copies? I'd argue that most items in most people's houses are copies anyway, but 'official' copies, but then we come back to what's stopping someone now making their own items.

This kind of thing isn't exactly new in science or science-fiction.

In the future, your 'license plate' may indicate that you licensed the design.

In the future, car copyrights you!

For simple small objects? Yes, and the complexity will increase over time.

For complex large objects such as cars? No. The scale and complexity of the fabrication equipment will make it prohibitively expensive for individuals to obtain it.

In general, I'd think that this method of fabrication would be treated no differently from fabricating a physical object using any other method. In most places I believe it's legal for an individual to create a knockoff from scratch for personal use. It's when someone uses original trademarks, and especially when they attempt to sell their creation, that they can get into trouble. Manufacturers can protect themselves by offering their products at a reasonable price point, offering something of value such as a service or warranty for genuine owners, and serializing/registering their products.

If it eventually becomes cheaper overall for an individual to make something themselves, then people will do so. It's going to be interesting to see how markets and our culture change as fabrication technology progresses.

We are still several decades off from this being an issue. For small scale trinket type stuff it could be a problem now; large scale things or stuff like car parts, we just aren't there yet. This won't be an issue for the manufacturing world, until well after they have started to use Rapid Prototyping for production themselves. If/when it does become an issue, I have a feeling that big business will star to have "recipes" for the chemicals/materials they use to make the models.

*full disclosure* I work for an engineering firm that deals extensively with the manufacturing sector. We do have a RP machine in one of our offices but it doesn't get used all that often. We have dealt with automotive and aerospace clients and they are still firmly entrenched in traditional stamping and machining production methods. I have been fascinated by RP'ing since I first read about it in the late 90's.

Scratched wrote:

How do you copy protect a physical object (PRM, Physical Rights Management?)? I can't help thinking of the humongous trade in bootleg knock-off items and how they'll never stop that. What do companies do when potentially all the items in someone's house could be copies? I'd argue that most items in most people's houses are copies anyway, but 'official' copies, but then we come back to what's stopping someone now making their own items.


Patent already covers the licensed creation of many physical objects, so there's no real need for a new class of intellectual property. And trademark usually covers trying to pass things off as the genuine article. The current copyright wars are nothing in compared to madness that will be unleashed once you have a device in your house than can make copies of things Monsanto or Pfizer own.

Here's a good talk from Cory Doctrow on this topic:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUEvR...

LouZiffer wrote:
In general, I'd think that this method of fabrication would be treated no differently from fabricating a physical object using any other method. In most places I believe it's legal for an individual to create a knockoff from scratch for personal use.

What about the Replica/Kit Car market then; you can buy kits to turn an old frame into a lot of high dollar cars? It may not be the exact car since they are built on a different chassis but they look identical.

http://www.popsci.com/scitech/articl...

And here's a documentary about a guy with a printer big enough to "print houses"
http://www.themanwhoprintshouses.com...

Frankly I can't wait until we get to The Diamond Age.

Tigerbill wrote:
LouZiffer wrote:
In general, I'd think that this method of fabrication would be treated no differently from fabricating a physical object using any other method. In most places I believe it's legal for an individual to create a knockoff from scratch for personal use.

What about the Replica/Kit Car market then; you can buy kits to turn an old frame into a lot of high dollar cars? It may not be the exact car since they are built on a different chassis but they look identical.

In most countries it's illegal to register a kit car as an original. If it's a kit car, it's usually designated as such unless you're restoring/reconstructing an original.

One of my main hobbies is miniature wargames (warhammer, etc). And this topic is getting a LOT of discussion in the community. Games Workshop is famously protective of their IP and they're already fighting this battle.

Its gonna be pretty interesting in a few years.

LouZiffer wrote:
Tigerbill wrote:
LouZiffer wrote:
In general, I'd think that this method of fabrication would be treated no differently from fabricating a physical object using any other method. In most places I believe it's legal for an individual to create a knockoff from scratch for personal use.

What about the Replica/Kit Car market then; you can buy kits to turn an old frame into a lot of high dollar cars? It may not be the exact car since they are built on a different chassis but they look identical.

In most countries it's illegal to register a kit car as an original. If it's a kit car, it's usually designated as such unless you're restoring/reconstructing an original.


Fair enough; so I print out my copy of the 2025 Cobra Mustang and register it as a Mobra Custang problem solved. I think the laws will be changed to deal with this. As of now you can't build an exact copy of a car from the ground up with raw materials; there is too much in the way of tooling to make it viable. Rapid Prototyping takes that to a whole new level, if I can just pirate the data to tell a machine to make a bit for bit copy.

Cars you print yourself will be sh*tty for a long time. The materials science and machining technology in modern car parts is unbelievable, and no 3D printer is going to come anywhere near the resolution or material quality necessary to make something like a modern engine for probably decades, if ever.

I think most stuff that's currently made out of plastic, though, will be fair game.

When I worked in a jewelry store we had a subcontractor that could take pretty much any picture and make gold or platinum replicas of any ring you could bring a picture of, so that people could get their crazy expensive designer rings for far less.

Personally, I think the car example takes the thread into a place that makes most people dismissive. Barab's gaming miniatures is a better (as in more immediately tangible) example.

I have a friend here in town with a Thing-O-Matic and have held and examined the quality of the plastic items he produces. It is boringly beige, but perfectly functional. Check out his blog for some of the stuff he's made.

Now what happens when you can make, for example, razor blade handles? (Yes, it's a bad example because the companies are generally believed to sell the handles at a loss and make their profits on the blades but stick with me here but it's also a simple piece of plastic than I could see being easily replicated.) What if you were to print a handle that fit the last Gillette Mark 17 and sell it for half the price that Gillette is selling it? It's an "original" design but it's compatible with their product. Think they might get mad?

I've got to get back to work so I'll just leave you with one more link and a plea of sorts.

From the aforementioned friend's blog, a link relevant to this discussion: Food trailer? No way - a 3D printer trailer.

And finally, to reiterate my original point. Forget the car, it's hyperbolic at this point but there are things you can replicate right now that are made and sold by "the corporation." What happens when you no longer have to buy that thing from them? Will they try to stop you or adapt their business model? I know which one I think they'll choose.

Grumpicus wrote:
Personally, I think the car example takes the thread into a place that makes most people dismissive. Barab's gaming miniatures is a better (as in more immediately tangible) example.

Or a Tali sex doll. That's where you really get into piracy issues: being able to build things in the privacy of your own workshop you don't want anyone else knowing about.

CheezePavilion wrote:
Grumpicus wrote:
Personally, I think the car example takes the thread into a place that makes most people dismissive. Barab's gaming miniatures is a better (as in more immediately tangible) example.

Or a Tali sex doll. That's where you really get into piracy issues: being able to build things in the privacy of your own workshop you don't want anyone else knowing about.

Loud and proud. It's the Ashley sex doll I'd be ashamed of.

I don't see why we need to worry about people selling knock-off printed goods any more than we worry about the mass-produced knock-offs. The other factor is the cost of production, in terms of time, materials and tools per unit. A factory with machines that stamp out just the part needed from wholesale raw materials is always going to be cheaper than a $1200 printer with retail-priced specialized materials. So Gillette is safe. The industries in danger are the appliance/motor parts groups, who sell little plastic bits for your dishwasher at $40/pop (what, me bitter?), and I don't think anyone at the consumer level is going to miss those guys.

A friend/business partner of mine is getting a 3D printer shortly. I'll report back findings on quality/reliability/reproduction costs when we do some testing.

I found it funny we were talking about pirating manufactured items and, I come across this article while surfing the web on the same day.

http://www.gizmag.com/the-pirate-bay...

That new makerbot replicator seems pretty awesome. 18x12x9 approximately and can do 2 colors at once for $2k. It can also load files by SD card and has a stand alone mode that doesn't require a computer to 3d print.

When these home units can do metal and come down a little in price, how long until we run out of aluminum? Recycling cans may become a lot more profitable in the near future.

I think the really interesting dilema will arise when these 3d printers can manufacture drugs. There are legal ramifications for both legal and illegal drugs.

Legal drugs could cripple pharmaceutical companies because the cost of ingredients of many drugs that can charge upwards of $100 a pill is pennies. Also, if the patient is controlling the dosage, that obviously becomes really dangerous.

Illegal drugs would be so hard to police because they could be made on demand. You wouldn't need a farm to grow marijuana.

fangblackbone wrote:
I think the really interesting dilema will arise when these 3d printers can manufacture drugs. There are legal ramifications for both legal and illegal drugs.

Is that even likely? What kind of resolution do 3D printers go down to? I'm assuming that in order to manufacture drugs, you're talking about nanometer scale, basically assembling molecules. Or I missing something here?

Jonman wrote:
fangblackbone wrote:
I think the really interesting dilema will arise when these 3d printers can manufacture drugs. There are legal ramifications for both legal and illegal drugs.

Is that even likely? What kind of resolution do 3D printers go down to? I'm assuming that in order to manufacture drugs, you're talking about nanometer scale, basically assembling molecules. Or I missing something here?

Depends how cheap atomic force microscopes and completely pure supplies of atoms becomes I suppose

Drugs are molecular products. You don't use gross manufacturing when you create them - you use chemical reactions. Saying that 3D printers can make drugs is like saying you could use them to make Coke or soap. They shape solid objects, they do not involve chemical reactions.

Of course, you can already make drugs on the cheap today. A lot of India's gray market drugs are drugs made without license agreements from the drug developers. Of course, cracking down on these manufacturers only achieves one thing - it deprives the poor of drugs they could be using to make their lives better (or you know, not die), in the name of protecting marginal profits of wealthy companies. I'm fairly sure that's why no one ever goes near seriously pushing the topic of enforcing IP as far as that market is concerned.