3D printers use digital blueprint files for the quick and efficient creation of an object. These CAD files (for “computer-aided design”) can be easily shared and sent across the globe via the internet.
The use of 3D printing is versatile and ranges from scientists printing microscopic human tissues to the printing of prefabricated modules for construction engineers.
This business sector has grown and reported revenues of $106 billion in 2022. This includes sale proceeds for additive hardware, materials, software, and outsourced services.
3D printing may also create future and unknown product liability, intellectual property and other new legal problems. Potential liability from the creation of ghost guns has been discussed in the media.
When a product harms a person, that product’s identified manufacturer is usually assigned liability. But the 3D printing process complicates identification.
The many parties involved in the creation of a 3D product complicate assignment of legal responsibility. Potential defendants include the manufacturer of the 3D printer, CAD file designer, the distributor and the person who prints the 3D product.
There may also be product liability from 3D printer emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency claims that the 3D printing process emits gases and particulates which present health risks to users.
The Underwriters Laboratory published a standard for testing 3D emissions in 2019. Scientists have argued that standardized emission testing protocols are needed although the federal government has not adopted these protocols.
Attorneys can assist businesses with product liability issues involving merging technologies and help protect their interests in lawsuits.