The Risks of Revolution: Ethical Dilemmas in 3D Printing from a US Perspective
- 2.8k Downloads
Additive manufacturing has spread widely over the past decade, especially with the availability of home 3D printers. In the future, many items may be manufactured at home, which raises two ethical issues. First, there are questions of safety. Our current safety regulations depend on centralized manufacturing assumptions; they will be difficult to enforce on this new model of manufacturing. Using current US law as an example, I argue that consumers are not capable of fully assessing all relevant risks and thus continue to require protection; any regulation will likely apply to plans, however, not physical objects. Second, there are intellectual property issues. In combination with a 3D scanner, it is now possible to scan items and print copies; many items are not protected from this by current intellectual property laws. I argue that these laws are ethically sufficient. Patent exists to protect what is innovative; the rest is properly not protected. Intellectual property rests on the notion of creativity, but what counts as creative changes with the rise of new technologies.
Keywords3D printing Additive manufacturing (AM) Ethics of technology Intellectual property Safety
A version of this paper was presented at the CEPE/ETHICOMP 2014 meeting in Paris, France. I am grateful for the helpful comments received by people present at that presentation, as well as the peer reviewers and editor of this journal. My thanks also to Clif Flynt, Rebecca Newman, and Bill Roper for answering certain questions on engineering practice.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Ethical impact statements
This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.
- Bradshaw, S., Bowyer, A., & Haufe, P. (2010). The intellectual property implications of low-cost 3D printing. SCRIPTed, 7(1), 5–31.Google Scholar
- Castro, B. (2013). Should government regulate illicit uses of 3D printing?. Washington, D.C.: The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.Google Scholar
- Consumer Product Safety Act. (1972). Pub. L. No. 92-573 §2, 86 Stat. 1207.Google Scholar
- Harris, I. D. (2012). Additive manufacturing: A transformational advanced manufacturing technology. Advanced Materials and Processes, 170, 25–29.Google Scholar
- Jensen-Haxel, P. (2012). 3D printers, obsolete firearm supply controls, and the right to build self-defense weapons under Heller. Golden Gate University Law Review, 42, 447–496.Google Scholar
- Nowak, P. (2013). The promise and peril of 3D printing (pp. 16–17). Toronto: Corporate Knights.Google Scholar
- Raths, D. (2014). Does 3D printing change everything? Government Technology, 27(1), 20–24.Google Scholar
- Thilmany, J. (2012). Printed life. Mechanical Engineering, 134(1), 44–47.Google Scholar
- Weinberg, M. (2010). It will be awesome if they don’t screw it up: 3D printing, intellectual property, and the fight over the next great disruptive technology. Washington, D.C.: Public Knowledge. http://www.publicknowledge.org/files/docs/3DPrintingPaperPublicKnowledge.pdf.