3D printer. Sounds like a part of the Enterprise ship. With the aid of that printer, astronauts generate spare parts on space stations and designers make furniture, which allows them to save a lot of material. Analogically, the automobile industry (incl. Audi and Jaguar Land Rover) produces more complicated electronic parts. Even greater progress takes place in medicine. 3D printers already generate e.g. prostheses and hearing aids. In 2011, surgeons from the University Hospital in Ghent, Belgium, performed one of the most complicated face transplantations in which a printed 3D model of the patient’s anatomical characteristics played a vital role. That is just one of many examples proving a 3D printer to be the primary tool in a successful surgery.
This groundbreaking invention is now on the market. Everyone will be able to create their own objects without wasting any material. It sounds great, but copyright holders are concerned. It’s nothing new – a similar problem applies to the Internet and files for free download. Except that a 3D printer allowsusers to ‘download’ physical forms. For example, it is enough to send a project of a certain company’s chair to the printer in the CAD format (the file containing the project of the chair), click “print” and obtain its printed copy. CAD files, similar to MP3, are very easy to download and duplicate. No one knows, how this situation will develop. Copyright holders may start to pursue those who copy their works or may try to reduce public availability of CAD files. But it is known from experience that it is almost impossible to block access to files in the Internet. “3D pirates” will be the winning side for a long time, just like in case of illegal information acquisition from the Internet.
The real danger resulting from an easy access to 3D printers, however, is the opportunity to download weapon, even without having a license. In May 2013. the American organisation Defense Distributed presented to the world their first fully functional printed gun. Even though the US government forced the organisation to remove weapon projects from their website, they are still available on websites like The Pirate Bay.
Just like every groundbreaking invention, the 3D printer brings the possibility of many dangers. But the degree to which it can make our lives easier, being eco-friendly in the same time, is enormous. Time will show whether we are witnessing “the third Industrial Revolution”.
Tłum. Marta Nożyńska