Getting Ready For When The Industry Tries To Kill 3D Printers

from the replicators-redux dept

Back in 2003, we noted that once 3D printing came around, just imagine how crazy various industries would go once 3D printing became commonplace, and people could "file share" the printer instructions for various physical products. If you think the RIAA's madness is bad, just imagine how insane things would get when you had actual "replicators" everywhere. In the intervening years, of course, 3D printing has matured quite a bit, and many are realizing that such a theoretical suggestion from years back is actually a pretty serious concern. Public Knowledge has put out a paper trying to warn the world of the impending political madness that will come down as 3D printing becomes more common -- and we start hearing stories about "pirated" physical goods. While I'm glad to see a group like PK sounding the warning bells now, I doubt it will change anything.

I used to hope that in spending over a decade explaining how the music industry could have responded better to file sharing, that other industries wouldn't go down the same path. Yet, what we've seen over and over and over again is that every new industry that faces disruptive innovation involving a previously scarce product suddenly becoming an infinite good -- and that they pretty much all react the same. They try to prevent the inevitable. They try to fight the technology. They go against consumer wishes. They try to protect the old business models. They invent moral panics and bogus statistics. And, of course, they throw a ton of money at politicians to make laws that preserve their old business models. It's happened plenty of times in the past, and it will definitely happen once 3D printing technology reaches that tipping point.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2010 @ 5:18pm

    A Hopefully Interesting Rant

    I don't think anyone could reasonably argue that 3d printing is a disruptive force to manufacturing today. However if you don't think it will be in 20/30 years I think you need to open your eyes to the advances in technology over the past 30 years. 30 years ago having a color printer at home would have been ridiculously expensive and you probably wouldn't have been able to reproduce a decent photograph with it. Things improve. There won't be some eureaka moment when suddenly everyone decides they must have a 3d printer it will be a swell that just keeps gaining momentum and it has already started with the hobbyist just like another piece of electronics did that you are all using now. As the technology progresses and becomes more useful it will generate more interest that will only propel it further. What I think mike is pointing out is that companies need to be looking forward and embrace this change instead of waiting and getting run over when the swell suddenly sinks all of their profits. The design of physical goods cannot be pirated today because most people do not have the tools necessary to produce the finished good. 3d printers will eventually have the power to change that, for simple items first like figurines, then other small plastic parts, and then for more and more complex items as the technology advances. The question is how do you then encourage/force consumers to compensate you for the design of these items because if you are paying attention you will realize that DRM is not the answer. It will fail and your design will be shared outside of your control. I guarantee that this will be a huge upheaval when it does take-off and that many many companies will try to sue their consumers for sharing their designs. Personally, I don't think the CwF/RtB mentality will transfer very easily for the physical items that few people will have the same emotional attachment to as they do to music. There won't be the same personal connection...I don't think about the designer of my mouse, I like it alot but he doesn't have a face or personality that I can associate with like the musicians I listen to. It will be really interesting to see how this all plays out.

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