Stratasys Takes 3D Printing Focus Down to the Voxel, “Speaking the Language” of Each Application

Stratasys has long held a
leadership position in 3D printing; the company is one of the
most established in the industry and has been leading the
market in sales. With great power, as we know, comes great
responsibility, and Stratasys is well aware of what it means to
lead the pack. At the recent formnext
in Frankfurt, Stratasys was focused on delivering its message:
“The power of additive. Applied.” As the industry continues to
mature, a running
throughout the busy, industrial-focused
formnext, applications are coming further into focus for
leading companies. I caught up with Stratasys throughout the
week in Frankfurt to learn more about their newest
introductions and for updates on their business strategy,
hearing right from the executives leading the charge at a
company press conference and following up with an interview for
a deeper look.

Andy Middleton, President EMEA, who also opened last
year’s formnext press conference
, began the 2017 discussion
with a look into this year’s strategies for the company as a
vendor before turning to the anticipated
technology announcements

Andy Middleton, President EMEA, Stratasys

“The past 20 years have been guided by the mass production
belief of one-size-fits-all, and this is not really relevant
anymore. Our customers are looking for more customized
solutions, with more relevance for them,” Middleton told us.
“Earlier this year, we discussed specifics for interior
aircraft solutions. With individualization in aircraft, the
volume of business going from conventional to additive
manufacturing will be a big part of that.”

He pointed to aircraft as a $13.5 billion market that is
already seeing inroads from 3D printing. Stratasys technologies
adopted include the Fortus 900mc 3D printer, which has been
used for on-craft applications such as accessories in first
class lavoratories. Next, Middleton turned to some of the
company’s newer product introductions and noted that they were
on-site in Frankfurt.

Stratasys’ Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator at formnext

Among these were:

  • Contininuous Build 3D Demonstrator — first debuted
    at this year’s RAPID
    event, this was the
    ‘s first showing in Europe
  • VeroFlex for eyewear
    , where there is a $20 million market potential
  • J700 Dental Clear Aligners Solution, offering a $100
    million market opportunity
  • F123 Rapid Prototyping Workgroups Solution, introduced
    in February

This last, Middleton said, is “the most successful product
Stratasys has ever done,” reinforcing his assertion during
we had recently at TCT Show
regarding the company’s
products and performance.

“It’s not an easy task being the largest vendor in an
industry which is booming, which is growing every day,”
Middleton continued.

“It’s not all about hardware, this is not the most difficult
part. Of course we need the 3D printers to support
applications, but also materials science, to produce
materials that are aerospace certified, that are certified
for use in the body or in the mouth. This is what Stratasys
has embarked on, and we place a great deal of importance on
our partnerships.”

He touched on several of the partners Stratasys has been
working with over the last year, including Siemens, SIMULIA,
SOLIDWORKS, PTC Creo, and SAP, as well as announcing a
new partnership with e-Xstream engineering.

“We’re thrilled to have achieved so much in the last 12
months. The proof is in the pudding, as we are working with
customers like Apple and Ford,” he said.

“It’s been 10 years, almost to the day, that I joined the 3D
printing world. Back then, we had two materials: a bad one —
and a really bad one. The future is driven by materials.”

In looking at this robust, materials-driven future for
realizable applications, Product Manager Tomer Gallimidi was
next to come to the mic with the day’s introductions. In
addition to the e-Xstream partnership, Stratasys introduced
the incredibly promising GrabCAD Voxel Print
to enhance the potential of their multi-material
3D printer.

“We are inviting users to go beneath the surface,” Gallimidi
said. “With control of material properties and distribution
comes an impact on the form of the model: its form, geometry,
and function.”

To discuss the impact of volumetric modeling allowed through
the precise software, he introduced several users: Dr. Alan
Brunton of Fraunhofer IGD, Dr. Daniel Richards of Lancaster
University, and Martin Dunn of Singapore University of
Technology and Design (SUTD). The three users presented the
ways their respective institutions have found to implement the
software into their design workflow, creating full-color,
deeply accurate models. Among those shown were a replica of an
Egyptian artifact, an anatomical model, an intricate table
featuring precise internal design, and a
genuinely-looks-good-enough-to-eat apple; several designs from
LAIKA Studios were also on display, having been used in the
of Kubo and the Two Strings
. Additional use
cases from these institutions include SUTD’s work on biomimicry
and soft robotics, Lancaster’s work on vibration dampening, and
Fraunhofer’s work with Cuttlefish, recently
made available
to J750 users.

To indicate the precision that GrabCAD Voxel Print allows
design, we were shown a tiny LEGO piece and asked to estimate
how many voxels made up the brick. The piece, smaller than 1 x
1 x 1 cm (though admittedly I didn’t measure), is made up of
about eight million voxels. Adjusting the design of any of
those, on demand, allows for incredible control, and many
manufacturers are highlighting voxel-level capabilities as a
goal in highly accurate 3D printing.

For more detail on Stratasys’ approach to voxel-level
capabilities and a deeper look into strategies, I later sat
down with Andreas Langfeld, VP of Sales.

“It’s interesting to see the growth of this show; it’s
similar to vendor growth,” he said in opening. “We still see
by unit sales that we are the leader, but it’s getting hard.
We look where our unique advantages are, and try to focus
there. If all goes well, we’ll print about 800 parts during
the show [on the Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator]for
visitors to take home; I don’t think anyone else is building
so many here.”

Andreas Langfeld, Vice President, Sales, Stratasys

We looked to the on-site Continuous Build Demonstrator, which
was indeed humming with activity throughout the week in
Frankfurt. Its European debut seemed to be well received, an
observation Langfeld confirmed.

“This provides an outlook into the future, where hardware can
go with the right software. You can produce spare parts
on-site, which is nicely illustrating where we are going,” he
told me.

“It’s an easy story to deliver; people understand what we are
showing. It all comes down to the right software.”

With this segue, we
turned to the Voxel Print announcement, discussing what “the
right software” can enable in additive manufacturing. This, of
course, goes hand-in-hand with one of the key points Middleton
had raised: materials science. Enabling control of the material
qualities through software is only possible when all components
are working together, with hardware working with material as
directed by software, all in concert.

“Customers can influence their end products even more, which
is perceived as valuable. It’s great for research and is a
great in-field resource to expand,” Langfeld noted.

“In the end, it’s the materials that really make the
difference; a printer is only an output device. If you don’t
have the right materials, you can’t have the applications.”

The coming together of all these parts of the workflow “touches
the entire value chain concept,” which Stratasys is keen to
underscore. Langfeld noted that end-use applications are
enabled by materials, and advanced by prototypes that allow for
functional testing. Looking to demanding verticals like
aerospace allows for an understanding of the options that will
be necessary throughout a variety of application areas.
Customers and suppliers alike, Langfeld noted, “need options to
be able to deliver more.”

“Customers want one solution to do it all — that’s not where
we are, but we do have many solutions to offer as a single
platform. We have a very targeted approach. VeroFlex, for
example, is applicable in other markets [than eyewear], but
the more specific we are in a pitch, the clearer the message
comes out. We are speaking the language of hte customer, and
one-size-fits-all is over,” he told me.

“The best experience I’ve had with this is in healthcare. If
you don’t speak their language, you’re out. We now have
experts — they know this language and all the names — and
this is important for the customer to be understood. There is
not so much difference vertical to vertical; in terms of
design, everyone wants to replicate the final design. If you
do a surgical model for surgical planning, you need to
understand the language, understand the real needs. A surgeon
wants the model, they do not necessarily want the printer
that makes the model.”

Working closely with partners and customers continues to be a
key strategic element to many 3D printing companies’ business
plan, and Stratasys is honing in on this level of deep, clear
comprehension across a variety of offerings. In the case of
VeroFlex, for one, understanding the need for functional
prototypes that look exactly like the final product allowed for
Stratasys to develop a materials strategy providing these
qualities, directly helping eyewear manufacturers’ possible
time to market.

Stratasys understands, of course, that they are not the only
supplier working on these issues. Competition is mounting, and
the shape of the industry is changing as more participants
enter, other suppliers merge, and still others exit the
business; technologies are increasing, and those more
established are seeing advances come from all corners.
Strategies for maintaining top-dog status have to shift along
with the times, and Stratasys is looking to keep itself set
apart in the market.

“We have some unique things here; going into specific
applications, we see more competition, but broader solutions
are more unique. You see a Fortus versus a printer dedicated
to carbon fiber. Being perceived as a medical or aerospace
supplier is a huge benefit, having a portfolio to offer,”
Langfeld said.

As Stratasys continues to develop its strategies and hone its
technologies, focus is remaining on key areas for advancement.
We can expect to hear more about materials science, software
enhancements, and surely some interesting developments with the
company’s growing partner network as 2017 comes to a close and
3D printing continues to grow as a business opportunity.

Discuss Stratasys’ strategies and other 3D printing topics
at or
share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below. 

[Photos: Sarah Goehrke]


3D Printing News Briefs: December 8, 2017

We’re throwing a lot of business news at you in today’s 3D
Printing News Briefs, starting with a recap of the largest 3D
printing construction conference recently held in Copenhagen.
PyroGenesis has signed an NDA with an aircraft engine
manufacturer, while a Renishaw director has received a special
honor. HP will soon be selling its 3D printers in India, Hexcel
will acquire the Aerospace & Defense business of Oxford
Performance Materials, and FATHOM is announcing a new
curriculum to increase adoption of 3D printing. Finally,
Sharebot has introduced a new material.

3D Printhuset Holds 3D Construction Printing

Last month, we
learned that 3D
was organizing
what it called the largest 3D construction printing conference.
Just like the conference
it hosted in February, this event was also held in Copenhagen,
and, according to 3DPrinthuset, gathered up all of the elite
from the 3D construction printing industry. Over 200 people
attended the conference, and had the chance to see
presentations by companies like Apis Cor, Winsun, the Royal BAM
, and Contour Crafting. Academic
researchers from institutes and universities involved in 3D
construction printing also attended the conference, as well as
global leaders from conventional materials and construction

3D Printhuset says that the “unique collection of speakers and
the many experts among the attendees” received high ratings and
excellent compliments from the audience members, all of whom
had the unique opportunity to network within the 3D printed
BOD (Building On
Demand), 3D Printhuset’s first 3D
printed building

PyroGenesis Signs Non-Disclosure Agreement

which designs, develops, manufactures, and commercializes
advanced plasma processes, signed
a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with Rolls-Royce
month for its additive manufacturing powders, not long after it
announced the successful completion of the ramp-up
of its first plasma atomization system
. Now, the clean tech
company announced that it has
signed an NDA
with a second global aircraft engine
manufacturer. For competitive reasons, the name of the client
has been withheld, and will remain confidential from the

P. Peter Pascali, President and CEO of PyroGenesis, said, “We
are very happy to have signed an NDA with a second global
aircraft engine manufacturer in less than a month, and we
look forward to developing a more substantive relationship
with them. I must once again caution readers not to draw
any premature conclusions from this announcement. Though,
once again, it does signal an interest in our capabilities,
and yes, that interest does come from a very discerning,
demanding, and sophisticated party, we are still at the very
preliminary stages and there is no guarantee that anything of
any commercial value will materialize from these efforts. We
feel that these recently concluded NDAs are material in the
sense that they confirm both our strategy to become a powder
producer to the additive manufacturing industry, as well as
our premise that there is a significant demand within the
additive manufacturing industry for our products.”

Renishaw Director Receives Honor from Royal Academy of

Professor Geoff McFarland

This week, Professor Geoff McFarland, a dimensional
metrology expert and the Group Engineering Director at
, was
, alongside 50 others, as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering,
which advances and promotes excellence in
engineering. Professor McFarland, who joined the
company in 1994 and was appointed to its board of directors in
2002, is named as an inventor on over 50 patents, and has also,
according to Renishaw, “led the development of multiple
innovative measurement products for the aerospace and
automotive sectors.”

“It is an honour to be elected as a fellow alongside some of
the finest minds in the industry. To solve the
challenges that will face the economy, environment and
medical sector, multidisciplinary engineering teams must come
together to develop innovative products and manufacturing
solutions, a process I have been fortunate to be a part of
during my time at Renishaw,” said Professor McFarland.

McFarland will receive the title Fellow of the Royal
Academy of Engineering and the postnominal FREng.

HP Inc. to Sell Its 3D Printers in India

Starting in 2018,
HP Inc. will begin selling its
next-generation Multi Jet Fusion 3D printers
in India
, as the demand for its MJF technology continues to
grow around the world. This announcement comes as the company,
which recently announced an expansion of
its materials portfolio
, continues to seek regions that
have opportunities for commercial and industrial 3D printing;
HP’s MJF technology is already commercially available in Northa
America, Europe, China, and Asia Pacific, among others. HP is
currently engaging in discussions with different industry
stakeholders in India who want to start 3D printing.

“Initially, the focus will be on sectors like automobile and
health care in India but the opportunities are immense,”
said Sumeer Chandra, Managing Director, HP Inc. India.

“We will bring our 3D printers in next 2-3 months to India as
part of our commitment to contribute to the India growth

Hexcel to Acquire Part of Oxford Performance

OPM printed Aircraft fitting – Before and After part

Hexcel Corporation, a
leading producer of carbon fiber reinforcements and resin
systems, has entered into a
definitive agreement to acquire
the Aerospace & Defense
business of Oxford Performance
(OPM), which 3D prints high-performance,
qualified thermoplastic parts, reinforced with carbon fiber,
for applications in Space and Defense and Commercial Aerospace.
Other OPM businesses are not included in the acquisition, which
is subject to customary conditions.

“We are excited to add this next-generation technology to our
portfolio,” said Hexcel Chairman, CEO, and President
Nick Stanage. “In combination with our unique carbon fiber
capability, PEKK can provide a range of new technology
solutions to our aerospace and defense customers in printed
parts as well as assembled structures and broader design

The asset acquisition, which is expected to close later this
month, includes intellectual property, equipment, and
manufacturing process technology related to OPM’s Aerospace
& Defense business operations.

FATHOM Offers DfAM Program

In order to promote
greater adoption of 3D printing, FATHOM has introduced Design
For Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) curriculum
, which is
available to the general public as a full day program at its
headquarters in Oakland. The DfAM course will focus on
practical application of 3D printing technology, processes, and
materials, based on the company’s approach to solving its
customers’ toughest product development and manufacturing
challenges. Paid
is currently still open for the Tuesday,
December 12th class, though seating will be limited for this
first event. The company will also offer
private, on-site DfAM training courses
and DfAM
consultation services.

FATHOM Applications Engineering Manager Tony Slavik said,
“The team created the curriculum for companies with a need
for total design freedom and faster speeds in their product
development and manufacturing processes—innovative
organizations who wanted to know how to effectively apply
additive technologies today to push the limits of their
capabilities. We’ve expanded the established training
program, which aims to help designers and engineers develop a
new mindset that lets go of traditional manufacturing

Sharebot Introduces New Material

Italian 3D printer
manufacturer Sharebot has just
introduced a new, strong 3D printing resin for its
professional-grade Antares
SLA 3D printer. PR-T is
a rigid, tough photopolymer, with exceptional compression
strength, perfect for parts in the automotive, aerospace, and
consumer goods industries that need consistently high
resolution and strength. Parts fabricated using PR-T can be
printed with 50 μm resolution, and are easy to sand,
paint, and machine after printing without being damaged.

In order to acquire its properties, Sharebot’s new PR-T resin
does require a wash, dry, and post curing step.
Before curing, supports need to be removed from the
printed part; then, the part should be washed
in isopropylic alcohol and air-dried.

Discuss these stories, and other 3D printing topics,
at or
share your thoughts below.


GPhone is a 3D printed smartphone case that offers blood glucose monitoring on the go

Over the last few years, smartphone manufacturers and app developers have been pioneering technology that suggests a shift in the role that mobile devices play in their users’ lives. Social media feeds and Angry Birds are now jostling for disk space with fitness and sleep monitoring apps of all kinds, re-imagining the phone as an important health tool as well as a communication device. The latest breakthrough in this field, by engineers at the University of California San Diego, will enable diabetes patients to monitor their glucose levels, and 3D printing was a key part of the development process.

3D-FeSy: 3D printed furniture suspension systems for comfy, tailor-made sofas

Germany’s Institut für Holztechnologie Dresden (IHD) has launched “3D-FeSy,” a research project that aims to develop a 3D printed integral suspension system for upholstered furniture. IHD researchers say 3D printing can provide a range of adapted seat structures.

Toshiba launches 3D printed Open Nail project to offer custom-made false nails

You might know Toshiba best for its product line of home electronics: quality laptops, televisions, and home entertainment systems have made the Japanese manufacturing giant a household name around the world. The company’s most recent venture, then, may come as somewhat of a surprise: Toshiba’s new Open Nail project seeks to provide custom-made false nails perfectly contoured to your nail shape via 3D image recognition and 3D printing technology.

Trends in Additive Manufacturing for end-use production with OR Laser

3D Printing Industry is taking an in depth look at how
additive manufacturing is moving to production. Over the coming
weeks the results of interviews with industry leading
practitioners will be published.

This article is part of a series examining

Trends in Additive Manufacturing for End-Use

Eric Herrmann is the Online-Marketing-Manager
O.R. Lasertechnologie
. With the ORLAS CREATOR, an
innovative powder-bed based 3D metal printer, OR Laser are
lowering the barriers to entry for additive

3D Printing Industry: What is your percentage estimate of
how much your printers are used for production versus other

Eric Herrmann: The most of our printers will be used for
medical applications. My estimation is that over 60-70% of all
CREATORS are used for production of medical products. 10%-20%
for production of other products and 10-20% for research and

3DPI: Which industries are leading in the use of AM for

EH: At the moment for big printing devices
(building platforms > 250mmx250mm) automotive and aerospace.
For small systems (100mm and smaller) dental applications and

A metal 3D print of the classic rook and double helix from the ORLAS CREATOR. Photo by Michael Petch.A metal 3D print of the
classic rook and double helix from the ORLAS CREATOR. Photo by
Michael Petch.

3DPI: What barriers does AM face for production and how are
these surmountable?

EH: The main problem currently is to enable a full
automatic production process. From generating of the printing
files to removing the support structures after the printing
job. Furthermore the quality issue is an important point and a
technical challenge. To implement quality control technologies
such active process monitoring and closed loop process control
will help to increased process stability and quality. These are
also very important future development focal points for OR

Customers check out iMakr's latest stock, the ORLAS CREATOR, in the store in Farringdon. Photo by Tony ArnaudCustomers check out
iMakr’s latest stock, the ORLAS CREATOR, in the store in
Farringdon. Photo by Tony Arnaud

3DPI: Are there any notable trends in AM for end use

EH: Lot of companies are working on the complete
industrial 4.0 autonomous factories. But until today no one has
a really satisfying solution to the technical challenges.
Through this approach, the systems are getting bigger, more
complex and extremely expensive.

OR LASER tries to use a different approach. We believe
the key is to make the system more cheaper and more easy to
use. To reduce the complexity of the technology to a level,
 small and midsize companies can benefit, will open the
technology to complete new areas in end use production. The
main trend in the market currently is that every 3D printing
company is trying to develop their own 3D printing software to
get more independent from companies like materialize. This
helps to develop a printing software that is easy to use but
powerful enough to satisfy the requirement of the end user and
reduce the final price for the customers. A trend, where we
could already set important accents with our CAM Software ORLAS

The ORLAS CREATOR Hybrid. Photo by Michael Petch.The ORLAS CREATOR
Hybrid. Photo by Michael Petch.

Nominations for the
2018 3D Printing Industry Awards

are now open. Let us know who is leading the

For more information about the ORLAS
is available here.

This article is part of a series examining

Trends in Additive Manufacturing for End-Use

If you found this insight useful, then
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us on social media

European Parliament considers 3D printing IP and civil liability

The relationship between 3D printing, copyright, and the

protection of intellectual property
has experienced some
strain due to its necessarily digital nature. Readers may
remember a debacle surrounding the unauthorized sale of 3D
printed designs by Louise Driggers (aka Loubie) – an issue that
quickly cleared up
thanks to the online community.

In a landmark case running parallel to the industry, some of
the grey areas surrounding design ownership were also
resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court.

However, today in Brussels members of JURI, the European
Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs, met to
discuss intellectual property (IP) rights and civil
liability of 3D printing.

In session with Conservative, Liberal and Green Party
members Joëlle Bergeron, a member of the
Eurosceptic Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group
and former member of France’s National Front, presented an
own-initiative report proposing legislative action to
control and monitor additive manufacturing activity.

Heading of JURI's own-initiative report of 3D printing, IP and civil liability. Image via EuroParlHeading of JURI’s
own-initiative report of 3D printing, IP and civil liability.
Image via EuroParl

Aim and scope

Introducing the aim and scope of such a report, the working
document signals that “Since the object being made has been
digitally designed, the possibilities for modifying and
applying it are endless.” Therefore, it proposes action to
create “lawful 3D printing services.”

Such services, as outlined in the preliminary document, would
be relating to IP and “the possibility of customising an
object,” and civil liability “in view of how the production
chain operates.”

Under IP, the document references a review conducted for
France’s Higher
Council for Literary and Artistic Property. Though the review
found no cause of reasonable concern for 3D printing and
copyright infringement, the author of the report called for a
further clarification of the boundaries where online 3D
platforms are concerned.

In the second section, the document references a directive that
is currently under review for whether it meets the needs
created by 3D printing. Again the document asks for further
clarification on responsibility when it comes to defective, or
counterfeit 3D prints.

Possible solutions

Three actions are suggested as possible solutions to the issues
raised by the own-initiative report. First, a regulated global
database of 3D printed object. Second, a legal limit on the
amount of objects that can be produced. And finally, a 3D
printing tax “to compensate IPR holders for the loss suffered
as a result of private copies being made of objects in 3D.”

As the noted, however, “None is wholly satisfactory on its
own,” nor can they be enforced without substantial and perhaps
impossibly exhaustive definitions in place, i.e. what
constitutes a “private copy”?

A badge with a character resembling Mickey Mouse in reference to the in popular culture rationale behind the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, the badge was made by Nina Paley.A badge with a
character resembling Mickey Mouse in reference to the in popular
culture rationale behind the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension
Act of 1998, the badge was made by Nina Paley.

The commission’s vote

According to Intellectual Property Watch
the proposal was
largely discounted by Conservative, Liberal and Green Party
members of JURI noting the “innovative potential” of the
relatively new technology.

full document
is available to view online in full here.

To stay up to date with all the latest legal
developments in 3D printing and more subscribe to the 3D
Printing Industry newsletter
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Don’t forget nominate in the second annual 3D Printing
Industry Awards.

Featured image shows EU flags outside European
Parliament. Photo by Walerian Walawski/


The future of 3D Printing by Dr. Andreas Leupold, Leupold Legal

Our thought leadership series
the future of 3D
continues with insights
from Dr. Andreas Leupold, lawyer for emerging technologies and
IT and editor/author of the book 3D Printing: Law, Business
& Technology from Leupold Legal,

While nobody has a magic crystal
ball to predict which frontiers 3D printing will move in the
future and where this revolutionary manufacturing method will
be in five to ten years, it is completely safe to say that the
industrialisation of 3D printing is already an integral part of
the plans of many businesses, has found its first steps into
different industries and will continue to gain momentum The
constructional freedom in creating parts and products, the
redundancy of
injection mold tools, the
shorter time to market and cost
savings made by printing spare parts as needed instead of
warehousing them in large numbers are all driving forces for

And naturally the technical and
legal challenges that 3D printing brings with it will go hand
in hand with these developments: If a company wants to secure
its future in 3D printing, it will need to safeguard its own
intellectual property and business secrets, avoid infringements
of industrial property rights, tackle the question of data
ownership in the digital supply chain, reach industrial
security agreements with all recipients of 3D printing data,
minimize its exposure to product liability and adhere to new
technical standards. All this with changing requirements due to
the fast moving developments in 3D

Business Technology
Internet and network hologram concept

Safeguard your intellectual

As new processes and algorithms
are freeing manufacturers from limitations that kept them from
harnessing the advantages of 3D printing for large volume
production, their exposure to product piracy will also
increase. 3D printing will continue to make it easier than ever
for counterfeiters to create exact copies of products, as all
that is needed for this are the 3D model, a 3D printer and
sufficient experience with additive manufacturing processes. 3D
printing will also continue to be a highly digitalised process.
As such the 3D model can be snatched from a company server or
3D printer of the owner without him even noticing. Companies
considering themselves safe because they are not (yet) working
with 3D models and printers should better think twice as their
products too can be copied by means of a 3D scanner and then
manufactured with a 3D printer. Any company offering products
that are in high demand and/or innovative must therefore check
whether its intellectual property policy is still up to the
task of making the most of the protection granted for three
dimensional trademarks, product designs, copyrighted works and
patents in the advent of 3D printing.

As most companies still lack the
expertise needed for 3D printing themselves, they will continue
to outsource their additive manufacturing to service providers
which will own the rights to all improvements that they make to
the products should the company fail to secure rights to all
improvements and alterations by means of sound, suitable and
intelligent development and licensing

Avoid infringements of
industrial property rights

But protecting
one´s own products from counterfeiters will not remain the only
legal challenge of 3D printing. The flip side of this is also
avoiding infringements of other parties´ IP rights. Before
venturing into 3D printing spare parts for products from other
manufacturers, companies will therefore need to carry out a
comprehensive “Freedom to Operate” analysis which serves the
purpose of identifying third party industrial property rights
that may only be printed with the prior consent of the
respective rights’ holder. This can pose a significant
challenge when the design of spare parts has been protected for
the original manufacturer since national laws in EU member
states still prevents anyone from printing these parts if they
cannot be considered “must fit” parts that need to have a
predefined shape in order to replace the original part in a
more complex machine. This issue has long been dormant, but 3D
printing has lent it new prominence prompting the EU Commission
to consider an overhaul of the legal framework for the
protection of designs. The discussion of whether anyone should
be free to 3D print spare parts of any kind, has, however, only
just begun and the outcome is still

Deal with data

As industrial 3D printing relies
on data that is turned into products, data will become the new
crown jewels of companies. Data in a 3D printing file or 3D
model often contains the blueprint for a new product and
machine data often gives a sensitive insight into confidential
production parameters. Both should of course be subject to
strict confidentiality. But the movement of data for the
printing processes also raises the question of who legally owns
the machine data generated during additive manufacturing
processes and the man-made data needed for 3D printing. It may
come as a surprise that the current legal regimes in most
countries do not actually provide for a data ownership in the
legal sense but only allow for the ownership of physical
things. For this reason, the European Commission is evaluating
the introduction of a new data producer right. It will take
quite some time before this can become a reality, but even
then, companies wanting to keep full control of their 3D
printing data will have to suitably secure their data rights in
all of their agreements with suppliers and service

Enter into industrial
security agreements

3D printing on an industrial
scale rarely is a closed shop process but often requires the
exchange of manufacturing data with suppliers, R&D partners
and other recipients. The need for a free flow of data will
grow significantly once distributed manufacturing in close
vicinity to the locations where spare parts or other industrial
goods are needed, becomes the rule. We already can observe
efforts in this area. Research done by UPS shows that
decentralized 3D printing has a measurable positive impact on
the supply chain, 3dhubs has a global network of 5,343
manufacturing services that can be used by its customers and
major players in the 3D printing market such as Materialise and
DMG Mori Spare Parts have joined forces to create a software
based platform that will allow companies to manufacture spare
parts decentrally. Such business models require the secure,
tamper-safe storage and transmission of all data needed for
initiating the printing process and the creation of fail-safe
solutions for ensuring the traceability of 3D printed products.
Companies engaged in additive manufacturing must ensure a
uniform level of security throughout their entire supply chain
by planning ahead and concluding legally sound industrial
security agreements. These need to address the technical and
organizational measures for a safe production and distribution
environment before exchanging any 3D models or other data with
external partners. This is also needed to claim protection for
business secrets since the new EU Directive on the protection
of undisclosed know-how and business information has defined
prerequisites for granting protection to confidential
information. From 2018 onwards, the iconic “for your eyes only”
rubber stamp will therefore no longer suffice to protect the
most valuable assets of a company. Contracts will also be key
to safeguarding company interests. And confidentiality
agreements and NDAs will have to achieve more than conventional
agreements have done so far.

Minimize your exposure to
product liability

New manufacturing and
distribution models like distributed manufacturing and the
increasing use of 3D printing service providers and novel
feedstocks will likely give rise to an increasing product
liability of hard and software suppliers, manufacturers of raw
materials and many other stakeholders in the digital supply
chain. While it is not possible to exclude own liability for
damages arising from product defects for consumers, it is well
possible to agree on a right of recourse against suppliers of
printing materials, machines, software or finished parts that
cause such damages. CEO´s may also become personally liable, if
suitable clear agreements are not achieved on all measures that
must be taken to ensure product safety with everyone in their
supply chain.

Adhere to new
technical standards

Without doubt, technical
standards are very much needed for securing the future of
industrial 3D printing because they serve the purpose of
providing important guidance on material properties, data
formats, test methods and systems reliability to name but a few
examples. The joint efforts of the American Standards
Organization (ASTM) and ISO to create such standards are
therefore to be welcomed. Adhering to these new technical
standards, however, will only exonerate European companies from
product liability if these standards are transformed into
harmonized European standards. Until this happens, technical
standards are merely non-binding recommendations that may or
may not reflect the state of the art in science and technology
that every manufacturer must reach to avoid product liability.
Companies will therefore need to give up the widespread belief
that they are safe from any product liability as long as they
adhere to generally accepted technical standards or customary
3D printing processes that the future may still bring and
instead need to ensure themselves that their products are
created and manufactured according to the constantly evolving
state of the art
in science and technology.


In conclusion, I would say
that 3D printing is giving companies new freedoms to construct
and to operate and making an impact on logistics. All of this
is exciting and good for business, but we should not forget to
include our legal advisers and in-house counsels in these
evolving processes.

Identifying areas that need to
be reworked to be legally secure is key to keeping company
know-how safe and maintaining valuable market positions. And no
doubt 3D printing will continue to pose new legal questions as
its development proceeds.

Law, economics and technology of industrial 3D printing is
available here

All images ©


MakeX Works’ 3D printing backpack for MIGO lets you walk and print

3D printer manufacturer MakeX has
launched the world’s first commercial backpack for 3D printing
on the go.

Designed to hold a
MIGO desktop FDM 3D printer
, this new
accessory allows anybody to seamlessly pack, unpack and even
move their machine around while it is in the process of 3D

It brings a whole new dimension of portability to the
MIGO 3D printer, the first desktop FDM 3D printer from MakeX.
The Kickstarter campaign has beaten the funding goal, and still
has sometime to run.

You can walk and print with the mobile 3D printing backpack. Photo via MakeX.You can walk and print
with the mobile 3D printing backpack. Photo via MakeX.

3D print on the go for hours on end

The MIGO 3D printing backpack is a compact accessory,
with a volume of 35 x 28 x 50cm. Even with a weight of less
than one kilogram, the accessory supports the lightweight MIGO
3D printer.

The backpack is shaped to comfortably accommodate a MIGO
3D printer as well as a spare filament spool. Once the printer
is placed inside, the backpack’s hard transparent cover can
then be replaced allowing the printing to be monitored whilst
on the move.

The backpack can either be carried from its handle or
placed around the shoulders using its straps. A portable
battery with a three hour lifespan guarantees a continuous 3D
printing operation when on the move.

You can even cycle and print. Photo via MakeX.You can even cycle and
print. Photo via MakeX.

3D printing indoors and outside

MakeX’s mobile 3D printing backpack epitomizes a
“pick-up-and-play” approach, which the company says is aimed at
getting families and children into 3D printing.

The MIGO 3D printer can create objects using both PLA and
ABS filaments, and its
software supports STL and OBJ files. Additionally,
creative apps developed by MakeX allow users to line up batch
prints and monitor 3D printing progress online in

The mobile 3D printing backpack will free the MIGO from
its indoor confines. It will allow you to create anytime and
anywhere, whether you are stationary or on the move.

The backpack will be available for under $100 after the
launch of the MIGO 3D printer.

Click here to back the MIGO 3D Kickstarter

campaign before it ends.