Thursday, February 21, 2013

Patents Are What's Limiting 3D Printing Right Now

by SandWyrm


Wired has a good article up on the patent hurdles that the new crop of low-cost 3D Printer makers are having to contend with. It's worth a look.

So is the web page for Sandboxr, who are offering full-color 3D prints like the figure above, which is about the same size as a 40K Bloodthirster. Watch their video to see users playing with their models on an iPad before the print is made. This is the future, however long it takes to get here. :)

6 comments:

  1. I won't get bent out of shape over mechanical patents. They end up being pretty specific to the implementation. And the companies involved are spending millions on research, so they are entitled to some protection there.

    The technology is still cutting edge, and I'm sure someone will find a better way to print a cat. Most of this stuff is limited to the current extrusion methods. It's possible we might see some other approach spring up that will be much more efficient.

    It's also the companies that hold these patents right now that will probably end up bringing affordable home 3D printing to the market. I'm sure if they could make a product for 200 bucks that everyone would want in their home, they would.

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    1. Some of those are for software. Including one that lets Shapeways monopolize the really-hard-to-think-up idea of printing more than one thing at a time. Or heating the model being printed to avoid damage from differential cooling.

      Some of these patents are just plain overreaching. They're protecting broad ideas, not specific solutions.

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    2. Like I replied below, the patents are more complicated than that. It takes an expert to parse these and tell you what they really mean. As I understand it patent infringement requires more than broad similarities.

      I'm not a fan of software and business process patents myself. It was a mistake to cover those with the patent system, and the patent office is underfunded for the amount of applications they have to deal with. This leads to bad patents, and there does need to be reform.

      But the majority of the patents here are the same type of patents that have been granted for the last 200 years. Even Edison had to buy up a patent that was similar to his light bulb design before he could sell his. This is not some new problem. These are also not patent trolls, these are companies that have spent significantly into R&D efforts to produce these processes and technologies. Yeah it sucks for the hobby guys, but they wouldn't he able to produce what they have if it wasn't for the patents from >20 years ago.

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  2. Very interesting. Thanks for the link. I probably wouldn't have seen it otherwise.

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  3. I think these patents are pretty much bull, the smoothing technology one for example? People have been using those cheap electric steamers to create acetone vapour baths for their prints for ages. 20 minutes in one on a low setting and a ridged object becomes smooth and shiny.

    As for the enclosure thing, the solidoodle and makibox are both enclosed. They may not be thermally insulated but the case will help to regulate the temperature and prevent drafts from causing problems

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    Replies
    1. The thing is, you are looking at the short descriptions of the patents here. If you look at the actual patients you have 3000+ words and diagrams describing a very specific process. It's the difference between reading a Wikipedia summary of a movie plot and watching the actual movie. Anyway, there's nothing that stops you from creating another process that achieves the same results.

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