3d Printing Overseas- Global Management

Could 3d Printing be better overseas? Part 1

As the whole world is talking about 3-D printing, at the 3D Chamber of Commerce, I’m starting to believe that the United States will not dominate this reinvented industry.

There are two reasons for this. The first is the litigious nature of the United States market and the second is that ultimately 3-D printing (as far as the designs and drawings) will be a traded product. The initial thought on legal matters is that the United States seems to have more lawyers and lawsuits than the rest of the world combined. This isn’t a good or a bad thing, just a thought that when looking at the USA, the high probability of litigation can offset the notion that this the USA is the “world’s largest market.”

There’s an old lawyers joke: if you buy a can of dog food and your dog eating it gets sick, who do you sue?
The answer? Everybody.

In the case of the dog food the retailer will be sued the distributor will be sued, the manufacturer’s representative, the manufacturer, and possibly even the ad agency that made claims could be sued by the person with a sick dog.

Then of course you’ve got United States government which would regulate the dog food industry in many ways; quality of food, what is said on the label, how is it packaged and are expiration dates really being adhered to?

So let’s take this scenario in the case of 3-D printing.

Imagine if somebody were to print out a washer for a vacuum cleaner (perhaps 3-D printers will not be so affordable and in everybody’s home) at the local hardware store.

The store prints it out and may put this washer in your vacuum cleaner and the vacuum cleaner blows up and hurts somebody.

I know this is ridiculous scenario but it could happen- or the vacuum cleaner simply burns your rug or perhaps catches fire.

Well the customer is not a licensed installer so clearly doesn’t necessarily know what he is doing, so goes the presumption. Should he have had that special washer in the first place?

However, the hardware store may not have printed this correctly then you have to examine where the hardware store got the washer design. Did they print it correctly? Did they use the correct materials? Were the drawings in any way compromised? Was the technician who printed this washer properly trained? Take it a step further and start to look at the source of where the CAD drawing was. Was it purchased or royalties paid? What website was it? Was it the equipment manufacturer’s or was it a third-party selling those? Did the manufacturer put the drawings up correctly? Were there glitches or unforeseen circumstances that they simply did not address? So if there were an accident with this vacuum cleaner it would be a whole slew of people that could be sued. This is nothing new in the USA. People buy insurance for this and large companies retain lawyers. However small business people may not know about this insurance they may not be able to afford it. They may have purchased the wrong policy and if they have to retain legal staff they may choose not to get into the business at all!

The idea of the United States’ legal system is to protect the citizens. But we all know of the many times that system has been abused. Naturally we don’t want defective parts in our electronics. We clearly do not want auto parts and aircraft parts that aren’t genuine. This isn’t a value judgement. It’s really just a business decision for a lot of entrepreneurs and other firms.

At the Association for 3D Printing, we are investigating other countries that want to take advantage of the new technology. And what we are hearing may be frightening to US industry.