3D printing is a fantastic technology which lets you manufacture just about anything, gadgets, tools and completely new projects. But is it actually legal to 3D print anything you want? It’s also worth noting how to protect your achievements from intellectual property infringement. Here’s a few key legal issues in the field of 3D printing.

3D printing is an interdisciplinary solution and that’s how you should look at it. Even though using plug & play 3D printers such as those by Zortrax doesn’t require specialized knowledge and they’re extremely easy to operate. But upon entering the world of 3D printing you should familiarize yourself with how the printer work, with 3D modeling and, at least to a small extent, with legal issues.

3D printing is utilized in many fields: medicine, the automotive industry, start-ups for rapid prototyping. Even NASA is examining the use of 3D printing both in space and on Earth. But with numerous possibilities come numerous problems. One of these problems is that with a 3D printer you can create a copy of certain everyday items, and this could mean infringing on someone’s copyright and patents. As long as you just print for yourself, just to hone your 3D modeling skills and check what the printer is capable of, it won’t really matter. But if you decide to sell such items, the infringement is certain and you will face legal problems. Nobody will go to prison or pay exuberant fines for 3D printing a figurine of their favorite Star Wars character, but once they start selling such figurines, they will be accused of acting without permission from the copyright holder.

The copyright regulations vary from country to country and you should study them before you decide to sell what you 3D print. Moreover, certain items can constitute an infringement even when you are the only person to use them. For example, fair use is in some cases limited to your own home and utilizing the same 3D printed model for your job will breach copyright.

Before You Print, Check the License

Legal issues and examining the license are crucial also when using 3D models available online. If you own a Zortrax 3D printer and look at the Zortrax Library projects, every model come with licensing information. The license is usually Creative Commons. When you click the license, you’re provided with detailed information on how you may use the model. Anywhere else you find models online the license should also be clearly stated. If you are fond of a project but want to modify it and the license prevents you from doing so, try getting in touch with the author. Contact details will usually be available.

Copyright works both ways. If you work on your own models for 3D printing you should consider whether you want to make them available to others and on what terms. And if you use your 3D printer to create unique, breakthrough items, you should contact a patent agent or an attorney who will advise you on securing your copyright.

3D printing and the possibility of creating copies of original items for your own use may soon become a serious issues for lawyers to deal with. Nowadays, despite the availability of 3D printers, the problem is not a major one. However, it should be discussed and remembered both when printing models you download from the internet as well as when you create your own objects. Legal issues become extremely important when you decide to use your 3D printer for commercial applications.