3D Printing and the Law

The legal implications of our third industrial revolution

  • Venus Chui Ki Ma Cheltenham Ladies' College


Heralded as the ‘third industrial revolution’ (Markillie, 2012), the rise of 3D printing has attracted both anticipation and controversy in recent years. Whilst many look forward to the era of mass customisation where products are free of tariffs and shipping costs, others are wary of its potential to undermine our legal framework. The cost of 3D printers first fell under US$10,000 in 2007 (3D Printing Industry, 2016), and as the price continues to fall, an unprecedented capacity has opened up for such technology to empower individuals in a decentralised economy, especially those who used to be unable to obtain certain products due to high costs or governmental control. 3D printing, therefore, challenges archaic Laws based on a different economic model - industrial production. Despite its capacity to transform our legal landscape, disproportionately few academic analyses have been dedicated to exploring the legal implications of 3D printing. This paper will explore the intersection between 3D printing, Intellectual Property, Gun Laws, Product Safety and Privacy, before concluding with a proposal to amend the Law.
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