2D Sales Drawings
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No 3D CAD, No 3D Printing
No 3D CAD, No 3D Printing!
Nearly 456,000 3D printers will be shipped globally by the end of the year, doubling the 219,000 units that were shipped last year, according to Gartner. 44% of this growth is within the enterprise sector. The global 3D printing market is expected to grow from $4.98 Billion in 2015 to $30.19 Billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 28.5% between 2016 and 2022 according to this Markets and Markets report.The global 3D printer market is booming and the number of units shipped in 2020 is estimated to exceed 6.7 million. However, the whole ‘additive’ manufacturing trend depends on 3D CAD models as its starting point! Without a 3D CAD model you can’t 3D Print anything! With a 3D CAD model and a 3D Printer (or access to an online 3D Printing service) you can 3D Print to manufacture as many as you want.
How to Allow 3D Printing of your CAD Models but prevent Reverse Engineering and/or Manufacturing of your products from downloadable 3D CAD models?
As a manufacturer you are probably among the 81% worldwide using 3D CAD to design your products and using 3D Printing (aka Additive Manufacturing) in prototyping if not yet in production. You (and/or your distributors) may also be using 3D CAD models for inbound or content marketing of your products. If you are or if you are considering doing so you need to consider this key point: how do you let your customers use your 3D CAD models to specify your products within their CAD designs without also enabling them to reverse engineer or manufacture (by additive manufacturing or traditional ‘subtractive’ manufacturing) your products themselves?
There are three basic approaches to protecting your CAD intellectual property:
There are a number of specific limitations that can be applied to the downloadable 3D CAD models you put online depending what you want to prevent or discourage:
We’re not lawyers so do not give legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your legal advice!
As an hypothetical example, the T&Cs under which your 3D CAD models are downloaded could allow them to be used in customers’ design documents but not for 3D prototyping without extra permission and never for functional part manufacturing. Whatever legal constraints you apply, you will likely need to be prepared to enforce them so choose them carefully. At the same time, as with most emerging technologies, know that the law hasn’t kept pace with 3D Printing. For example see this Bloomberg article discussing product liability when products are 3D Printed.
By ‘No Control’ we mean simply putting your 3D CAD models online for anyone to download and use as they wish. This makes sense for some companies. For example, suppliers of 3D Printers or 3D Printing materials have an interest in providing free content to drive use of their products.
Here are our recommendations for industrial suppliers (manufacturers and distributors):
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