With 3D printing looking to be one of the next big sectors in technology, everyone knew the patent battles would begin. 3D printing hit this landmark recently with Stratasys’s announcement it was suing Afinia for infringement.
The suit, filed in federal court in Minneapolis, seeks unspecified damages from Microboards and a permanent injunction preventing sales of the Afinia printer. Stratasys alleges violation of four of its patents.
The Stratasys patents in the suit cover the ways a 3-D model is created by spraying liquid material that hardens to form an object.
One Stratasys patent is about the rate at which liquid material is sprayed to give the model different degrees of hollowness between its layers. A different patent is a method for keeping freshly sprayed material above the temperature at which it would solidify. Another patent covers the control of the temperature of the material before it is sprayed. Still another is for a method for concealing the seams caused by layering sprayed material.
This image was posted on Imgur / Reddit 3 days ago with the following caption:
Between “3DSystems v Formlabs” and “Stratasys v Afinia”, open-source 3D printing is facing a key watershed moment. Either we protect the open-source movement or we watch as 2 companies run everything.
The 3D printing industry is young and very fragile. Unless we can stop the patent abuse, the revolution will die before it starts. Young companies with innovative new ideas are being scared away by these frivolous lawsuits.
The 3D community, which is still widely made up of the same individuals from the maker community, is not reacting well to the more competitive version of 3D printing. The community has taken to social media sites such as reddit encouraging consumers of 3D products to avoid or boycott those companies that engage in this behavior. The graphic above began bouncing around the web recently along with the calls to consumers and the open source community in general.
Unfortunately this image does not stand much of a chance of making a difference. Besides the obvious misunderstanding it shows of the business community, patents being a highly-competitive tactic of nearly every viable industry, it also has history against it. Very few campaigns such as this have ever succeeded in changing the competitive landscape and the law is pretty black and white on the issue.
As new as the market is, most of the future consumers for 3D printers are not part of the open source community and are more likely to be wowed by the technology in general. The general public rarely knows, or displays any desire to know, the circumstances behind the products they purchase. This has been true since the industrial revolution and holds true today.
It’s a noble effort to keep the world of 3D printing “pure”, and for that we applaud the community.
Thanks to Fabbaloo for bringing this anti-competitive campaign to our attention. See their post here.