One of the challenging questions in 3D Printing is how to handle IP. Since anyone can ostensibly scan a copyrighted design and then 3D Print it on their home machine, large companies with strong brands and their legal counsel are grappling with how to protect themselves in this new fabrication world. Although those of us in the trenches know that the man or woman on the street cannot easily 3D Print something as good as you can buy at a local toy store, that day is coming and companies are now preparing for what is sure to transpire in the future.
One company with lots of big, iconic brands, Hasbro of Pawtucket, RI, is facing the problem in a straightforward way. Through their new website Super Fan Art, the giant toy maker has licensed and is selling 3D Printed versions of their popular My Little Pony line. The project incorporates a type of Crowdsourcing, where Hasbro will showcase the designs of fans that will then be 3D Printed by 3D Printing contract service bureau, Shapeways. To start Hasbro has selected designs from:
- Brian Harris , an illustrator and web designer who enjoys sculpting and modeling cartoon characters
- Brandon Lee Johnson , a student and 3D artist
- Paul Philbin , an animation enthusiast
- Although Melinda Rose actually works in the computer games industry, she is a lifelong MY LITTLE PONY fan and a 3D designer
- Born in Lyon, France, Christophe Vidal has studied mechanical engineering and design and opened his own online Shapeways shop in 2012;
How one is selected to be in this elite group is not clear at this point, but I am sure designs will have to adhere to brand licensing rules to ensure the integrity of the brand. But the partnership with Shapeways will also produce higher quality printing than most people can do on their home machines, including multi-color capability. It will be interesting to see what other brands follow this type of model.