Medical devices and 3D printing

3D printing is an exciting technology that is developing rapidly. While high-performance industrial systems can cost between £10,000 and £700,000, home desktop printers are now costing much less: between £1,000 and £7,000. This opens up the possibility of home manufacturing for anyone who can afford a 3D printer. And, while we wait for home printers to become more sophisticated, the public has increasing access to ‘copy shops’ providing 3D printing services. Equally, there are plenty of online offerings. These services are being used to print a huge array of 3D objects, including gadgets (such as phone cases); toys (such as action figures, chess pieces and toy bricks); and frames for glasses. Spare parts for products can also be printed, and the prospect is raised of the technology being used to make relatively simple medical devices.

With any form of manufacturing, there will always be the possibility that third-party intellectual property rights are infringed. The difference now is 3D printers make this so much easier by removing many of the overheads and logistical difficulties that go with traditional manufacturing processes, such as the need for a factory and transportation…

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