A new guide into 3D printing rights and responsibilities has been launched to explain what consumers need to know before printing in 3D, including the potential risks in creating and sharing 3D printable files, and what kinds of safeguards are in place.
The website "Everything you need to get started in 3D printing" was developed by staff at the University of Melbourne in response to the growing number of users keen to find, share, and create 3D printed goods online.
A team from the School of Culture and Communications at the University of Melbourne designed the website which includes a scorecard for various 3D printing sites, as well as some useful tips for those getting started in the 3D printing world.
Project leaders Dr Luke Heemsbergen and Dr Robbie Fordyce were keen to offer consumers a range of easy to understand guides and information to help safeguard their work and take advantage of this emerging technology.
"The free resources are the result of extensive multidisciplinary research in Australia, and beyond, that identified emerging issues and trends within the consumer 3D printing space such as who owns the designs you share, the ones you modify and how they can be used by others," Dr Heemsbergen said.
"Interviews with experts and industry leaders, and complex modeling of the sharing patterns of objects online also raised a number of new issues for consumers," said Dr Fordyce.
Focus groups have shown that despite 3D printing becoming increasingly popular, consumers still have some gaps in their know-how. It is important that consumers make effective use, can call upon their rights and take account of their responsibilities as they design, share and print 3D files.
Quality of 3D printing files found online, the long term social impact of the proliferation of 3D printed objects and the legal protections relevant to the sharing and using of 3D printable files are all issues that Australian consumers will have to face in the near future.
"3D printing is a social practice that is built on a specific set of technologies, how people 3D print, what they print, and how society understands and decides this becomes a social and political concern," Dr Heemsbergen said.
"Worrying about copyright and other Intellectual Property Rights is necessary, but not sufficient — there are ethical, cultural and social aspects of what we make that tell us who we are as a society."
The internet decentralises control of media — whether digital or, with 3D printing, physical, and Australians are working towards understanding their rights and their risks regarding such processes.
"We are used to viewing things — anything and everything — out in cyberspace, but when that barrier breaks down, and the digital is made physical in your own home, people have new concerns," Dr Fordyce said.
"Our scorecard at 3DPrintingInfo.org offers simple advice and information on the extent that various popular 3D printing websites protect consumers who want to start 3D printing."
This project builds upon initial research undertaken by Melbourne Networked Society Institute on domestic 3D printing and was funded by the Australian Consumer Communications Action Network (ACCAN) Grants project.