You can usually find a number of stories about additive manufacturing (AM) floating around that have the same theme. Most of them are of the, “How does 3D printing work?” variety, but there are a couple other popular ones as well. One of them is 3D printed guns, and following closely on that topic’s heels is the potential for piracy with AM.
A number of companies have come up with their own ideas for digital IP protection, most of them based on DRM-like technology, or continuing with the ever-popular DMCA takedown notice. Fabulonia, an upcoming clearinghouse for 3D designs, claims to have a solution to piracy that doesn’t involve either of those old chestnuts.
Fabulonia has designated itself as a place for creative designs to meet with public consumption, similar to how Materialise or Shapeways works. Rather than only selling products, though, the new site wants to sell designs ready-for-printing directly to the customer. It also claims it can do so in a way that is both customer-friendly and secure.
“Creativity, customization and originality are all needed,” said Kimmo Isbjörnssund, CEO of Fabulonia. “This nascent industry is still too technology driven. Consumers are not interested in CAD or STL files. They want a simple way to discover their favorite brands and designers or high-quality originals that are easily and affordably available. Fabulonia connects brands and designers with these consumers. The freedom of 3D printing can continue and designers rely on making a living. Without original designs there wouldn’t be enough consumer interest in 3D printing so Fabulonia is just helping the market grow.”
So how is this modern day miracle achieved? Specific details are somewhat sketchy. Fabulonia lists various patent-pending technologies such as Collaborative Copyright Technology and Secure 3D Streaming, and talks about 3D data in the cloud. It claims to offer different levels of protection as well, including free unlimited distribution or paid licenses.
My assumption is that their potential solution is to never actually allow a customer to download a design. Instead, the information is streamed directly to an AM system from the cloud. This isn’t actually a new idea. Other companies have tried this sort of thing before and found that people don’t like not actually owning something. Consider the uproar caused by Amazon when it simply deleted eBooks from user’s libraries claiming their customers had only “rented” use of the titles.
Still, any attempt to secure digital data that doesn’t include DRM or other invasive software is definitely a step in the right direction. IP protection is an important part of the continuing development of AM for both a broader consumer audience, and for corporate security. Even if Fabulonia’s idea doesn’t end up panning out, maybe it’ll inspire the solution that will.
Lacking an exciting video from Fabulonia for you to peruse, below you’ll find a video about the potential for individual creativity and 3D printing from Shapeway’s Creators Project.