This recent article in the Santa Clara Law Review V.55.4 discusses the recent expansion in 3D printing and Additive Manufacturing, and considers the legal implications in these growing fields.
Below is an excerpt from the article:
The capabilities demonstrated by 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing (referred to collectively here as “Additive Manufacturing”) are giving flight to the imaginations of designers, engineers, manufacturers, and end customers overseeing new potential of their manufacturing processes and products. These new capabilities should do the same for lawyers, legislators, regulators, product safety teams, and risk managers. However, the potential for new theories of liability should not chill the excitement and preparation to capitalize on the technology. The basic tenets of product liability law will continue to apply, albeit to new players and new roles. The words of Hon. Benjamin Nathan Cardozo from over ninety years ago ring true again–“[t]here is nothing new here in principle. If there is novelty, it is in the instance only.”
Product liability law will adapt to Additive Manufacturing the way it always has for all trail-blazing innovations in America. The business side of the industry will meet market demand with cutting-edge products while defining, redefining, and creating the roles and responsibilities of the new landscape. The legal side will translate the traditional roles of manufacturer, supplier, retailer, and customer to the new Additive Manufacturing landscape and anticipate the issues as the market drives product development and the balance of responsibility.
This article will consider the realities of the new landscape of Additive Manufacturing and how it changes the accepted practical roles of the customer, supplier, designer, manufacturer, retailer, and distributor. The balance of legal responsibilities will shirt and re-balance as Additive Manufacturing continues to grow and transform some business relationships. However, traditional product liability exposure and the courts’ response to injuries and losses from products generated from the new technology will still be based on traditional precedent. When injuries or losses occur because of Additively Manufactured products or component parts, the same familiar pressure points will present themselves in litigation, but with new players finding their place among the traditional product liability roles.