3D printing is rapidly growing in use. The technology has the significant potential to change how products are manufactured and delivered, and potentially how much products cost. However, its rapid expansion raises questions on who can be held liable for personal injuries resulting from 3D printed products or 3D printing itself.
What Is 3D Printing?
With 3D printing, a digital 3D model produces a real, tangible, physical object. The software is connected to a 3D printer which creates the product by “printing” it in accordance with the software design. While most printers we are familiar with print using ink on paper, 3D printers print using a variety of materials layered on top of each other, like plastic and metal.
What Are 3D Printers Being Used For?
3D printers are currently being used for a wide variety of purposes. Some of them have built houses. Others are designed to print food. Work is underway to design a 3D printer capable of printing human organs. According to a recent survey, about two-thirds of U.S. manufacturers have adopted 3D printing in some way.
What Are the Risks Associated With 3D Printers?
Many of the risks associated with 3D printers are those already associated with existing products liability issues. First, there is the risk that an object printed by a 3D printer will cause an injury to the person who printed it, or to someone other than the person who printed it. Next, there is the risk that the 3D printer itself will injure the person using it.
In products liability suits, products can be defective either because of the way they are designed or because they were manufactured in a way contrary to the way they were designed. The same risks are present with 3D printers and the products they make: a 3D printed product could be defective because the individual who designed the product designed it in a way that it posed an unforeseeable risk of harm to the user, or it could be defective because there was a problem with the printing process that resulted in a product which does not comport to the design specification.
Finally, one of the biggest current risks associated with 3D printing is the lack of safety standards and guidelines associated with 3D printing. Without these standards and guidelines, the potential for individuals to become injured as a result of using 3D printers is significant.
3D Printing and Proximate Cause
Another concern which will be raised by 3D printing cases is whether the product was the “proximate cause” of the harm. Proximate cause means a cause that is sufficiently related to the injury such that it is the cause of the injury. With 3D printing, there are multiple points at which a defect that produces an injury can occur, including the building of the printer, designing of the software, the printing of the object, or misuse of the object.
Questions About 3D Printing Injuries?
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury related to 3D printing, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Scaffidi & Associates today. Their knowledge of products liability issues is extensive, and they will help you determine what your options are and work with you to secure a result that helps you live a full life.
Posted in: Personal Injury Law