It won’t be long before people have a 3-D printer sitting at home alongside its old inkjet counterpart. These 3-D printers, some already costing less than a computer did in 1999, can print objects by spraying layers of plastic, metal or ceramics into shapes. People can download plans for an object, hit print, and a few minutes later have it in their hands.
Call it the Industrial Revolution 2.0. Not only will it change the nature of manufacturing, but it will further challenge our concept of ownership and copyright. Suppose you covet a lovely new mug at a friend’s house. So you snap a few pictures of it. Software renders those photos into designs that you use to print copies of the mug on your home 3-D printers.
For now, most 3-D printers seem to make items out of plastic, but it’s certainly not out of the question to use other kinds of materials.
Says Gordon: “If this technology gets advanced enough, with a few images, a consumer could stitch together a perfect replica of a ring in wax. And there would be plenty of jewelers who’d be happy to just take the money and make that copy. The copyright implications could be huge.”