The news that include 3D printing have been quite popular lately and here is why. It is surely no coincidence that now, as 3D printing is getting more popular, the price of such technological advantage is going down. 3D printing is finally being discussed as the affordable procedure that it is in fact due to the expiration of the patents that were issued in the 1980s, when this technology was first discovered.
Although all those that were interested in obtaining a 3D printing pattern did not stop applying for patents, and moreover, several patent wars have been started since, the discussions were no longer at stake, until the expiration of the first patents released in the beginning. One of the greatest 3D printing battles, between 3D Systems and Formlabs is finally coming to an end, after 2 years.
The war was all about 3D Systems originally suing Formlabs over eight patents that have been granted back in the 1990s. All of them covered various parts of the stereolithographic process that is used in 3D printing – more exactly, the part where a laser is used to cure liquid plastic. The idea was that, as Formlabs was moving very quickly, they set the base for the desktop SLA market in no time. The inventor of SLA printing, 3D Systems, attacked Formlabs as a consequence. This is how the battle began.
All 3D printing startups have since experienced some kind of battle or war premises since then. Patents have been a very complex situation to deal with, especially since most of these startups have begun as open source projects. As the 3D technology was developed, less and less of them cared more about providing makers with machines than making money.
3D printing wars
Some of the most aggressive are 3D Systems and Stratasys. Both f them have been starting several trials in the last years, against various other startups developing 3D printing technology. Whoever wins, the expiration of these patents will surely start leveling the playground at some point, to let the game begin.