With the increasing demand and competition, many 3D Print designers have found themselves in situations where their designs get used for unauthorized purposes. It is time to put a stop to it now and get credit where credit is due. In this episode, Tom and Tracy Hazzard discuss how you can control your design for 3D Printing, especially with how many can be made. The good news is technology is changing in your favor. Find out the ways you can protect yourself and your designs and, at the same time, make money off of it, just as you should.
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Can I Control How Many 3D Prints Are Made?
We’ve got a question about controlling your design for 3D printing. Can I control how many prints are made of my design?
I love that because you’re showing a lot of confidence in your design, which is great. You think people are going to be out there downloading it left and right, wanting to share it, sell it, whatever. That’s fantastic, but you ought to make money off of it. You ought to be able to control who prints that and who gets to make money off of it. It should be you because you put a lot of time and hours in your designs. We know 100 to 200 hours is not uncommon for any 3D print design.
There are some options you have for how to try to control that.
We’re trying to get on the podcast sometime on 3DPrinterOS, which has a streaming system for pay per print.
That’s the safest way to control your design. What 3DPrinterOS is doing as we understand from a couple of other people we’ve interviewed in the industry, you put up a file and their software on the back end will do the slicing for different 3D printers. Instead of people downloading just an STL file that they print on their printer, they stream the file down to their printer already with all the settings to run on their printer. That does a few things that are good. It makes it so that the file is already optimized to run on your printer. You’re probably going to have a more successful print right off the bat. More importantly for you as the designer, they’re streaming a print. They’re paying per print. They’re not getting an STL file that they can then do anything else with.
I understand there’s an API feedback loop, which tells them whether or not it was a successful print. That happens sometimes. Your printer jams or the filament jams. It’s not like you’re paying multiples if you’re on the receiving end of it. You’re paying for a successful print. There is no feedback loop for whether or not it’s quality or the prints are any good looking when you get it done. It just successfully printed. It’s up to that download person to come back and give feedback.
That feedback loop is important so that future prints are optimized even more.
That is a way to track how many are made. The reality is that when an STL file is out there, it’s out of your control. That happens with any design though. Our products out there selling at Target or Walmart or Costco and any Asian manufacturer can go in and knock it off. We see it happen all the time so it’s going to happen.
With 3D printing, it’s a lot easier if you have a 3D model to reproduce it. At least for Asian competition in a store, they have to buy the product, send it over to Asia, study it, reverse engineer it and tool for it in order to make it. 3D printing makes the problem a lot more clear and it’s also a much bigger concern.
At the same time, you can’t worry about it. If you have a great design, you’re going to become known for that. They can duplicate that exact design, but they can’t do what you’re going to do next. As a designer, you can’t let that hold you back.
We have to be clear that if you’re uploading an STL file to any one of the number of sites out there that are file libraries, that are sharing whether for free or for a fee. Your file, once they download it, it is out of your control. You definitely want to state what your license guidelines or your rules are that you’re establishing for that file. You have the choice to establish whether it can be used for commercial purposes or not.
Many sites are employing creative commons. Some are even going farther than that and have some other more non-commercial, non-derivative terms. You need to state it because if you want to have that file, let’s say you have your file up on Pinshape, but somebody posts it up on Thingiverse just smaller. You have a right to send a notice into Thingiverse and say, “I didn’t allow that. No derivatives are allowed. Please take this down.” They have to comply based on Digital Rights Management.
They will respect that and pull it down.
They’re supposed to and I’ve heard they are maybe a little overzealous in how quickly they take things down.
This is a hot button issue. This is not the last we’re going to talk about it or last you’re going to hear about it elsewhere in the media. This whole intellectual property copyright issue protecting your designs is a big issue.
At the same time, this market needs to move and design is going to bring it that way. We can’t let that hold us back as designers. It’s been one of the things that’s been resonating in my mind. There are enough mechanisms out there between the Digital Rights Management, Creative Commons and the streaming paper print model for us to say, “It’s okay, it’s safe enough to dive in.” Let’s just see where it’s going to go because the best thing I can do is keep getting more and more designers under our belts and getting better designs out there. Those that are taking your design files and copying them are not gaining that knowledge and are not going to grow as fast as you are. That’s more valuable at the end of the day than worrying about whether or not I’m going to make $1.50 off of a design that’s downloading.
I’m not going to sell mine for $1.50.
I hope this helps you. As always, we have the Ask Us Anything questions all the time, four days a week. We’d love for your questions, especially things that is around copyright, IP, design, anything 3D printing.
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