CAD Files and European Design Law
or x-rays. Hence, it reproduces a high-resolution
and accurate digital model of the scanned object
(“3D visualization”). Third, photogrammetry is a
valid alternative to 3D scanning. It is a photography
technique that uses software tools for stitching a
series of 2D photographs – taken from different
angles – together into a 3D model.
4 A CAD le can be saved in different formats, such as
the .stl format (“STereoLithography”) or the .amf
format (“Additive Manufacturing Format”). The .stl
format merely describes the surface geometry of a
three-dimensional object as a set of triangular faces,
whereas the .amf format is an XML-based format
inclusive of information about the volumetric
structure of the interior, composition, colour,
geometry and material.
At a second stage, CAD les need to be processed,
in order to become printable. Hence, a (CAD or
scanned) 3D model has to be segmented into a
number of layers by specialized software, so-called
“Computer-Aided Manufacturing” software or
“slicer”. The latter generates a G-code for each layer,
which contains commands to tell the printer how to
manufacture the object3. The slicing programs are
usually included with the printer or available online
It emerges from the above considerations that three
consecutive steps have to be followed in an ordinary
3DP process: the creation of a virtual 3D model; the
deconstruction of the 3D model into a series of
slices (“slicing”), which are sent to the 3D printer
through a computer code; the nal print, consisting
in a layer-by-layer deposition of suitable materials.
3DP has gained a wider distribution among the
general public in recent years. The launch of Open
Source Hardware initiatives, such as the “Replicating
Rapid Prototyping” (“RepRap”) project5, together
with the expiration of a number of key patents on 3D
printing technologies, have contributed to a steady
improvement in the quality of personal 3D printers
and to a considerable reduction in hardware costs6.
The technology has, therefore, crossed over into
3 The CAD and CAM functions could also be integrated into a
single CAD/CAM program.
4 E.g. Slic3r, Cura and Skeinforge.
5 This project was launched by a research team at the
University of Bath. The idea was to create an open source
3D printer capable of reproducing its own spare parts. The
specications of the hardware (e.g. CAD les, mechanical
drawings, diagrams, etc.) were made freely available online
for anyone to use, modify and update. The RepRap project
could be realised because key patents, covering the fused
deposition modelling technique, had expired.
6 Before 2009 the cheapest personal 3D printer on the market
was offered for around €15.000. Today, the price for a
personal 3D printer ranges from €500 to € 2000.
the consumer sphere, with over 100,000 desktop 3D
printers having been sold so far7.
Furthermore, online platforms dedicated to the
dissemination of CAD les (“digital-design-le-
sharing”) have grown in popularity. These platforms
have contributed to the creation of a communication
infrastructure that is a powerful tool for co-creation.
They enable individuals to connect to a vast and
distributed network, where they can upload,
download, edit, remix, share or indeed sell a CAD
le, from which a 3D printed product will emerge.
Some recent studies, conducted by Rayna et
al.8, Moilanen et al.9, and Mendis et al.10, provide
examples of the diversity of existing 3DP platforms.
The latter include platforms, such as Thingiverse,
where users license their CAD les – rather than
selling them – under Creative Commons licences
(CC) or General Public Licence (GPL). By using CC
licences, the CAD le’s proprietor can withhold
certain rights (e.g. the right of attribution and the
right to make derivative works), and impose that
derivatives should be licensed under the same terms
as the licence of the original CAD le (the “Share
Alike” clause). Furthermore, the “Non Commercial
Use” clause restricts the possibility for the licensee
to use the CAD le for commercial purposes.
Other platforms, such as Cuboyo, offer paid
downloads to users’ CAD les (i.e. the 30% of the sale
price goes to the website, whereas the remaining
70% goes to the seller)
. Moreover, online platforms,
such as Shapeways and Sculpteo, offer printing and
delivery services on demand. Taking as an example
the architecture of Sculpteo, the 3DP process takes
place in the following way: individual users upload
their CAD les onto Sculpteo website; Sculpteo
automatically repairs any defect and optimizes the
digital blueprint, with its own 3D tools; then, it prints
the object and delivers it to costumers in nished
form, charging a price for its activities.
11 Whether personal 3DP will reach its full potential in
7 Mendis, Secchi, report commissioned by the UK Intellectual
Property Ofce, A Legal and Empirical Study of 3D Printing
Online Platforms and an Analysis of User Behaviour (March
2015), p. 2.
8 Ranya, Striukova, Darlington, Open Innovation, Co-Creation
and Mass Customisation: What Role for 3D Printing Platfroms?,
T. D. Brunoe et al. (eds.), Proceedings of the 7th World
Conference on Mass Customization, Personalization, and
Co-Creation (MCPC 2014), Aalborg, Springer (2014).
9 Moilanen, Daly, Lobato, Allen, Cultures of Sharing in 3D
Printing: What Can we Learn From the Licence Choices of
Thingiverse Users?, Journal of Peer Production (6), Disruption
and the Law (2015), available at: <http://papers.ssrn.com/
10 Supra note 7.
11 Moilanen et al. (2015), supra note 9, p. 4.