3D printing—more formally known as “additive manufacturing”—is quickly advancing from novelty into mainstream commercial use. Both construction and government contracting industries are quickly embracing the technology, forging beyond the neon green Yoda heads and other 3D printed knickknacks of yesterday.
The “printing” in 3D printing typically occurs as a 3D printer reads a computer-aided design and disperses materials, such as plastic, metal, rubber, or ceramic, from a nozzle onto a base like traditional printer’s ink leaving a cartridge for paper. In another 3D printing process, a laser directs thermal energy onto a bed of powder, fusing the powder to create a layer. The base of a 3D printer lowers incrementally to make room for each subsequent layer until the object is complete. In its many different processes, 3D printing and additive manufacturing allow manufacturers to produce complex products and designs more efficiently with less waste and cost, and often with higher quality and durability.
Construction companies are pioneering 3D printed processes and concrete mixtures to print multilevel freestanding vertical structures, harness complex interfaces, and test structural integrity. Construction companies are researching delivery of concrete from 3D printing robotic arms and gantry systems, as well as the labor implications and effects on the overall supply chain.
Government contractors and federal agencies are predominantly using the technology to improve the accessibility and quality of technologically sophisticated machine parts. Contractors have recently created, for example, fully functional aerospace parts that are more durable, lighter, and require less time to create compared to their traditionally manufactured counterparts.
As 3D printing evolves, it creates new legal questions, such as how 3D printing affects building code regulations and permitting, product liability, labor and employment regulations, government contracts cost and pricing, cybersecurity, aviation parts certification regulations, counterfeit parts and intellectual property, ITAR requirements, and more.
Smith Pachter McWhorter combines its expertise in government contracts and construction law to counsel clients on all of these issues. Kelsey Wilbanks has been actively tracking and writing about the technology since 2013. She regularly presents at 3D printing and construction conferences and won a national legal writing award for an article discussing 3D printing patent law implications. Armani Vadiee also possess deep understanding of the intersection of 3D printing technology, government contracts, and construction law. From contract formation and counseling, to claims and liability evaluations, and more, Smith Pachter McWhorter’s 3D printing practice group has the knowledge and expertise to assist companies with any related issue.
Contact: Kelsey L. Wilbanks