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3D-Printed Guns

August 11, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,legal — Terry Wohlers @ 05:29

With the “green light” looming for the 3D printing of guns on July 31, I was contacted by CNN, ABC7 News (San Francisco), and others. In two days, I conducted the following interviews, as well as two others:

I’m hopeful the interviews will help to educate our nation’s policy makers and the less-informed public on the realities of 3D-printed guns. Making it legal is not a good idea on a number of levels. First and foremost, it’s just plain dangerous. In 2013, soon after the idea of plastic 3D-printed guns was introduced, the Australian police 3D-printed two of them. When fired, both exploded. Watch the video.

Second, the 3D printing of guns sidesteps background checks and a registration process, making it impossible to track the firearms and their owners. And third, it is possible to 3D print the parts of a gun and then assemble them on the other side of security, whether it’s at a government office, sports arena, airport, or somewhere else. The individual plastic pieces would not resemble the parts of gun and may not be detected when being scanned.

In the afternoon of July 31, a Seattle judge granted a temporary restraining order to block the release of the files of guns on the Internet. A day earlier, eight states and the District of Columbia sued to block the publication of the files. The bottom line: the 3D printing of guns is a bad idea.

Spear Phishing

March 13, 2016

Filed under: Internet,legal,life — Terry Wohlers @ 08:11

Phishing is the use of email to capture usernames, passwords, credit card or bank details, and other information, for malicious reasons. The email gives the appearance that it’s from a person or organization you know, hoping that you will click a link in the email or open an attachment. You have probably received one or more of these emails, so I hope you have not fallen victim to any of them.


Spear phishing is similar, but takes the concept to another level. The email may open up by saying, “Terry, I’m sorry I missed you at last week’s event in Los Angeles. I wanted to show you the following,” with a link waiting for you to click. Alternatively, it might ask you to open an attached file. The email may include other personal details, leading you to believe it is person in your field or a friend. Due to this personalization, a percentage of people will fall for the trick and click on the link or open the file. The consequences can be dire.

My advice is to question all emails. If you receive an unexpected email like the one above, reply with a question that a stranger could not answer. For example, say, “I want to validate the authenticity of your email, so can you say what I was wearing that day?” Whatever you choose to ask, make it impossible to answer, unless the person is genuine. The bottom line: be careful because phishing and spear phishing can cause significant damage.

Our Predictions for 2014

January 17, 2014

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,legal — Terry Wohlers @ 09:11

We have created a long list of predictions related to additive manufacturing and 3-D printing. The following are six of them, which were first published by IndustryWeek in an article titled “Technology: What’s Next for 3-D Printing?”

A Wave of Investment: Interest among the investment community will continue through 2014. A new wave of investment will come from individuals, governments at all levels, and educational institutions. Some of the largest investments will be made by the private sector, including large corporations that are new to 3-D printing.

New IPOs: A number of privately owned 3-D printing companies will transform their growth and development through an initial public offering. Timing could not be better due to unprecedented interest in the technology and strengthened economic conditions.

More Talk, More Action: More conferences, workshops, seminars, and expositions will be launched in 2014—even more than in 2013, which set an all-time record.

3-D Printing on Trial: The legal professional will cash in on potential patent infringement related to 3-D printing. We will also see the first wave of litigation associated with legal liability. It will come about as 3-D-printed products are designed by nonprofessionals and their failures cause damage, injury, or worse.

The Hype Goes On: The hype will continue, but as the industry matures in the eyes of the general public, writers, editors, and readers will demand reporting that is based on fact and includes accurate detail on the real problems and challenges associated with the technology.

China Makes a Move: As patents expire, lower-cost laser sintering systems will develop. At least one Chinese manufacturer will test the waters by selling laser sintering products internationally.

Corporate Litigation

April 11, 2008

Filed under: legal,manufacturing,money — Terry Wohlers @ 13:12

Can you believe it? Ninety-one percent of our nation’s manufacturing companies were involved in one or more new lawsuits in 2007, according to Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, a law firm in Houston, Texas. The report, published in the January 2008 issue of Manufacturing Engineering, went on to say that 56% of these companies encountered more than 20 new lawsuits in 2007. A depressing 70% of them spend $1 million or more per year on business disputes.

I am in full support of protecting intellectual property and upholding legal contracts. However, many companies have developed a culture of litigation. Rather than considering every possible alternative, companies are quick to throw a team of lawyers at the problem. Once that happens, costs skyrocket and there’s often no end in sight.

What’s it going to take to ease this problem? The money and other company resources that are spent on litigation could be used to design and manufacture better products and improve customer support. If you have ideas, I’d like to hear from you.

Why Lawyers Get Rich

February 6, 2006

Filed under: legal,life,money — Terry Wohlers @ 14:46

This is the title of a short article published in the December 2005 issue of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Let me begin by saying that I have lawyer friends, including one that I count as among my best. I support our legal system in the U.S. and thank God we have it. Also, in no way do I oppose enterprising individuals and companies that create wealth in a legal and ethical fashion. Now, for the facts, according to the article.

Eight-seven percent of U.S. corporations are engaged in some type of litigation. An average company is juggling 37 lawsuits, while corporations with revenues of $1 billion or more are dealing with 147 at any given time. The article goes on to say that these organizations are spending staggering amounts of money and other company resources on business disputes. Many of them are unable to predict the cost of managing them, so spending soars.

I’m not a legal expert, but I do know that litigation is necessary in some cases. One needs to protect investments in intellectual property, the rights written into agreements, and so on. However, people in business are often quick—too quick, in my opinion—to file lawsuits when alternative methods may be effective and far less expensive. For example, I know of an instance where a simple phone call from one CEO to another solved a problem—one that would have otherwise turned into expensive litigation. Lawsuits often result in years of pouring money down a legal drain and the lawyers are grinning from ear to ear all the way to the bank.

Design and manufacturing organizations in the U.S. need good lawyers, but they also need good engineering and manufacturing professionals. A lot has been published recently on the impressive number of engineers that are graduating in China and India, compared to U.S. schools. Many of the best students in these countries are concentrating on engineering, while ours are pursuing careers in law and other areas. Law, medicine, banking, and advertising, as well as many other professions, are all incredibly important to a community, but they do not contribute to the wealth of a nation. Manufacturing creates wealth. Litigation does not, and it can drain the resources of an otherwise prosperous company.

3D Systems vs. Stratasys and Objet

November 29, 2004

Filed under: additive manufacturing,legal — Terry Wohlers @ 19:12

Form 10-Q, published on November 9, 2004 by Stratasys, states that 3D Systems, Inc. filed a lawsuit against Stratasys, Inc. and Objet Geometries Ltd. in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. It alleges that certain PolyJet products that Stratasys distributes on behalf of Objet infringe 3D Systems’ patent rights. 3D Systems is seeking unspecified damages and an injunction against the sale of the allegedly infringing products, the 10-Q explains.

The complaint in the action was served on November 2, 2004, and Stratasys is currently evaluating the case. Upon preliminary review of the complaint, Stratasys believes that the action is without merit and intents to vigorously defend it, the 10-Q states. Under the North American Distributor Agreement with Objet, the company is obligated to defend the action on Stratasys’ behalf and to indemnify Stratasys against any damages arising from the action. The 10-Q goes on to say that Stratasys expects to participate in the defense at its own expense as permitted by the Distributor Agreement.

The timing of this lawsuit is interesting. Earlier this year, 3D Systems had settled all worldwide disputes and litigation with EOS GmbH of Germany. Subsequently, 3D had announced settlements with Regent Pacific Management Corp. and Hitachi Zosen, as well as a dismissal of the Aaroflex litigation. It appeared as though the company was finally ending its string of lawsuits and expensive litigation. See the August 2003 commentary titled Eight Lawsuits between 3D and EOS, the January 2004 commentary titled Chief Executive is Good for 3D Systems, and the February 2004 commentary titled A Milestone for the Industry. The September 2003 commentary titled Stratasys and Objet get Cozy may also provide some useful background information. 

It’s anyone’s guess as to how much cash 3D Systems and Stratasys will burn through—money that would otherwise be spent on R&D and market development. History shows that it’s usually many millions of dollars. Stay tuned.

Eight Lawsuits between 3D and EOS

August 23, 2003

Filed under: additive manufacturing,legal — Terry Wohlers @ 11:36

It’s no secret that there’s bad blood between 3D Systems and German competitor EOS. What most people don’t know is that there are eight active lawsuits between the two companies. That’s right, eight of them! Patent lawsuits were filed in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the U.S. 3D Systems and EOS also have two contract disputes underway.

The patent litigation in the U.S. is an order of magnitude more expensive than in other countries. One of these lawsuits could be the kiss of death for either company. I’m in favor of protecting intellectual property, but why can’t these two companies seek an alternative to dropping cash into a black hole that neither can afford? If they could find a way to cooperate at some level, it would turn a lose-lose situation into a win-win for both companies.

Many years ago, an RP system manufacturer in the U.S. was faced with a probable lawsuit that would have been a major distraction and financial drain on the company. Instead, the company was able to trade rights to patents for company stock and everyone was happy in the end. More recently, I spoke with the CEO of a software company that was facing a similar situation. An advisor recommended to the CEO that they immediately take legal action for patent infringement. Instead, the CEO picked up the phone, and in 15 minutes, had worked a deal with the competitor, and everyone was satisfied. 

My advise to 3D Systems and EOS: Set aside the boxing gloves and use precious company resources in a way that benefits your customers. If you do not, you risk paying the ultimate price and everyone will lose.

Change at the Top was Overdue

August 18, 2003

Filed under: additive manufacturing,legal — Terry Wohlers @ 07:46

Last week, 3D Systems announced that Brian Service had stepped down from his position as CEO of the company. For much of Service’s tenure, the company had struggled. Among the problems and challenges: The acquisition of DTM with active involvement from the U.S. Department of Justice; a host of lawsuits; a company reorganization; arbitration with Vantico; a potential NASDAQ delisting; an extensive investigation of accounting practices at the company; numerous layoffs; and a string of losing quarters. 

It’s unclear what took so long for 3D’s Board of Directors to make adjustments to the company’s top management. In April, CFO James Selzer, was terminated. In May, accountant Grant Flaharty agreed to step down from his position as president and COO. Subsequently, he was put in charge of sales for the Americas. Kevin McAlea, a former DTM vice president, has since been promoted to a senior position in charge of marketing and sales worldwide. With Kevin’s strong product and customer focus, this was a good move by the company.

Meanwhile, Brian Service will continue employment with 3D System for two more years. His job will be to “assist with various clients and transactions,” according to the Form 10-Q filed on August 11. His payment: Almost $0.5 million.

The Battle has Begun

March 3, 2003

Filed under: additive manufacturing,legal — Terry Wohlers @ 12:11

3D Systems announced today that it has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court against German company EOS GmbH. Its purpose, according to the announcement, is to stop the sale of laser sintering machines from EOS inside the U.S. EOS recently sold two of its machines to companies in the U.S. Friction between the two companies has been at a boiling point for years. 

In the announcement, 3D Systems said that the EOS machines are based on inventions developed, patented, and exclusively licensed by the University of Texas at Austin to 3D Systems. Meanwhile, EOS believes that it has the right to sell its machines in the U.S. because of an agreement with 3D Systems in 1997. That year, 3D acquired the EOS stereolithography business, paid the company $3.25 million, and granted EOS exclusive licenses to 3D’s patents relating to laser sintering.

As with most disputes, both parties believe they are right. It’s likely that a large amount of company time and money will be spent on the litigation—resources that would otherwise be focused on product and market development. Neither company has extra cash or employee time to burn, so in the end, it will be the customers that lose.