Is 3D Printing a Business Risk?

Just when you thought you had all of your business insurance ducks in a row, along comes 3D printing. This latest technology, straight out of a sci-fi movie, lets you create actual objects, fully dimensional right in your office.

Why is this a concern to businesses? New technology always brings with it the unknown, which leaves insurers scrambling to figure out the accompanying risks and to arrange coverage for it. These can include health hazards, damage to the environment, as well as copyright issues. And with all mechanical contraptions, there exists the chance of bodily harm.

A Look at the Negative

Depending on how you look at it, 3D can rapidly go from sci-fi to a thriller on the dark side. On the plus side, 3D printing offers amazing opportunities:

  • Reduced transportation costs.
  • Lessen the impact on the environment.
  • Reduce waste.
  • Make it easier for the little guy to compete and not depend so much on big corporations.

But it has problems. Here is a look at six.

#1. They use a lot of energy.

A 3D printer uses 50 to 100 times as much energy to make a comparable object than the process of injection molding does. They are perfect for small batches, but murder on the environment for quantity production.

#2. They emit toxins.

The emissions that 3D printers send out are similar to those from burning a cigarette. The particles it sends out can settle in the lungs and the bloodstream, posing a serious risk to the health of those in the same office space. It is especially bad for people with asthma.

#3. It uses plastics.

A major effort of the environmental movement has been to reduce the use of plastic. But 3D printers, at least the most affordable and most popular models, use plastic filament. Its byproduct goes to the landfill.

#4. There are intellectual property concerns.

3D printing is changing the way promotional products are handled, opening up a huge black market. Licensing for toys like The Hobbit, Harry Potter and others are lost to small marketers with 3D printers. The digital piracy issues are causing concern.

#5. It’s a new way to get around gun control.

3D printers can make guns that work. The U.S. Undetectable Firearms Act has a loophole that makes 3D guns legal. It is causing deep concern among national security officials and law enforcement.

Protect yourself from risk with general liability insurance and intellectual property insurance.