Patents

The scenario for 3D printing patents is as complex as one can imagine. Not only is 3D printing the most horizontal technology that exists, with specific patentable applications in just about every segment of manufacturing, but it also spans across multiple technology areas including mechanical (hardware), IT (software and automation) and material science. In addition, not only can 3D printing technologies be patented but also anything made with a 3D printer that was not made before (and most things have never been made before with a 3D printer). Finally, 3D printing can be used to easily copy patented (and copyrighted) products, adding more complexity to the legal landscape.


We all know that the success story of 3D printing officially began in 1984 when Charles W Hull applied for a patent for stereolithography. In 1989 S Scott Crump of Stratasys invented fused deposition modeling, which fuses material layer by layer until a 3D object is created. This style of additive manufacturing is what most people associate with 3D printing today. In 2009 the patent for fused deposition modeling expired and companies started to take a different approach by trying to sell to consumers instead of business to business. Together with the rise of Kickstarter, a perfect storm formed and hype around 3D printing in the early 2010s was born.


3d printing patents
Top 3 owners of 3D printing patents. Please consult the IPlytics report for the full list of the top 10 companies. Source credit: IPlytics.

Several patent experts have undertaken the challenge of trying to clarify the 3D printing patent landscape and how it is evolving. SmarTech Analysis just released a fully comprehensive interactive report that will enable companies to easily search for and identify previously released metal AM patents. The report is going to be released shortly so stay tuned. In the meantime, a great resource to start learning about 3D printing patents is this free report from Tech Insights. It dates back to 2013 – which is an eternity in 3D printing –  but it will give you a very detailed and full overview of everything that happened until then. More recently, German company IPlytics published a free report on the evolution of 3D printing patents and relative litigation.


This IPlytics report looks at additive manufacturing and 3D printing from an IP perspective, again demonstrating that 3D printing patents are on the rise. In order to identify 3D print-related patents, the IPlytics platform database performed an extensive keyword search of worldwide filed patents in the 3D-print technology field. The search was based on the patent’s content, making use of state-of-the-art stemming and semantic indexing methods. Between 2007 and 2019 the analysis identifies 95,302 patents and 43,718 patent families (unique patents in the INPADOC database) relevant for 3D printing. The report then goes on to identify the largest patent holders (spoiler: GE has the most, HP a close second) and the countries where the most 3D printing patents have been filed (spoiler: the US is first).


3D printing patents
The number of 3D printing patent applications filed per year (source credit: IPlytics)

One very interesting chart is the one that concerns litigation cases: between 2000 and 2018 there have been 155 litigation cases in the United States in the 3D printing field. IPlytics found that from the 155 litigated patents in 3D printing a total of 71 (45%) have been transferred (reassigned) at some point in time. By comparing the date of the first transfer with the date of the first litigation the IPlytics platform was used to assess the transfer timing before or after the litigation took place. It turned out that 80% of all patents that have been both litigated and transferred have changed owners before the litigation, with 22.5% doing so within the same year.


3D printing patents
3D printing patent litigation cases in the US (source credit: IPlytics)

Patenting is increasing sharply for 3D printing technologies. Further, 3D printing patents are increasingly transferred and litigated. Senior patent managers and patent directors involved in industries where 3D printing has an impact should constantly monitor this evolving situation. 3dpbm‘s AM Focus Patents intends to provide an updated patent landscape and an access point to the tools to help you do just that.

  • Desktop Metal has completed the qualification of Grade 420 stainless steel (420 SS) for use on the Production System platform, which leverages patent-pending Single Pass JettingTM (SPJ) technology for high throughput AM production. Manufacturers can now leverage SPJ technology for the mass production of high-strength, end-use parts in 420 SS…

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  • Tethon Corporation Inc. (Tethon 3D) announces issuance and publication of the company’s U.S. patent number 11,126,088 “Photopolymer Development Resin Base for Use with Three-dimensional Printer” on September 21, 2021. Genesis resins are used as a composite matrix to create materials for ceramic AM via stereolithographic processes. The patented product line…

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  • The Australian Patent Office has examined the Australian member of AML3D‘s International Patent Portfolio and has now granted the company an Australian patent for its Wire Additive Manufacturing (WAM) process. AML3D’s Australian patent provides coverage over the method and apparatus for manufacturing 3D metal parts. Key coverage items include the…

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  • Desktop Health, a service recently launched by Desktop Metal, received the Conformité Européenne (CE) Mark certification for its Flexcera resin, a proprietary technology for use in 3D fabrication of high-quality dental prosthetics. The CE Mark affirms that Flexcera resins meet the requirements of the European Medical Devices Directive, paving the…

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  • Global materials company Tethon Corporation (dba Tethon 3D), of Omaha Nebraska USA, received the US patent “Three-Dimensional Printed Objects with Optimized Particles for Sintering and Controlled Porosity”, for optimally sintering parts that 3D printed via photopolymerization processes of bound metal and bound ceramic slurries. The patent covers objects made from…

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  • NUBURU, a leader in high power blue laser technology, today announced that it has been awarded seven new blue laser IP patents, further demonstrating its dominant intellectual property portfolio in visible laser technology and its applications across 3D printing and material processing. NUBURU was awarded US Patent No. 10,562,132, No.…

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  • Postprocess support removal patent

    PostProcess Technologies Inc. has been granted another U.S. patent for its automated 3D printing post-processing solutions. This patent, U.S. Patent No. 10,737,440, pertains to the company’s support removal process, specifically its Submersed Vortex Cavitation (SVC) technology. The company’s SVC technology is one of its polymer support removal and resin removal…

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  • Sigma Labs PrintRite3D patents

    AM quality assurance software developer Sigma Labs has been granted two U.S. patents for its PrintRite3D software platform. The recently obtained patents expand the company’s intellectual property portfolio, making for a total of 11 issued patents and 24 pending patents. Sigma Labs’ PrintRite3D software enables manufacturers to detect defects that…

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  • Dimension Inx patent

    Chicago-based biofabrication company Dimension Inx has been granted a U.S. patent covering its 3D-Painting System, a platform built for designing and manufacturing next-gen biomaterials for organ and tissue repair and regeneration. The company says the patent issuance strengthens its position on the market by showcasing the differentiation of its biomaterials…

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  • FATHOM, an advanced manufacturer with extensive expertise in 3D printing and additive manufacturing was issued a United States Patent for the systems and methods powering its online digital manufacturing platform. The team also received its seventh consecutive ranking on the Inc 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies in America—only 1.5%…

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