Jos de Mul. From open design to metadesign. Keynote lecture at the international conference 3D printing: destiny, doom or dream? eLaw@Leiden, Leiden University, 14 and 15 N0vember, 2013.
In recent years 3D printing has become a hot topic in the media, in industry and in academia. Some claim that 3D printing will enable us to print, rather than buy, all of the products we normally obtain from stores – from clothing and automobile parts to different foods and jewelry. Moreover, with 3D printing we may in the future be able to print organs and tissues, and hence alleviate or solve the suffering of those in need of transplants. With solutions to pressing problems ranging from organ shortages to reducing our environmental footprint through less waste, less transport costs, to more innovation, creativity and personalization some argue that 3D printing is a heavenly destiny indeed.
At the same time, however, there are also critical voices to be heard. First and foremost, while 3D printing has been on the market for some decades now, the public at large has yet to get to know it in practice, let alone to adopt it for their personal production purposes. Techniques and technologies for 3D printing have developed drastically over time, but the mass deployment of this technology is only just picking up momentum. Moreover, research and development with respect to the applications mentioned above – printing your own food or a new organ – are still in their infancy and will probably take decades to come to maturity. These points have led critics to suggest that the big dreams behind 3D printing may turn out to be the hallucinations of a hyped-up new prospect, forever receding over the horizon.
Finally, 3D printing raises serious social, ethical, regulatory and legal questions. If individuals can print anything they want, how are we going to solve issues of, for example, gun control or intellectual property infringement? What will be the effects of home-printed goods and foods on our economy, on the transport sector, on the worldwide hunt for scarce resources? Does this new technology need regulation, and if so, how will we regulate it, and with which purposes? What is the effect of a level playing field for producing goods on innovation and creativity?
These and many other question will be addressed during the two-day international, multidisciplinary conference ‘3D printing: destiny, doom or dream?, which will take place on 14 and 15 November 2013 at Leiden University’s Law School in the Netherlands. This conference is organised by eLaw, the Centre for Law in the Information Society, and is part of its biannual conference series.