3D printing policies and legislation to attract business to Finland

2/2015 5.5.2015
The Finnish e-market place Launzer.com and Kalevala Jewelry launched a 3D printed jewelry collection in January 2015. (Photo: Launzer.com)
The concept of AM dates back to the late 1970s, in fact, it is not until recently that the popularity of AM has largely spread.

The research project “Additive Manufacturing and Innovation: Technical, Economic, Legal, and Policy Related Aspects of Raising Technologies (AdManI)” is an international study that investigates fundamental questions related to intellectual property (IP) law, rising technologies (additive manufacturing), innovation, and policies. This joint research project, conducted at Hanken School of Economics, Aalto University, and University of Helsinki, will benefit from the involvement of top national and international academics, as well as some prominent Finnish companies, like Multiprint, Wärtsilä, DeskArtes, Kalevala Koru, and BOCO IP. The project is financed by Tekes.

Additive manufacturing (AM), more colloquially known as 3D printing, is a process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer, as opposed to subtractive manufacturing methodologies, such as machining (ASTM F2792 − 12a Standard Terminology for Additive Manufacturing Technologies). As such, AM is a revolutionary technology where products are “printed” instead of “manufactured”, which in itself radically changes the manufacturing business. 

Currently, AM is presented in popular press as a disruptive technology that has large potential to change the production in many industry fields in the future, spanning from automobile, to constructions, food, medical, toys, as well as many other areas. While the concept of AM dates back to the late 1970s, in fact, it is not until recently that the popularity of AM has largely spread, with manufacturing sectors increasingly beginning to embrace it. The large interest into 3D-printing is at least partially a result of developments occurred since about 2007. On the one hand, universities and hobbyists started to develop open-source controlled software (for example, RepRap and Fab@Home) and self-assembly kits for 3D printers, while, on the other, several patents on the core 3D printing technologies are beginning to expire. For example, US patent 5597589, Apparatus for producing parts by selective sintering, expired on 28.1.2014. Consequently, AM technology has become more affordable allowing consumers to even have 3D printers at home.

Did you know THAt…

… Chinese government will install 3D printer in each of its elementary schools? According to 3dprint.com there are approximately 400,000 elementary schools in China and an average desktop 3D printer costs 1000 USD so this input will add a big expense to the education budget.  Gartner predicts that 217,000 3D printers will ship this year and in 2016 that amount doubles but it seems that markets are growing more rapidly that has been estimated. The former MakerBot CEO Jenny Lawton points out that 3D printing begins to explode when full cycle of education has been exposed to the technology. It seems that China is taking care of that but nothing has been made available to the public about this ambitious plan. (IPRUC)


Indeed, this scenario attracts the attention of several new and old business operators triggered by the great potential new business opportunities that could arise from taking advantages of 3D printing at many different levels of quality and cost. On the one hand, AM has the potential to transform the manufacturing process globally, providing opportunities for new businesses and new job categories. On the other, however, businesses are sensitive to the policy and legal climate.

As AM is a comparatively new technology, most of the legal issues have not been mapped and analysed yet. Especially, 3D printing raises several concerns in the field of intellectual property (IP) law. For example, as AM might require data scanned from physical objects, ownership of the data for these “virtual objects” as well as sharing of these data may conflict with existing IP rights over the physical objects. Indeed, scholars have already speculated that these activities might lead to wide-scale IP infringements over the Internet in the near future. Moreover, the technology in this field is changing fast and there are still lots of uncertainties surrounding it.

If the technology does not mature, the market and business models surrounding the technology will likely to be affected by risks as well. Furthermore, even though AM might create a new platform for renewal of manufacturing it might also be disruptive especially for established companies. As such, this may motivate the established companies to leverage other market factors to maintain their market position and to block new entrepreneurs.

Certainly, any technological development goes hand-in-hand with the shaping of the law and the drawing of innovation policies. To this end, the laws and policies could be used as a competitive advantage in the competition between nations. By providing a throughout analysis of the technical, legal, economic, and policy related issues in the field of AM, the AdManI project will create a platform for wide-ranging opportunities for new industry sectors and business in Finland and Scandinavia, and will develop solid innovative and topical theories, as well as new practical tools for promoting renewal of manufacturing trough AM technology globally.

Dr. Rosa Maria Ballardini, Assistant Professor, Hanken School of Economics
Dr. Mika Salmi, Project Manager, Aalto University
Prof. Marcus Norrgård, University of Helsinki

Read more about the research project AdManI here

For more information, please contact:

Rosa Maria Ballardini
+358 40 352 1247       

Mika Salmi
+358 50 512 2746