Disney has filed a patent for a “3D printing method for printing three dimensional (3D) objects that are difficult to copy by use of a 3D scanner and 3D printer”. While the idea is not overly complex – it is mostly a matter of using materials which are difficult to be picked up by the 3D scanner’s cameras – it shows how far 3D printing has come in terms of a potential production method for consumer products – with all the issues, such as copyright, IP and 3D scanning protection, that follow.
The 3D scan-protection 3D printer is a basic extrusion (FFF) system which includes a print head with an extrusion nozzle with a heated portion and a print bed with a surface for receiving material extruded from the extrusion nozzle. The printer includes a print material supply spool loaded with an anti-scanning filament. The method includes operating the print head to draw the anti-scanning filament into the heated portion for heating and to extrude the heated filament from the extrusion nozzle to form a 3D object.
The printed 3D object includes one or more scan protected exterior surfaces on at least one element of the 3D object. The scan protected exterior surfaces are either light absorbing or reflect light in unconventional directions. The anti-scanning filament is a plastic mixed with an anti-scanning additive such as a retroreflective material.
You can download and view the full patent here: Patent_US20170151715A1
Particualrly significant is the fact that Disney takes into consideration 3D printing both as a method for production and for potential product piracy. Since the production method considered is basic desktop extrusion it seems that the company is at least considering the idea of selling digital models of its characters that consumers can 3D print at home – using only its patented system.
It would seem logical that for products 3D printed internally on mass production capable systems (such as MultiJet Fusion) a similar 3D scan protection should be applied. What is clear is that if and when this will happen the issues surrounding product IP protection will multiply.