Personal 3D printing has seen leaps in advancement in recent years, allowing users to render increasingly sophisticated creations from the comfort of their own home. These creations can include anything from gaming miniatures to medical devices, often for pennies on the dollar. With these advancements, however, comes a growing need for intellectual property owners to actively protect their property through trademark and copyright registrations.
To provide a general overview, modern 3D printing typically begins with the creation of an “STL,” a computer file containing information on the model to be printed. This model can be sculpted via computer aided design (“CAD”) software. 3D scanners, which can provide three-dimensional scans of existing physical objects, can also provide a foundation for shaping realistically sculpted CAD models. For example, a sculptor looking to print a miniature of their favorite sports car may scan a toy model to work on in CAD rather than recreate every detail from scratch. The CAD model is then exported into an STL file. “Slicing” software then converts the STL into instructions for the 3D printer to create the actual model. This is done by stacking thousands of thin layers of the printing material, often plastic or resin, atop each other until the particular component is complete—much like how a stack of paper can form a cube, but molded into virtually any shape imaginable. Users can then easily share these STLs online, including through a variety of popular sites that make such files available for free or for purchase.