1. Evaluate the strategic benefits that 3D printing could bring to your business through increased agility and reduced product development time scales.
2. Secure your data both internally and externally. If you need to share designs with third parties, use geometrical models viewed through web based viewers. This means that you can avoid sending sensitive design files which can be rapidly disseminated and easily exploited through 3D printing.
3. For added security, invest in your own 3D printing capability to print prototype designs in-house.
4.Technology is constantly changing and advancements may overtake your current development and protection strategies. Keep up to date with changes in the industry to avoid this happening to you.
5. Set up as many barriers as possible to prevent the copying of your products. Remember to follow tried and trusted strategies to protect IP, such as design rights, patents and trade marks.
6. Place greater emphasis on determining which parts of your products may need their own individual protection.
7. If you are allowing customers or suppliers to 3D print finished parts of your own design, consider posting them on a site where distribution is controlled. You must have strict contractual terms agreed between you and the 3D printing bureau to give you added protection in case of any lost data, IP infringement or other legal liability.
8. If making production parts, ensure that you have appropriate control of processes within your organisation and with any sub-contractors you may use.
9. When making production parts, look to protect the process, not just the shape of the parts. Get advice to ensure the most important aspects of your products are properly protected. Don’t forget to look at our earlier report on protecting intellectual property.
10. As well as protecting the process used to create products, think about protecting the materials being used and how important they are. This may be through IP or an exclusive contractual agreement with the supplier.