Manufacturing Consumer Protection for 3-D Printed Products

Additive manufacturing, also known as “3-D printing,” is an exciting technology with the potential to revolutionize a host of industries and transform the ways in which products reach consumers. Products printed using this 3-D technology raise a number of legal and policy issues, particularly in the realm of products liability law. Despite that, this Note argues that slow-moving legislation will likely be the least effective means to address this rapidly changing industry. The reasons for rejecting a legislative approach to the 3-D printing industry are three-fold: (1) government regulation goes against the open-source spirit of the 3-D printing industry; (2) the industry is equipped to develop innovative solutions for many of its own legal and regulatory problems; and (3) when legal issues do arise that require litigation, courts are better equipped to resolve those issues on a case-by-case basis. When regulation is necessary, administrative rulemaking should be preferred over comprehensive legislation because the rulemaking process requires extensive industry involvement through the notice and comment process, and agencies are more quickly able to amend and issue new rules to address changing technology.