People wonder about the legalities of 3D printing and whether it is illegal to 3D print a 3D printer or guns and knives. This article will answer some legal questions about 3D printers and 3D prints.
Read through this article for some in-depth information about 3D printing laws and interesting facts around it.
Is it Legal to 3D Print a 3D Printer?
Yes, it is legal to 3D print a 3D printer. There are no laws against 3D printing a 3D printer. You’ll need to 3D printer the parts separately then attach them together, either using superglue, or having a snap fit design that fits together with some manual force.
There are downloadable files online that can help you 3D print a 3D printer and they don’t have any legal binding on downloading them.
You’ll still have to purchase specific parts that can’t be 3D printed such as belts, motors, the mainboard, and more.
I wrote an article called Can You 3D Print a 3D Printer? How To Actually Do It, which has a few DIY 3D printer designs that you can create yourself.
The Snappy Reprap V3.0 can be found on Thingiverse. Below are some of the “Makes” of this DIY machine.
Check out the Snappy 3D Printer video below.
Are 3D Printing Legos Illegal?
3D printing Lego bricks is not illegal but could be illegal if you try to sell or pass them off as Legos pieces as this will be an infringement on the trademark.
As long as you don’t claim that they are true Legos, then you are somewhat safe. There are some companies that 3D print custom parts that are not considered illegal. Notwithstanding, a 3D printer cannot print the tiny lettering of the Lego logo so you may not be able to 3D print Legos that can easily pass off as Legos.
Lego is a brand and not so much the brick so the most important thing is that you don’t put Lego’s name on your 3D printed brick parts or bricks.
Even if you 3D print Lego-looking bricks, you are good if you don’t claim that the prints are made by the company or that your product is endorsed by Legos unless excused or permitted by the company.
Check out this Customizable LEGO-Compatible Brick on Thingiverse. It has several remixes of customized models that other users have made, and you can download the actual file itself, which includes a .scad design file.
Is a 3D Printed Knife Illegal?
No, it is not illegal to 3D print a knife since knives are legal objects. Many 3D printer users have 3D printed like letter openers, flip knives, a balisong without legal issues. Avoid patented or trademark knives since it can infringe on their brand. Be careful with taking them in public depending on your local laws.
While there is no law against 3D printed knives, there are some libraries that have 3D printer access will classify 3D printed knives as a weapon, which is prohibited.
A 3D printing library once had a teenage boy 3D print a 3” knife which could inflict a puncture if handled with force, The library disallowed the boy from picking up the 3D printed knife as it was classified as a weapon.
When the parent of the boy assumed that it was an age-related issue and called to pick up the knife, they had to let them know that it was not an age-related issue and that the print was classified as a weapon.
The policy of the library at the time was that all 3D prints could be vetoed at the discretion of the library staff. After the incident, they had to update their policy to incorporate the prohibition of 3D printed weapons.
If you’re looking to 3D print a knife in a public library, you may also want to check their policy on 3D printing weapons or knives.
Check out the video below for a cool video on 3D printed knives and tools.
The video below shows the process of 3D printing a knife and seeing whether it would actually cut paper.
Is It Illegal to 3D Print Guns?
It can be illegal to 3D print guns depending on your location. You should refer to your country’s laws to see if it is legal to 3D print them. One London student was convicted for 3D printing a gun, but the laws are different in America. 3D printed guns should go off in a metal detector to satisfy federal laws.
It is not illegal to 3D print guns at home for legal use depending on your location and countries’ laws. However, it is illegal to sell these 3D printed guns. There is a federal law that makes illegal any gun that does not go off in pass-through metal detectors which includes plastic 3D printed guns.
Users are asked to insert a piece of metal in these types of guns to make them detectable.
3D printed guns don’t require serial numbers so they may not be traceable by law enforcement. Also, 3D printers themselves don’t require that you pass a background check before you produce a gun part by part.
This is why 3D printed gun owners are required to meet certain requirements for detectability.
A license is not required to manufacture guns for personal use but you’d require a license to distribute or sell them.
This also depends on the country or state in which you are. Different states have additional laws regulating 3D printed guns. While some states may issue a serial number for 3D printed guns, others may only require that the manufacturer keeps a log of their serial number.
You may also want to find out if there are some additional regulations or laws around 3D printed guns to not go against the law.
In the United Kingdom, the Firearms Act 1968 bans the manufacturing of guns or their parts without government approval and this includes 3D printed guns.
Is it Illegal to 3D Print a Suppressor or Lower?
It is not illegal to 3D print a suppressor or lower receiver in most cases depending on state laws. The ATF only requires that there is a metal component that will make it detectable as a gun or firearm part.
Owners are also expected to obtain a serial number for manufacturing a suppressor or lower receiver since they are both categorized as part of a firearm. Especially if they are looking to sell or gift the component.
Do double-check the laws of your state or country on this.
What is Illegal to 3D Print?
This is subject to the laws guiding 3D printed parts in a particular state. However, it is illegal to 3D print;
- Patented Objects
Printing items with a patent on them is illegal as you may face the possibility of being sued for 3D printing them. Since the items have patents on them, you are not licensed to reproduce them without approval from the owner.
You may have to be careful with patented objects by ensuring that whatever you’re 3D printing is not someone else’s innovation or creation. If you are looking to print a patented item, you may have to seek permission and most probably do some paperwork before being permitted to 3D print them.
It’s possible to get around this by making significant changes to the object you are printing which doesn’t fit into the exact patent or trademark of the object. An example would be the Customizable LEGO-Compatible Brick from Thingiverse as mentioned above.
3D printing assault weapons such as guns or firearms are not regulated in some states, and it is legal to print guns as long as it’s for personal use and they have metal components to make them detectable.
With the continued advancement in 3D printing, it is possible that what is legal or illegal to 3D print may change.
So, you should constantly look out to be sure that what you’re 3D printing is legal to print, especially if it has some controversies around it.