3D Printing and Copyright Law: The Case of the Penrose Triangle

3D Printing and Copyright Law: The Case of the Penrose Triangle

3D Printing and Copyright Law

With the development of 3D scanners and printers, anyone who has access to this technology can accurately reproduce objects found in the real world. This has many far-reaching implications, some of which could lead to greater innovation, others which could lead to a whole new host of problems. In this series, we will explore the copyright implications of 3D printing as designers, end users, and lawyers try to sort out the many legal implications of 3D printing and copyright law.

The Penrose Triangle

For the first installment, we will discuss the interesting case of Ulrich Schwanitz and The Penrose Triangle.
To get to the root of this tale, we have to go all the way back to 1934 when artist Oscar Reutersvard drew the first-known Penrose Triangle. Referred to as an “impossible figure,” the Penrose Triangle connects on each side at a right-angle. For decades, this optical illusion was confined to drawings on flat surface and was thought impossible to reproduce in 3D space.

The Penrose Triangle

The Penrose Triangle

That is, until Ulrich Schwanitz, a designer based out of the Netherlands, purportedly solved the problem. Rather than explaining how he solved the puzzle, Schwanitz simply included a YouTube video showing his design. The model was put up for sale on the Shapeways website for around $70.

Now, this is where it really gets interesting. Along came Artus Tchoukanov who had formerly been an intern at Shapeways. Tchoukanov was able to watch the above video and figure out how Schwanitz had created his design. Tchoukanov then went to Thingiverse, a 3D printing community that actively encourages the free and open interchange of design and ideas, and published his interpretation of Schwanitz’s solution.

The DCMA

Soon, a story about the mystery of the Penrose Triangle appeared, wrongly crediting Tchoukanov with being the first to arrive at a 3D solution. Schwanitz then responded by sending Thingiverse a DMCA (which stands for Digital Millennium Copyright ACT) Takedown notice, suggesting that the published Penrose Triangle solution was copyright infringement and that it should be removed from the site. Thingiverse promptly took the post down while explaining that it was the first such request that they had received.

Now that the first DMCA Takedown request has been handed out to a distributor of online 3D design content, it is possible that Schwanitz (who, by the way, allowed Thingiverse to put the post back up after he received a good amount of negative commentary over his request) has opened a whole can of legal worms. As 3D printers become more and more common and people are better able to produce their own parts and designs at home, these sorts of issues promise to be all the more prevalent.

Tell us what you think. If you were in Schwanitz’s position, how would you have handled the situation? How strictly do you think we should be policing copyright laws in regards to 3D print files?

Solving the Belt Problem with 3D Printing

Solving the Belt Problem with 3D Printing

Creating a Belt Hangar for 3D Printing.

The Belt Problem!

Have you ever noticed that your belts don’t really have a home? If you’re anything like me, one day you will find your favorite belt rolled up in the sock drawer and the next day it will be draped over the towel rack. Well, the other day, I decided to put an end to this – my belt would get a designated place once and for all.
After deciding how many belts I would like to hang, in my case I decided six would be ideal, I started designing my new belt holder. Since I have some extra closet space, a design that resembled a traditional clothes hanger would be the most convenient.

The Design.

Belt Hangar Design

Belt Hangar Design

As a user of Autodesk Inventor, I was able to bring my concept to life with the aid of the design software. By choosing to place my prongs slanted upward, the belts can easily snap in place and by facing the belts backward, I can keep the prong of the belt buckle locked into place, preventing the belt’s hardware from wearing out. Then, I just hit print and let my Stratasys UPrint SE Plus, which I am a reseller for, do the work. In just a couple of hours, my print was complete.

The Final Product.

Belt Hangar installed

Belt Hangar installed

Now, each morning when I reach for my belt, I know that I can always find it hanging safe and sound in my closet. Plus, because of the beauty of 3D printing, whenever my belt collection grows further, I can simply print out another belt holder.
If you are interested in learning more about how 3D printing can help you get organized and offer simple solutions to real-world problems, contact us at Spectra 3D.

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