The boom of 3D printing has improved the manufacturing process of products across many different industries. Products with structures that may have once been complex or even impossible to produce using traditional manufacturing methods may now be possible to make thanks to 3D printing.
As patent protection has been sought after for 3D printed products, much coverage has instinctively been directed towards 3D printing manufacturing methods. However, as 3D printing becomes pervasive throughout different industries, it may be increasingly difficult to obtain protection for 3D printing manufacturing methods, no matter what product is being 3D printed. Thus, as 3D printing becomes more and more common, claim coverage for 3D printing manufacturing methods may need to be greatly narrowed during prosecution moving forward.
One strategy to combat these above issues may be to claim the product itself, focusing on structures of the product that are only possible because the product was manufactured using 3D printing.
As an example, if a first structure that is a first material is 3D printed onto and around a second structure that is a different material, the resulting product may have some distinctive differences compared to the equivalent traditionally manufactured product. In cases where the traditional manufacturing method for making the product is a molding process, for example, the material may be the same for both the first and second structures in the traditional product. Or maybe traditional manufacturing methods result in products that required fasteners to hold the second structure within the first structure, whereas the 3D printed product does not require any fasteners at all.
Thus, focusing on features of a product that are only possible due to the product being manufactured via 3D printing, rather than only describing the manufacturing method, may prove useful as 3D printing continues to make waves across different industries.