The legalities behind the KraftWurx 3D print service/software are now available for public viewing, courtesy of the US Government's Patent and Trade office. Patent application number 20110313878, entitled "Made-to-order direct digital manufacturing enterprise" includes this abstract:
Methods and systems for designing and producing a three-dimensional object selection of a base three-dimensional object from a customer device. A base three-dimensional model corresponding to the object is displayed on the customer device, and one or more custom modifications are received. A modified three-dimensional model corresponding to the modified object is prepared and displayed. Once confirmation to produce the modified object is received, data corresponding to the modified three-dimensional model is transmitted to a manufacturing device for production of the object, using the data to do so, such that the object corresponds directly to the modified three-dimensional model.
What does this mean? We believe this could be interpreted as a method to customize a partial design in order to build unique, one-off 3D objects. This is precisely what several other popular 3D print services do today, including Shapeways. We're wondering how this will affect Shapeways, as they could be seen as violating this particular patent.
The patent covers not only the consumer side of the customization operation, but also the behind the scenes processing that must take place. Included are detailed descriptions of:
- Website operations
- Customer order processing
- Customized 3D view preparation
- Customer database
- Customized design creation
- Production management
- Print job optimization
- Build optimization
- Payment processing
- Materials management
- Remote printing management
- Quality tracking
- And more..
Things could get very interesting in the 3D print services business in 2012!
BTW, the FreePatentsOnline site is immensely easier to use than the official US Patent site; we'd recommend you view the patent there.