Oakland-based FATHOM has received a patent for specialized 3D print service quotes.
I’m reading US patent 20140279177A1, assigned to “KEMEERA INC DBA FATHOM”, which I presume to be FATHOM, the hybrid manufacturing service we first encountered in 2016. FATHOM provides not only 3D printing services but also a variety of making capabilities such as casting, CNC milling, injection molding and a host of assistive services such as engineering and design. It’s a kind of one-stop-shop for making complex products.
Now we see they’ve been issued a patent. I’m reading through this document and it does seem a little confusing. Well, ALL patent documents are highly confusing due to the legalese involved, but this patent is a bit puzzling.
They seem to be patenting the process of receiving a 3D model file and making parameters from a client, and then generating a price quote. That alone seems to be a rather common practice among many 3D print services, as that’s how they all work.
However, the FATHOM patent seems to go a bit deeper.
FATHOM Patent Claims
Here’s the key passage in the patent’s first claim:
“Determining pricing data based upon whether the support mold structure volume of the at least one 3D object exceeds the 3D object volume of the at least one 3D object by a threshold value associated with the parameter selection data, wherein a graphical user interface (GUI) of at least a prompt corresponding to the determination of pricing data is generated, and wherein a selection of the prompt controls a printing of the at least one 3D object on at least one 3D printer communicatively coupled to the server over a network;”
“Determining a length of at least one axis of the at least one 3D object, wherein at least one support mold structure volume of the at least one 3D object is calculated from the length.”
”Wherein the GUI includes a price quote determined by a first pricing scheme when the support mold structure volume of the at least one 3D object exceeds the 3D object volume of the at least one 3D object by the threshold value, and a second pricing scheme when the support mold structure volume of the at least one 3D object does not exceed the 3D object volume of the at least one 3D object by the threshold value.”
Whew, got that? This patent is about a method for automatically pricing parts made from 3D printed molds.
3D Print Service Patents
Other portions of the patent involve the presentation to the client and the ability to make changes to the design based on an analysis of the 3D model. This could include a finite element analysis of the design to ensure it is suitably strong, or even a fully watertight design.
They’ve also included a claim regarding a method of converting a 2D file into a 3D object. This seems a bit strange, as this is a very commonly done process for many years. However, this may be with respect to a quoting system within a 3D print service.
FATHOM’S Patent Advantage
Other methods of pricing and providing basic online 3D print services have long been patented by others in various forms, resulting in some legal actions over the years. However, it seems that no one has apparently patented the idea of 3D printed molds, at least until FATHOM has done so.
This could put them in a good position for the future, as anyone wishing to replicate this process would necessarily have to deal with FATHOM for permission and possibly licensing fees, lest they risk legal action on infringement.