Guess Which 3D Printing Process Is Still Under Patent?

US Patent # 9,138,981 B1 excerpt

After our publication of thoughts on compromises when using dissolvable 3D printer filament for support material, a reader pointed out something rather interesting. 

US Patent number US9138981 B1 is entitled, “Water soluble ink-jet composition for 3D printing” and has this abstract: 

The invention relates to a material composition, which may be a support material, for three-dimensional (3D) inkjet printing, comprising a glycol polymer, a low molecular weight polar substance and a surface active agent. The invention further provides a method for 3D inkjet printing comprising building a 3D object in layers, wherein at least one layer comprises a model material composition and a support material composition comprising PEG and a low molecular weight polar substance, wherein the layers are solidified before deposition of subsequent layers; and wherein, after solidification, the support material composition is removed by immersion of the solidified objet with the support in a liquid composition comprising a solvent.

Aha. Yes, that sounds like the dissolvable support material process, doesn’t it? 

The patent is owned by a company called, “Stratasys”, and the patent is in force for 20 years from the filing date, which would put this method under patent until July 22, 2030, as the filing date was in 2010. 

The patent talks at great length about using various chemicals as the dissolving agent. However, it also says: 

According to some embodiments of the invention, the material composition is water soluble.

But also: 

This invention provides a composition for use in 3D inkjet printing.

And “inkjet 3D printing” is a bit different than some other popular 3D printing processes. It’s possible this patent is not applicable to plastic extrusion 3D printing processes as I described in the story the other day, but I’m not a lawyer. 

With the increasing number of 3D printers designed to use dissolvable support material through their dual extruders, it may be a good idea for them to be wary of this particular patent. 

Via Google Patents

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