48 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2016
Date Written: May 29, 2014
3D printing is presently gaining lots of attention in the press as a new technology, but what does the technology landscape look like through a patent landscape analysis?
It is important to comprehend the fact that the term “3D printing” can be considered an umbrella term for a number of related technologies that can be used to produce 3D objects. The current dataset has attempted to combine these technologies to provide information about 3D printing itself from a macroscopic perspective.
The area of 3D printing has increased massively since 1980 (which constituted the date limitations of the current dataset). However, the fact that there is patent data from this era which is still relevant to this field of technology, is illustrative of the fact that this technology has existed in many forms for some time, and that it is only recently with advances in computing and software combined with large amounts of media interest, (plus the expiration of a number of useful patents) that has led to the current status regarding this technology.
A number of patents have been highlighted as being cited in other patents, perhaps providing an indication of the quality of the disclosures contained therein. There has been an increase in interest in this area, through an expansion of the numbers of academic papers, and increasing use of Internet search terms that can be related to 3D printing. Filings from the year 2000 onwards have demonstrated the largest increase in volume, despite the potential effects of the economic downturn in this time period.
The UK does not appear to have a degree of specialisation in this area from the current patent filings. The UK does perform better in terms of the location of the inventor rather than as a location for filing of the application or the country from which priority is taken.
Most of the top applicants are US based companies. However, many of the inventors are not US based, but file their patents in this location. It is also evident from the data that the top applicant holds many patents in the area, but that these are older than those from other top applicants and will expire soon.
A review of landscape maps of this technology reveals that key areas of interest include biomedical applications, circuits and electrode fabrication.
Future work could take many forms given the diversity of the technologies contained within the dataset. It would to interesting to look at Trade Mark filings in this area to see if there is a relationship between this data and the current patent data.
Further work would encompass the analysis of particular parts of this dataset to provide analysis of patent data relating to particular technology areas such as biotechnology. Future work would also be envisaged in performing a more complete analysis of trade mark data in this area as well as consideration of data available from journal and conference proceedings.
The issue of intellectual property and 3D printing has not been fully considered in the current report but it remains an important issue in this field that is ripe for further consideration One commentator (Basiliere) put it well, in that he stated that consumer 3D printing is at the "peak of the hype cycle" It is difficult to determine if this comment is really true. However it is evident from the information in this report, that 3D printing is spreading across many technologies and has the potential to disrupt many of them.
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