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When piracy comes to physical manufacturing

One of the key ideas behind The Curve is that the issues of how to make money in a digital age are not limited to the entertainment industries.

As we move towards a world where 3D printing becomes a reality, the economics of pirating physical goods change. We are a long way from 3D printers being great quality and cheap enough to be in every home, but the technology is improving every year, the price is falling every year and it is definitely coming.

When it happens, piracy comes to physical manufacturing.

Companies who make stuff are not worried about piracy at the moment. They worry about counterfeiting. They worry about knockoff Prada handbags and Rolex watches sold by market traders and street corner hustlers the world over. They worry about criminal gangs and industrial espionage and large scale production.

Part of the reason they don’t worry about the casual piracy that bedevils the entertainment industry is because copying their physical products is hard. Making a perfect, identical copy of a digital movie or music track or game is easy. Making a duplicate Alessi Juicy Salif Lemon Squeezer (PSJS) or Tiffany necklace is very hard.

It’s still hard, but it’s getting easier. Which is why this video from Chris Thorpe was so interesting. It shows the results of using a laser scanner to scan a very complex 3D object (in this case, a steam engine). It’s a long way from providing a blueprint to copy and make a real steam engine, but it’s an interesting first start.

Just imagine how easy it would be to create a digital file of an Alessi lemon squeezer or a Tiffany necklace with this technique. And then to print one on your home 3D printer.

And so it begins.

Nicholas Lovell