3D Printing, 4D Printing and Beyond Changes Coming in Products Liability Law


By: Amanda K. Hall

On January 25, 2016, researchers at Harvard University and The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign detailed their creation of “4D-Printed” structures –made by mimicking the way orchids and other plants move and twist – that could ultimately lead to advances in the way medical devices are created both in the United States and abroad. For instance, scientists are working to create 4D-printed robotic tools that move and bend in order to assist in surgeries.  3D Printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is already being used to revolutionize the healthcare industry through the creation of things such as prosthetic devices.

As technology continues to advance, the effect that this emerging technology will have on traditional theories of products liability remains unseen. For example, in the products liability realm, the persons or entities responsible for injuries or damage caused by a defective medical device are typically those who manufactured or sold the defective product.  Because of the nature of 3D printing, however, there is a challenge in determining who should be held liable.  The manufacturer of the 3D printer itself, the software designer or CAD developer who assist in developing the code that is fed into the 3D printer in order to create the product, and the doctors and hospitals who own and use the 3D printer, are all potential candidates.  Under existing law, however, there are potential pitfalls to an injured plaintiff seeking to hold any of these individuals or entities liable.  A more thorough analysis of these issues can be found in “3-D Printing of Medical Devices,” DRI Magazine, September 2015, available here.  Additionally, our lawyers are available to assist you in taking steps to minimize the potential risks and liability associated with the use of this technology.



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