3-D printing is already shaking our institutions. The recent issue of a 3D printed gun – and the availability of the drawings for free on the web – has scared many. Governments are already considering how they should change the regulations around weapon acquisition and export; on the other side hackers defend the freedom of internet.
Cory Doctorow, an expert on the internet regulation (and generally, a proponent of a large freedom), fears that these events will lead to inappropriate regulations of internet content, due to the fact that judges and societies will be scared by the object.
For guns, regulations might change to address ammunition rather than guns (nobody has yet managed to 3-D print live ammunition and it will take a long time before anybody can do that), but in any case, drastic changes will necessarily happen.
Guns are a very polarizing issue. But what about more conventional liability for hurting someone with a 3D printed object, or damage to property? How liable would be the person who put the design on internet, in a 3D enthusiast forum and who lives at the other end of the planet? How would the entire sets of regulations developed to protect the consumer from defects in products need to change?
All these questions are in the air. Because the institution of manufacturing changes, so needs also the entire set of regulation, or regulatory authorities. It is just the start of a drastic revolution. Watch how it unfolds over the next few months!