3D printing and the copyright law: it’s a difficult marriage. When normally a 3D print file is out on the internet, everyone is free to use it to print out their own object. In other words: the open-source world makes it hard to make money out of 3D print files. Authentise however is a promising company that wants to add some structure to the online jungle, by adding a streaming service to the 3D printing world.
Let’s first explain something more about Authentise: this company uses an approach to 3D printing which is similar to Spotify’s approach to pop music or Netflix’s approach to movies and series. It makes it impossible for customers to store and share 3D print files from companies. This means brands such as Disney could offer their 3D print files online, after which users can download them and get their Mickey Mouse figurines printed on their own 3D printer. After this printing process no file will remain to be shared. This means in a future world big companies might more and more implement a 3D files service instead of selling actual objects in stores. The company has launched its first API to stream 3D print files: a perfect occasion to have a little chat with their CEO Andre Wegner.
You recently launched the world’s first API to stream 3D print files. Could you explain the importance of this system?
AW: “The system streams 3D printable designs from the website of the design owner or intermediary directly into a 3D printer. This is both convenient to the person printing – because the user doesn’t need to download the design, load it into their slicer, etcetera – and reassures the designers that they will get paid for every print. The API is sold to owners of websites on which 3D designs are sold: Marketplaces, designers, brands.”
You’re now working together with 3DLT. Do you think this is a big step towards a world wide web where designers get paid for their work?
AW: “Put it like this: Without pay-to-print options, most top designers won’t release their content for print. 80 percent of top designers told us they wouldn’t bother releasing their designs if there wasn’t any protection. In the end everybody is worse off: Designers don’t get revenue they could have done, the printing public doesn’t get access to the best designs and printer manufacturers sell less machines and materials – and as a result invest less in R&D, because there are less use cases for their printers.”
Are you planning on adding your service to more websites?
AW: “We already have. Our list of clients who have launched with our service is long and growing. Makershop.co, CGtrader.com,3dprintler.com, and pinshape.com have all already released designs that can be printed through the Authentise system. We’ve signed dozens of clients already, and cumulatively they have 10 or more times more designs than Thingiverse.”
Do you think the ability to share 3D print files with anyone is the biggest enemy of a well-functioning open source world?
AW: “I’m not sure it’s the enemy of the open-source world. After all, it’s as open as it gets. But as I explained I do think that it, rightly or wrongly, leads to fear amongst design owners. That fear retards the future of the 3D Printing market.”
There are also people who think your system is somehow conservative. Anything should be free to share. What is your say to them?
AW: “We built the system so that designs could be free and not locked up out of fear. We also spent a lot of time thinking about ways to make the printing experience better for users, not worse. So we refused to deal with traditional means of digital rights management – we don’t for instance rely on a check of the design before its printed. We never wanted a printer owner to have the experience of printing a design they created and being told by the 3D printer that it’s too similar to a Micky Mouse head or something and refuse to print it.”
How did you came up with this idea initially? Do you know some 3D printing artists yourself or something like that?
AW: “Our base motivations is that we want to, as quickly as possible, help 3D printing disrupt supply chains. At Singularity University we were challenged to come up with initiatives that could impact a billion people in 10 years. Through personal experiences we realised how bad supply chains are at getting products to people: They can’t be customized, they’re expensive – about 16 percent of GDP in the US, they fail – every plane in the US is said to have a fake part on board, and so on. When we realized that 3D Printing and digital manufacturing as a whole could do something about this by simply making products closer to the point of use, we focused on what was stopping that from happening: There’s a whole stack of what we call “facilitation” software missing – and intellectual property as well as easier printer management systems were the starting point.”
Authentise is described as the 3D printing’s Spotify. Do you agree with this description?
AW: “Only in as far as we stream the designs to 3D Printers, rather than sending the file. However, a big differentiator is that we’re not the marketplace. Authentise doesn’t sell designs, we just provide an API to marketplaces, designers and other firms that want to sell 3D Printable designs. Authentise is also more than just a software company. We get a lot of our revenue from helping the world’s biggest firms prepare for a distributed manufacturing reality.”
Want to know more about Authentise? Watch a video of Wegner holding a speech during DEMO Conference 2014:
Image/ video credits: DEMO.