2011.09.21

Pac-Man Cookies

You may have seen that I recently printed some Pac-Man cookie cutters using the MakerBot at Milwaukee Makerspace.

This seems like a harmless enough activity, right? I wanted some cookie cutters that my daughter could use to make cookies, so I made them. Typically when I make things, I don’t think to myself “Gosh, what laws am I breaking?” because typically I think of making as a creative endeavor that isn’t harmful to anyone.

But here’s where it gets murky…

If I really wanted Pac-Man cookie cutters, I could have bought them, from more than one place even, and those all come with something mine don’t. This little bit of text that says “Officially licensed Pac-Man cookie cutters.

Oh crap.

My cookie cutters are not “officially licensed” in any way. I certainly didn’t plan on selling them, as they were just for my own use. (That said, I have mentioned printing a few extras to give to people, free of charge, but would that cause issues as well?) Is the fact that I printed my own versus buying “officially licensed” cookie cutters the wrong thing to do? Did the company that licenses the official cutters lose a sale, or multiple sales if I give some away?

In my defense, I’ll say that I would not have bought Pac-Man cookie cutters. Partly because I’m not that fanatic, partly because I can’t see paying $15.99 for less than a dollar worth of plastic, and partly because I’m a maker. I mean, I could have bent up some metal to make them, or used some other creative methods.

So what does the future hold when we can easily (and cheaply!) print out things like this? Well, if you doubted 3D printing was disruptive, doubt it no more…

Let’s look at the Glif. Last November the guys behind the Glif launched a Kickstarter project to fund their idea. Here’s what they said:

So why do we need YOUR help? Simply put, manufacturing is expensive. We want to use a process called ‘injection molding’ to create the Glif at a level of quality we deem acceptable, but unfortunately this requires a hefty set up cost. By pledging at least twenty dollars, you will be essentially pre-ordering a Glif, and helping turn our little project into a reality.

See that bit that says “manufacturing is expensive“? Well, it is! But guess what? Making things can be cheap. I don’t want to discount the amount of work that went into designing the Glif. I love design. Design is important. Designers should be rewarded for their work. So the Glif guys wanted to raise $10,000 to bring their product to market, and they ended up raising $137,417. Wowzers!

But if you really want an iPhone holder like The Glif, you can always make your own, out of whatever materials you have handy, like wood, or maybe… plastic!

Hey, check this out, it’s the iPhone 4 Combo Tripod and Stand. See the comments on that page about “cloning” as well. Interesting stuff.

So what does the future hold for this type of thing? When we all have 3D printers, and it’s cheaper and easier to print something at home than it is to drive to the store (takes time, wastes gas) to buy one, or order one online to have shipped to your home (takes time, wastes gas.)

Maybe things should go the way the music industry went. Pirating music was a much larger problem years ago, until Apple (and then Amazon, and others) made it easier (and cheaper?) to get the real thing legitimately. What if the guys behind the Glif had a business model where you could buy their product in the traditional ways (in a store, order online) but you could also download the files needed to print one, for say, a nominal fee between $0.99 and $5.00?

Would people support this model? I think some people definitely would. And who is the winner here? The company still makes money, and the consumer saves money. Somewhere in there we also hope that less energy (money) is expended in using this method. Sure, there would still be clones and copies, but you’d assume (like we do for music, movies, etc.) that most people are honest, and want to support the work of others.

So is this idea crazy, or is it the future?

One Response to “Printing Violations?”

  1. Steve HoeferNo Gravatar says:

    I don’t have a personal 3d printer yet but I have access to a few and would love to see a “Shipped to you for $XX or download an STL for $X” option.

    The legal world is going to be very rough and wild for 3D printing. Once again consumer technology is getting way out in front of an industry, and I think it will take a lot before the industry stops reacting in fear to it. There will be legal attacks, particularly against individuals unable to defend themselves. There will be ridiculous laws drafted. There will be proprietary file formats with DRM.

    Eventually someone will allow people to buy what they want at a reasonable price. It would be great if MakerBot or Shapeways or Ponoko would get out ahead on this. Shapeways and Ponoko have a platform in place to charge money, but they make their money off the 3d printing, so I doubt if it will be them. MakerBot has a great file sharing platform with Thingiverse, but I’m not sure it’s in the company DNA to allow/encourage people to sell files on it. I’d hate to see it destroyed in a Napster-like legal attack.

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