A critical debate is brewing over some of the dangers 3-D printing could expose the world to. This includes printing out regulated goods, like guns, and violating intellectual property. If you're familiar with this debate, you probably remember a small organization called Defense Distributed, led by Cody Wilson. They released a design on the Internet for a functional 3-D printed gun called the Liberator. This is a very important event for 3-D printing because it's one of the first times the industry will be tested on how it deals with regulated goods like firearms. Investors in companies like Stratasys (NASDAQ:SSYS) and 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) should pay special attention to this, as their printers feature the same technology used to print the gun.
So just what's happening here?
We go to channel 7 news out of Arkansas to check in on the matter. They reported that the Department of State had Cody's organization take the plans down, and then sent them a letter saying they're reviewing if Defense Distributed had violated foreign arms trade regulations. So, just how much trouble could Defense Distributed and Cody be in? According to channel 7: prison, fines, or both. This dispute is still ongoing, but the Department of State could make an example out of Defense Distributed with heavy fines and possible jail time.
Is this what the industry needs?
This question is a politically charged one, but in my opinion, the industry does need very strict enforcement of any acts that violate intellectual property or trade regulations in order for it to be successful. The last thing the industry needs is regulation around owning a 3-D printer; regulating the end product is much more desirable. Investors should keep an eye on how the state department handles this situation because it almost certainly won't be the last, and is a risk for the industry.
For an in-depth look at the debate, watch the video below, as Motley Fool analyst Blake Bos explains just why this debate is so important for investors in Stratasys and 3D Systems.