The next time you have a chance to buy a printer, it might be time to think about the way you print out the parts, rather than just the part itself.
The 3D printer is the latest, hottest technology, and the makers of the world’s most widely used, popular and versatile object-building tool are in hot water for selling products that have serious safety problems.
But there’s a silver lining to the industry’s woes: The industry is now getting some new help, with the Federal Trade Commission filing a complaint against three makers of a 3-D printer.
And it’s not just one 3-d printer, but multiple.
The FTC’s complaint says the printer makers, which include Shapeways, 3D-printing company Thingiverse and company called Shapeways 3D, made some of the “most basic” and “dangerous” 3-in-1s and could be “unlawfully deceptive” in their marketing.
The company’s websites and marketing materials suggest that 3D printers can create parts of an object that are “as simple as your fingernails,” and that 3-inch-wide pieces can be cut with a precision of “one-tenth the size of a dime.”
The companies’ products include a 3.5-inch, 12-inch and 20-inch 3-printer, all of which cost between $1,000 and $2,000.
The complaint, filed Thursday by the FTC, cites a number of products, including one for 3-inches that sells for $1.95, as well as a “mini-3-inch printer” that sells at a $499 price point.
The materials used to make the parts also “may cause the material to fracture and crack,” the FTC said, and “could lead to a catastrophic failure if used improperly.”
“You can’t do this,” said David Z. Lees, senior vice president of global communications for Thingiverse, in an interview.
“You need to know what you’re doing.”
Shapeways’ marketing materials say it’s possible to create a “fantastic 3-sided 3D model” using the “new Shapeways digital printing technology.”
The company says its printers can make 3-Inch-wide parts for about $200.
The products, which are also sold through its website, claim to have “a range of industrial applications,” such as metalworking, woodworking and other products.
Shapeways also says its products can be “printed on virtually any surface, including glass, metal, glass-reinforced plastic, wood, ceramic and stainless steel.”
But, as the FTC alleges, the company’s “materials and practices” could be unlawful, as it may cause serious injury to users or others.
“I think that’s really important to point out that these 3D printed parts, they’re not only incredibly easy to assemble, but they’re incredibly easy for people to abuse,” Lees said.
“People can get in over their heads, and they can get really angry.
They can get upset with people that are taking advantage of them.”
In the complaint, the FTC says Shapeways is misleading users about the dangers of 3-Printers.
It also notes that 3Printers may not be safe for children under 14.
A company called Zetas said it has been “proud” to be involved in the lawsuit.
The Zetamos’ website claims it offers “world-class 3D modeling services to the world.”
A Zetami spokesperson told the Daily Dot that Zetaminas 3-Print is an independent company that is “responsible for all 3D modelling services that we offer.
We are a part of Shapeways ecosystem and have no relationship with any company related to Shapeways.”
“Zetaminis is a leading provider of digital fabrication services for the design and prototyping of 3D models and 3D objects,” the spokesperson said.
But the FTC complaint says Shapots’ materials and practices could be a concern, as they could “raise safety risks to consumers.”
“They might be less than ideal for children, but it doesn’t mean that they’re unsafe,” said Zetaws CEO, David Lees.
“But if you’re not careful, you could get into trouble.”
Lees’ company is a subsidiary of the Shapeways Group, which has been the subject of a number lawsuits over the past decade.
Shapests’ marketing messages were also misleading.
One of the videos on its website was for a 3X3-In-1, which costs $2.95.
It says it can print a model of an entire building, but the model on the company website appears to be a 3 in 1.
“It’s an awesome 3- in 1 model,” the video states.
“We’ve got one of the most beautiful buildings in the world.
It’s made from 1-inch aluminum and it’s built right here in our factory.”