Additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3-dimensional (3D) printing, has been billed as the new industrial revolution. It is a lofty prediction; but we are seeing this prognostication materialize. Everyday consumer products ranging from children’s toys to running shoes are being 3D printed, sometimes right in consumer stores or at home. More and more manufacturers have begun or are exploring additive manufacturing options for their products. 3D-printed products even won an Oscar, when Ruth Carter won Best Costume Design for her work in the movie Black Panther, where portions of Carter’s costumes were 3D printed. From everyday consumer products, to its appearance on the red carpet, 3D printing has arrived.
Recognizing the potential advantages, endless possibilities, and unique manufacturing capabilities offered by 3D printing, more and more medical device manufacturers are entering this new field of technology. However, industry standards and regulations lag behind the pace of innovation. The unique aspects and potential availability of additive manufacturing raise novel products liability issues that may impact traditional product liability litigation doctrines. This article examines the current status of additive manufacturing as well as potential issues and uncertainties it raises for the future of product-liability litigation.