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Kickstarter sued over 3D printing patent

3D Systems has launched a patent infringement lawsuit against both Kickstarter and Formlabs relating to the promotion of a low-cost 3D printer.

The contentious device is the Form 1 3D printer, which utilises a technique known as stereolithography, and 3D Systems asserts that its proprietary variation on this technology has been unfairly incorporated in the manufacture of the Formlabs product.

California-based 3D Systems was awarded 'U.S. Patent No. 5,597,520' back in 1997. It covered a 'staggered layering system' that provided greater structural support for printed objects.

Stereolithography uses an ultraviolet laser to harden a liquid substance, layer by layer, and 3D Systems' variation on the technology features a corrective measure necessary to fix the problem of uneven hardening. Its procedure does not require each layer to be completed before moving on to the next, thereby allowing layers to harden at their own speed.

"3D Systems invented and pioneered the 3D printing technology of stereolithography and has many active patents covering various aspects of the stereolithography process," said a 3D Systems legal representative.

"Although Formlabs has publicly stated that certain patents have expired, 3D Systems believes the Form 1 3D printer infringes at least one of our patents, and we intend to enforce our patent rights," the firm added.

Formlabs raised $2.95 million (£1.85 million) in its record breaking Kickstarter campaign, which promised to create affordable, high-quality 3D printers priced from $2,299 (£1,440), where comparable products usually cost upwards of $10,000 (£6,265). Due to the fundraising site receiving a 5 per cent commission, it is also viewed to be complicit in the alleged violation of intellectual property.

For more on 3D printing, check out our "Will 3D printing changes your life?" and "The truth about 3D printing" feature articles.