Australian concerns about DiDIY product safety

Some excerpts from "3D printing product safety" confirm (from Australia) what we wrote about Europe in our 2015 report on Current DiDIY support and awareness in Europe, and will be a useful input for our policy work:

3D printing technology.. enables a market without the expertise or checks and balances that operate in established consumer product manufacturing.

As outlined in the White Paper: 3D Printing and Consumer Product Safety, many factors influence the safety of products made using 3D printing. In the hands of an untrained consumer who make products (‘prosumer’) products may be unfit for purpose (for example, using the wrong raw material for food contact products or using incorrect printing infill settings). Prosumers may also unwittingly design and supply new products that create new hazards.The current review of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) must consider the need for changes to accommodate the 3D-printed product market.

[Design is widely accepted as being the primary determinant of a product’s safety, but] consumers (or businesses) obtaining 3D printing designs online may not be able to assess the safety of the intended end-product... at present there are no provisions that address the possibility that a 3D print designer can supply (intentionally or otherwise) designs for consumer products that are unsafe.

The same post also mentions several theoretically possible safety provisions, from product bans to mandatory standards and recalls for product designs. But of course, it also acknowledge that application of such rules to DIY designs and products may not be covered by existing or proposed laws, not to mention how hard it would be to enforce.

The final recommendations for Australian regulators, which are similar in purpose to what we of DiDIY will have to cover in our policy guidelines for the EU, are:

  • The ACL review should consider adding product designs to the product safety provisions for mandatory standards and bans; mandatory reporting; and recalls.
  • Existing mandatory standards should be reviewed for the need to include product designs.
  • Product liability provisions should be reviewed to accommodate the new ways products come to market via 3D printing.