Swiss Re insurance company developing claims program for 3D printing

Back in October 2015, we mentioned, in our Report on Current DiDIY support and awareness in Europe, that:

  • on one hand, when DiDIY produts and services are concerned, there still is in Europe (and elsewhere, of course) much "confusion [and uncertainty] about insurance coverage and penal responsibility"
  • on the other, and for the same reasons, "there may be new, big market opportunities for Insurance Companies willing to enter this new market, if properly supported by laws that balance both their for-profit nature and the general need for true Digital DIY in society"

We are therefore happy to notice an "experiment" in this field, that was announced a few weeks ago in Switzerland:

"As risk is the insurance industry’s primary business, it is imperative that insurance companies around the world become familiar with 3D printing technologies and applications to better protect their clients. Swiss Re Group, a leading wholesale provider of reinsurance and insurance, has recognized this, and is working with its clients to leverage their knowledge about 3D printing, and to develop intelligent and appropriate 3D printing insurance solutions."

“The industry consensus is that 3DP has evolved beyond the hype, prototype and novelty stage and must be recognized as a mainstream technology,” says Swiss Re.  And yet, they continue: “there is no specific federal framework that would apply specifically to 3DP. Specialized insurance forms or wordings are not present (yet) and this exposure remains in the realm of product liability. The key underwriting message is understand and underwrite, not ignore.”

According to Swiss Re, the key 3D printing-related risks that underwriters, risk professionals, and indeed, anyone using or investing 3D printing should be aware of are: risks at the product design stage, risks at the construction/production stage, new product distribution channels; product performance, and finally, disposal and recycle.

Unsurprisingly, the primary risk is considered that of "IP rights infringements and professional indemnity exposures". But once the 3D printed object has been designed and produced, its usage could also lead to significant risks—though the question for risk professionals to address is who should be liable in the case of misuse or malfunction:

"From a re/insurance perspective, perhaps the biggest uncertainty is the long-term durability of the product,” says Swiss Re. “We know quite well what to expect in terms of performance for products manufactured by traditional methods. Products made with 3D printers are certainly subject to various types of testing, but only time will tell how well they will perform in real life applications. This is especially important for products used in critical safety applications. 3DP might also challenge the lines between product and service; if different parties are involved in the supply chain, the liability landscapes may shift.”

Other risks include "potential health and environmental concerns, as some materials may be toxic or non-biodegradable.At the end of the day, Swiss Re is encouraging its risk professional experts, as well as other insurance companies, to recognize the need for a strong understanding of 3D printing technologies, and to develop a consistent collaboration between underwriting, risk engineering services, and claims, to best protect clients’ needs and interests."

For more details on each category of risk, please consult the original article.