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Summary:

The smaller 3D printer maker says Stratasys’ four patents either do not cover their machines or were invalid in the first place due to preexisting inventions.

Pieces of a cube puzzle designed by Song Peng and and 3D printed by George Miller. Photo by Signe Brewster
photo: Signe Brewster

In November, professional 3D printer maker and MakerBot owner Stratasys sued Afinia, a part of Microboards Technology, for allegedly infringing on four of its 3D printing patents. Today, Afinia posted a response that denies any infringement.

The Afinia H-Series 3D Printer. Photo courtesy of Afinia.

The Afinia H-Series 3D Printer. Photo courtesy of Afinia.

The full response states that the patents either do not cover Afinia’s work or are invalid due to preexisting inventions. Attorney William Cass said in a statement that Afinia will consider filing an antitrust claim “given the significant differences between the asserted claims and the Afinia H Series.”

Make Magazine published a useful breakdown of the four patents last month. In short, they cover:

  • Heated platform: It’s easier for layers of melted plastic to seal together and retain their shape if the platform they sit on is heated. This is a very common feature on 3D printers, but Stratasys says it owns the rights.
  • Extruder: There are many types of extruders, which heat up and then expel gooey plastic, but Stratasys says Afinia’s model is too close to its own.
  • Seam hiding: When you are printing in layers, it can create obvious seams where the layers start and stop. Stratasys says Afinia is using its unique way to alter start and stop points to make seams less obvious.
  • Infill rate and pattern: It’s very common to print objects with a non-solid interior. Instead, a geometric pattern of material is used to support the outside of the object. Stratasys says its patent covers the deposition rate and pattern of infill.

If Afinia is found to have violated any of these patents, it would spell trouble for other 3D printing companies. All four are ideal features to have in a 3D printer, and there are likely more companies out there in Afinia’s boat. A ruling in Afinia’s favor, or even a large settlement, would dampen work being pursued by smaller 3D printing companies.

  1. 3D printers are increasingly being used by a wide range of consumers, which include hobbyists, professional designers and industries. http://bit.ly/3dSystems

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  2. In the last sentence, I believe you meant to write “A ruling in Stratasys’ favor…”

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