Patents have a maximum duration of 20 years, which is considered sufficient time to repay with its monopoly the effort put in the development of a technology. Beyond this time, patents go into public domain and therefore may be reproduced and commercialized without any restriction. This process allows technological development and progress of mankind into a better future.
According to Scott Crump, inventor of fused deposition modelling (FDM) and co-founder of the largest manufacturer of 3D printers, in February 2014 key patents related to three-dimensional printing with the higher business performance, the ones based on selective laser sintering technology (SLS), will pass into public domain.
Scoot Crumps knows well what he says, since the patents of his technology FDM became of public domain in the last decade, which cause a revolution in the sector that spread the use of this technology. FDM modelling is a process which creates plastic layers melted in the right point, which solidify upon cooling.
SLS technology (selective laser sintering) was developed in the 80s by the Mechanical Engineering Department of the University of Texas, and consists in using a high power laser to fuse small particles and give them the desired shape starting from a digital three-dimensional design.
The following video, created by the University of Texas, shows how to use in concrete the selective laser sintering.
As it can be seen, despite being far from the capabilities of the latest 3D printing technologies, which for example have created the first 3D printed car, allows achieving a high level of precision and definition, besides working with several materials such as plastic, metal, ceramic or glass. Consequently, this technology can directly produce goods ready for sale.