Chalmers concluded, however, that "the opportunities dwarf the challenges":
Australia needs to set itself up to take advantage of the opportunities presented by these new technologies. By defining our role in new global value chains and mastering the technology via investment in education and broadband, we can use our greatest asset - the creativity, adaptability and innovation of our population - to create a new generation of broad-based prosperity here at home.
Who's at risk?
The supply chain industries are most at threat from 3D printing, but it's really anyone who owns intellectual property, Fraser said. "It's kind of everybody," the lawyer said.
Manufacturers could attempt to get ahead of the threat by selling licences for print files to designs, he said. Nokia has recently tried this approach, releasing a 3D printing kit allowing customers to quickly design and print custom covers for Lumia 820 smartphones.
Rimmer also highlighted this approach to 3D printing by some big IP owners, including Disney.
"Some companies like to try to associate themselves with the maker movement and 3D printing for promotional purposes."
At minimum, 3D printing represents an issue for which IP owners should pay close attention, said Fraser.
"There is no doubt that in the right hands 3D printing is an important technology and a natural evolution that can and almost certainly will disrupt existing manufacturing ecosystems the way music and print industries have been affected," he said.
"However companies also need to understand the need for renewed vigilance in terms of protecting their existing IP and also consumers from potentially poor quality replicas."
Rimmer agreed there some comparisons to what Napster did to the music industry, but also highlighted a key difference.
"The complexity with 3D printing is that it can be used for both authorised and unauthorised purposes, so it's not going to be as clear-cut as peer-to-peer sharing."
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