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Insuring 3D printing risks

06 Sep 2017

3D printing technology is no longer a specialist domain – it’s been described as ushering in the new industrial revolution, giving consumers the ability to create customised goods at an affordable price. However, this poses challenges to the insurance industry says Peter Tomkins, General Manager – Specialty at Gallagher Bassett.

Insurance implications with the growing popularity of 3D printers include complexity of deciding on the parties responsible for defects and multi-jurisdictional issues stemming from virtual design file sharing.

Tomkins says, “Although mostly used in the automotive and aerospace industries, 3D printers are changing the manufacturing process and raising questions about liability. For example, while manufactures are traditionally liable for product defects, is failure in 3D printing attributed to corrupt files, defective printer or human error? Does the owner of the printer technically become the manufacturer?”

As 3D printing grows, so too will the risks and that is where brokers can play an important role. He says, ‘When new technologies like 3D printing disrupts conventional supply chains, brokers play a pivotal role in educating their clients and helping them manage change. The liability implications of 3D printing are significant, and brokers who fully understand this technology will be best placed to educate their clients on how to take advantage of the opportunities it presents.’

Tomkins explains that there can be numerous different associated risks, including worker’s compensation claims, intellectual property challenges and the prominence of cyber risks to businesses. Tomkins also mentioned there will be a need for careful assessment from a product liability perspective.

“Other than ascertaining liability, there could be an increase in risk insured depending on the process and consideration as to whether risks at each stage of the process will need to be mitigated.”

Tomkins mentioned that insurers needed to consider regulatory developments, “Keeping up to date with 3D printing regulations can ensure compliance and limit the costs of potential defence litigations.”


 - Insurance and Risk

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