I don't get a lot of questions about product liability, but it's a topic that came to mind as I went looking for blog topics today. I found three TED Talks that show what is possible today with 3-D printing, and I think they're both pretty interesting. Avi Reichental gives a tour of all the different products that individuals and corporations are making with this technology - everything from suits to assist the physically handicapped to cakes to sneakers. He says the question we should be asking is, "How will 3-D printing change our lives?"
Fashion designer Danit Peleg uses 3-D printers to make her own clothes, both for her clothing lines and for her own personal use. During the talk, she wears a skirt that she printed on the road. She describes a textile that she created using open source designs. While I can't foresee myself making a 3-D printed t-shirt anytime soon, the day might soon come when "I don't have anything to wear" will no longer be a valid excuse to get out of going to that party you're dreading.
This last one is simply amazing. Anthony Atala shows how a 3-D printer can create a transplantable human kidney out of living cells. He even introduces the audience to one of his patients - a young man who received a manufactured bladder in 2001.
Now, very few of your clients are going to use 3-D printers to create a femur. However, it seems clear to me that the use of 3-D printers is limited only by our imaginations. Your clients, whether they're scientists, small business owners, or personal lines clients freelancing at night, will eventually have the capability to make virtually anything. That has a lot of implications for liability insurance coverage and the types of claims the industry will be paying in the future. Surplus lines carriers will likely provide a lot of the coverage for these products for now and going forward. However, I think the technologies will have reverberating effects on the whole product liability insurance market.
We live in interesting times.