3D printing or Additive Manufacturing (AM) is a collective term for technologies in which objects are built up layer by layer using a basic material. This new production technology has a number of advantages over traditional production technologies. There are, however, also a number of risks that need to be considered carefully.
In 3D printing, the object to be manufactured is designed digitally with software. Once a digital file has been created, the object can be printed immediately. This process only takes a few hours, which means that considerably shorter production and delivery times are possible, especially for smaller series of complex products.
The fact that the digital design can be printed in its entirety means there is no need for intervention by other people, such as a machine operator. This also has the advantage that more complex objects can be produced that cannot be produced using conventional techniques such as turning, milling and so on.
Another advantage is that 3D printing can be used in many sectors. Consider, for instance, applications in the medical sector such as hearing aids, insoles, prostheses, implants and the like, or the presence of 3D-printed parts in aircraft and cars.
There is, however, a downside to 3D printing, as several risks are associated with this technology. Vanbreda Risk & Benefits conducted research into these risks in collaboration with Flam3D.
Around twenty different technologies are currently used in Additive Manufacturing. “The risks differ per technology”, say Jan Van Wynsberghe and Inge Van Hemeledonck, who are following the advance of 3D printing and the associated risks for Vanbreda Risk & Benefits.
“We are convinced that the new risks can be insured with the help of cover already offered by insurers today. However, it is crucial that you inform your insurers when you, as a company, start working with these new technologies. Sometimes they will be able to withdraw from providing cover if it concerns experimental technologies that have not been adequately tested. It is therefore important to ensure that your insurer is aware of 3D printing and the knowledge that has already been built up in respect of this technology.”
Research carried out by Vanbreda Risk & Benefits shows that various types of insurance are crucial if your company uses 3D printing technologies:
- Accident-at-work insurance
When using Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) – a plastics printer – a molten plastic is applied to a heated platform using a print head. These high temperatures (a few hundred degrees Celsius) can cause accidents at work. Accident-at-work insurance is a type of insurance required by law that will cover accidents caused by and during the exercise of a professional activity.
- Fire insurance
A technical malfunction or inadvertent use of the 3D printer can lead to a risk of fire or explosion. Fire insurance can be taken out for this.
- Company civil liability insurance
As a company, it is also of paramount importance to take out company civil liability insurance. If a defective product is delivered or if third parties suffer losses during the activities, the insurer will compensate these third-party losses.
- Recall insurance
If defective or harmful products are delivered and have to be withdrawn from the market, a ‘recall’ clause can be included in the company civil liability insurance. Recall insurance covers the costs of recalling defective products that were delivered
- Professional indemnity insurance
Because new IT developments are needed for this, it is also important for the IT sector and other service providers to insure their professional liability risks.
Professional indemnity insurance can be taken out separately or as an extension to the civil liability insurance policy. Professional indemnity insurance covers liability in connection with intellectual services delivered on behalf of third parties, without this being linked to implementation of a contract or supply of a product by the insured party. An IT professional can, for instance, be covered for programming faulty software which might cause a company to be shut down for days.
- Cyber insurance
As software and databases with product designs are an important part of using Additive Manufacturing, there is a high chance of a cyber incident taking place. Cyber insurance covers both a company’s own losses caused by downtime in the production process and civil liability towards third parties as a result of hacking, virus attacks or other cyber incidents.
- Machinery breakdown insurance
There is also a risk of production downtime due to machine damage. Companies can take out machinery breakdown insurance for this, which covers material damage to a machine or loss of the machine.
- Intellectual property (IP) insurance
Intellectual property rights may be violated by scanning existing objects and printing them with 3D technology. Intellectual property insurance covers infringements of intellectual property rights when objects are printed in 3D without the manufacturer knowing there are patents on such objects. Charges can be brought against the party infringing such rights. With this insurance, that party is covered for infringement of intellectual property rights.
As is evident from the above scenarios, there are many risks that need to be taken into account. Vanbreda Risk & Benefits can help you by providing the right protection for your company. Because companies’ activities vary greatly, Vanbreda Risk & Benefits is happy to offer a customised insurance solution for 3D printing activities in your company.