Napster Fabbing - P2P Delivery of Physical Products

Marshall Burns, President, Ennex Corporation
James Howison, Doctoral Student, Syracuse University

Track: Business Track
Date: Friday, February 16
Time: 2:45pm - 3:15pm
Location: Grand Ballroom

The sharing of music files in peer-to-peer Internet exchanges opened a Pandora's box of controversy on control and profit from creative properties in the digital era. Yet music is only the "tip of the iceberg" in the world of valuable intellectual property. Technologies under development and in limited commercial use today present the future possibility of distributing physical products by downloading on the Internet and manufacturing directly in customers? homes and offices or in local facilities ("3-D Kinko's").

Digital manufacturing is performed by modern technologies that capture, transmit, and manifest 3-D digital descriptions of physical products. The key is the digital fabricator or "fabber", also called a 3-D printer because it does 3-D digital output in solid material. Invented for engineers for "rapid prototyping" products from automobiles to zippers, fabbers are also used by physicians, scientists, Hollywood prop makers, digital sculptors, and even pornographers.

As fabbers decline in price and improve in user friendliness, their proliferation among professional and recreational computer users will provide a whole new purpose for peer-to-peer exchanges like Napster, Gnutella, and FreeNet. With fabbers instead of MP3 players and *.fab files instead of *.MP3, the inventories distributed by such networks naturally expand from information products to the physical: toys, clothing, furniture, sporting gear, consumer electronics, and even, one day, automobiles.

Digital fabbing will be to designers, engineers, and manufacturers what MP3 has been to musicians and record companies. This presentation explores the business opportunities presented by this radical new technology, and related legal and economic issues.