ELSI Initiative in digital fabrication technology

Background

ImageWith technical improvements and price reduction in digital fabrication devices such as 3D printers, manufacturing is becoming increasingly more easilyavailable not only to those in the manufacturing business but also to individuals (prosumers) in the society. However, even prosumers may need to accept liability on manufacturing, as both commercial and uncommercial manufacturing are subject to the Product Liability Law (PL Law) in Japan. Meanwhile, many of the current PL insurance services assume large-scale manufacturers and thus not suitable for uncommercial productions by prosumers. More fundamentally, PL law, PL insurance and the logic behind the safety of manufacturing products are not acknowledged well by the prosumers in general.
This increases the risks of consumers as prosumers cannot be fully responsible for their productions, which in turn restrains technical/business innovation utilizing digital fabrication due to PL issues.
Therefore, a consideration from ELSI perspective is required to examine the possibility of redesigning of the sociotechnical systems which resulted in the current PL laws and PL insurances.

Current activities

We started a discussion on the sociotechnical systems related to PL laws and insurances with members of the Center of Innovation (COI) Program, "Center of Kansei-Oriented Digital Fabrication." For future discussions with relevant stakeholders including manufacturers, consumers, ministries/agencies, and insurance companies, we have started to survey PL laws and PL insurance services, and leading cases of digital manufacturing in Japan and overseas. The survey looks into the philosophies behind PL laws, legislative history, court precedents, and insurances for individuals.

Future activities

In cooperation with the prosumers/manufactures using 3D printers, we continue to support the development of digital fabrication technology by providing evidences which should relieve concerns arising from the current sociotechnical systems.

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