Jun 12, 2017 | By Benedict

Entertainment giant Disney has filed a patent for an “anti-scanning” material that would prevent the unauthorized 3D scanning and 3D printing of copyrighted Disney figurines. The company is apparently trying to stem the flow of homemade 3D printed toys that can be downloaded online.

It might not be the reason you bought a 3D printer, but homemade toys and figurines are undoubtedly one of the more popular recreational uses for additive technology. Just skim through our fun with 3D printing category to see the evidence for yourself.

Unfortunately, the days of freely downloadable toys—at least, those of beloved Disney characters like BB-8, Mickey Mouse, and Donald Duck—could soon be coming to an end. That’s because entertainment giant Disney has filed a patent for an “anti-scanning” material that could be used to make its official toys and merchandise harder to scan and digitize.

The material, described in a recently filed patent, would have certain reflective properties that would supposedly befuddle scanning equipment by making solid edges hard to identify. It is not yet known exactly how this “retro-reflective” material work, but the patent suggests that glass crystals embedded in a figurine’s face could be used to perform the function. “The scan-protected exterior surfaces are either light-absorbing or reflect light in unconventional directions,” the patent states.

It sounds a little mean-spirited, but it is of course understandable why Disney would seek to prevent the unauthorized 3D scanning and 3D printing of its merchandise.

“It can be difficult for a company distributing collectibles and other 3D objects, such as plastic figurines of movie and animated film characters, to prevent unlicensed copying,” the patent explains. “This can be an even larger problem for companies that want to protect products that are made through a 3D printing process.”

Perhaps the more important point here though is whether the material would actually work. For starters, Disney needs would need to perfect an anti-scanning material that could resist different forms of 3D scanning—photogrammetry, laser scanning, and so on.

Disney has carried out 3D printing research of its own

But there are other limitations to consider too. For example, 3D scanning store-bought toys is just one of the ways to make a 3D printable model of a figurine. So even if this new material gets widely implemented, Disney lovers would still be able to create 3D models using their own freehand CAD skills or by importing 3D data from sources like video games.

If there’s one thing we can learn from this patent application, however, it’s that Disney is starting to take 3D printed copies seriously. Its attack on 3D scanning could even be part of a wider project to stamp out unauthorized copies at all stages of their creation.

Thankfully, Disney’s interest in 3D printing isn’t totally destructive. Earlier this year, the company acquired MakieLab, the British company behind the popular range of customizable, 3D printed “Makies" dolls. With Disney’s name and financial muscle, 3D printed toys like Makies could easily be brought into mainstream consumer circles.

Disney’s research arm has also been busy coming up with unusual-sounding 3D printing concepts. Two months ago, a Disney patent showed company researchers working on “huggable” 3D printed soft robots that could be used in Disney theme parks.

Our advice? Make as many 3D printed Star Wars toys as you can—while you still can.



Posted in 3D Scanning



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Mickey Moose wrote at 6/14/2017 11:00:56 AM:

Let's see how crazy this gets. Kid given toy that is boring due to DRM being primary design brief. Kid drops toy in mud, picks it up and friend takes a picture of impression left in mud. Disney sues kid and family for attempting to breach DRM by taking an illegal impression. Perhaps Nike can sue all police departments for taking plaster casts of their patented soles.

Ming wrote at 6/14/2017 2:34:03 AM:

The anti scanning material, no matter how ineffective, is an anti infringement countermeasure under the DMCA. So using paint or chalk or flour to defeat a countermeasure is illegal. Will it stand up in court? Who knows.

rambo wrote at 6/13/2017 6:57:40 AM:

White powder, that's it. Or any powder? or negative plaster moulding? See dental scanning...

The wrote at 6/13/2017 4:33:37 AM:

Where there is a will there will always be a way to undermine efforts to control others. By the sound of it, a light coat of paint would mask any surface obsfucations, then continue on with the scanning...

Ccc wrote at 6/13/2017 3:13:21 AM:

Just dip it in paint

Paul wrote at 6/13/2017 2:08:11 AM:

1) spray paint the toy matte black. 2) scan non-reflective toy 3) print

Tankapotamus wrote at 6/13/2017 12:25:55 AM:

So we have to buy a $3 can of spray paint with the toy now?

Antony wrote at 6/12/2017 11:58:00 PM:

Couldn't you just paint the figurine with matt paint before scanning and eliminate the anti scanning materials properties.

Reagan Boyd wrote at 6/12/2017 11:40:19 PM:

Hey Disney, what is paint?

3d dude wrote at 6/12/2017 11:06:00 PM:

All you have to do is paint the surface a solid color then scan. Not rocket science

Bill wrote at 6/12/2017 10:09:20 PM:

One word to defeat this type of technology. Flour Simply cover the part to be scanned in Flour and the scanner will have no issue scanning it. This patent seems like a waste of time and money for Disney. Bill

Majesty wrote at 6/12/2017 10:02:58 PM:

When there's a will, there's a way. Maker nation will rise beyond this, and Disney will be left in the dust.

Anonymous bastard wrote at 6/12/2017 8:25:22 PM:

So I just need to paint the figure then scan it. If I use water soluble paint then I can wipe it off after I make the scan.

Yew Couldntmakeitup wrote at 6/12/2017 6:57:34 PM:

LOL and it will do nothing about anyone with an artistic eye. Any coatings can be... Well, over coated. Here's our latest Star Wars models, the bitumen range. They aren't fun to play with and turn your hands and face black. ROFL

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