I’m looking at how a 3D print company provided colorful 3D prints for sale using commercial designs. 

We’ve all seen this many times, where a popular character from the movies, TV, games or other mass media has been somehow reproduced in 3D form and placed on sale. The question is whether this is done legally. 

Certainly, fans have incredible enthusiasm for characters and objects from their favorite media, but enthusiasm doesn’t mean they have the legal right to reproduce the designs. Nevertheless, there are countless examples of this happening. 

For example, I just did a search on Thingiverse, the most popular online repository for 3D printable models, and found there are 582 results for “Spiderman”, many of which are clearly using the design of the movie character. There are literally tens of thousands of similar examples on that site alone.

I strongly suspect that virtually all of these were produced without permission from the owner of the design. 

Character Licensing

Some companies owning designs of this type are fine with the public reproducing them, as it is a way to grow notoriety of the characters and designs. The Star Trek franchise is notable for this, as they, at least for a while, permitted all manner of use of their characters and designs. However, when someone organized a near-commercial-level movie production, they stepped in and stopped it by enforcing their rights. This resulted in a somewhat draconian set of rules for how their material could be reused by the public.

But at least they do allow some use. Other companies, including one whose name starts with a “D”, vigorously protect their material by shutting down any instance of replication they detect. Their thought is that if they do not protect their material, it will de facto become a public property and they’ll lose the value of the designs. 

This is all problematic in the world of 3D printing because many people truly want to have 3D prints of their favorites. The good news is that some companies have taken the time to properly license the material from the owners to provide a way for fans to legally obtain 3D prints. 

Mixed Dimensions Full Color 3D Models

Some of the Mixed Dimensions team showing off full color 3D prints of EVE Online models [Source: Mixed Dimensions]
Some of the Mixed Dimensions team showing off full-color 3D prints of EVE Online models [Source: Mixed Dimensions]

One great example of this is California-based Mixed Dimensions, who are perhaps best known for their popular “MakePrintable” online 3D model repair service. But as a sideline, they also provide a way to obtain full-color 3D prints of certain characters. 

In this case, they have chosen to work with EVE Online, which is a long-time massively multiplayer online (MMO) game involving spaceships, galactic empires and that sort of thing. It’s been around since 2003, so it is definitely one of the oldest MMO games. The main “character” in the game is not a person, but is in fact the spaceships that people fly through the universe. 

Licensed CCP Games 3D Models 

Mixed Dimensions made arrangements with the game developer, Iceland-based CCP Games, who provided the necessary 3D files directly. This allowed Mixed Dimensions to tweak them for full-color 3D printing, which they apparently accomplish on very high-quality Mimaki full-color 3D printers. 

Currently, Mixed Dimensions offers seven different popular ship designs from EVE Online, with prices ranging from US$40 to US$75, depending on the model. It’s a “collection” within their growing array of commercially licensed designs. They also provide many ship designs from Star Trek through GamePrint, as well as full-color human anatomy 3D prints. 

If you’re interested in Star Trek or especially EVE Online, you might want to check out Mixed Dimension’s products.

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