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Quick Tech News


by Alexander Fäh

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New Export Controls for 3D Printing Technologies

  • The UK Government introduces new export controls for metal 3D printers and other key technologies.

  • A license is required to export specified technologies outside the UK.

  • These measures aim to strengthen national and economic security and build a domestic 3D printing supply chain.


Tightened Export Controls for 3D Printing and Other Key Technologies

The export of Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing technology will be restricted due to its use of electric arcs. Photo via Ramlab.
The export of Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing technology will be restricted due to its use of electric arcs. Photo via Ramlab.

The UK Government has introduced new export controls on "emerging technologies," including metal 3D printers, semiconductors, quantum computers, and cryogenic cooling systems. These measures affect military goods and dual-use technologies, which can be used for both civilian and military applications.

In the field of additive manufacturing (3D printing), the new restrictions impact metal 3D printers that use lasers, electron beams, or electric arcs. The transfer of software for the use, development, or production of these technologies is also prohibited. A license is now required to export the specified technologies outside the UK.

Implemented by the UK Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU), the regulations came into force on April 1, 2024, under The Export Control (Amendment) Regulations 2024 (ECO 2024). They impact Schedule 3 and Annex 1 of the Export Control Order 2008. These changes reflect a global trend of tightening export controls to protect and retain advanced technologies for economic and national security purposes. Additionally, there is an effort to create a strong domestic 3D printing supply chain amid global insecurities and threats to shipping.

The new regulations align the UK’s export restrictions with those of other "like-minded countries" such as the US and those in the EU. France, Spain, and the Netherlands have recently implemented unilateral export controls on advanced technologies, extending the scope of export restrictions beyond the dual-use goods specified within the EU Dual-Use Regulation.

Specifically, the amendments restrict the export of 3D printers "designed to produce metal or metal alloy components" if they use inert gases or a vacuum of less than 100 Pa for atmospheric control. The affected 3D printers also feature in-process monitoring equipment, such as internal cameras, pyrometers, radiometers, and spectrometers, as well as a closed-loop control system that adjusts 3D printing parameters based on real-time feedback from the monitoring tools.

In addition to hardware, the amendments also prohibit the export or "transfer by electronic means" of software used in the "development" or "production" of these technologies. This is the first time the UK government has implemented protections for these technologies, recognizing their importance to national security.


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