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3-D Printers Not Classifiable as Welding Machines or Machine Tools, Court Says

Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Court of International Trade ruled May 10 in EOS of North America Inc. v. U.S. on the classification of two models of 3-D printers, also known as laser sintering systems. These machines rapidly manufacture complex, solid three-dimensional objects using as raw materials particles of metal or plastic. Both systems rely on an automated process in which a computer, applying data stored therein, directs a built-in laser that selectively heats and melts together particles within a build chamber to form thin layers shaped according to the stored data.

The CIT agreed with the plaintiff’s original classification of the machines using metal particles as other machines having individual functions under HTSUS 8479.89.98 (2.5% duty). The CIT also upheld U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s classification of the machines using plastic particles as other machinery for working plastics under HTSSU 8477.80.00 (3.1% duty).

The CIT rejected the classification of these machines as laser beam welding machines (HTSUS 8515.80.00, duty-free) because welding refers to combining pieces that retain their identity at a common joint whereas the process at issue involves melting entire particles that lose their individual shape and identity in the production of new objects. The court also said the machines are not classifiable as machine tools (HTSUS 8463.90.00, 4.4% duty), which are used to modify the shapes of rigid or semi-rigid materials by removing or deforming material, because the machines at issue use particles or granules in an additive process.

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