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The Criminal Underbelly of 3D Printing

belekekin/iStockphoto

belekekin/iStockphoto

By Colin Scholes

While 3D printing promises to revolutionise manufacturing and biomedicine, it also stands to benefit criminals through the printing of guns, drugs and counterfeit goods.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

While 3D printing promises your children the ability to print their own toys at home, they can also print their own guns. And now all a criminal needs to break into your home is a 3D printer and a photo on social media showing you holding your keys – in and out without a window smashed. This is the darker side of 3D printing.

The promise of 3D printing is that it will revolutionise manufacturing, as consumers will be able to print objects on demand at home. This will avoid the time and cost associated with purchasing a physical object from a supplier. Instead the consumer will simply purchase a graphics file containing the instructions about how to print the object.

The idea of 3D printing has existed in some form since the 1970s, but it is only in the past decade that the technology has really come into its own. However, the social ramifications of this ability to 3D print on demand have yet to be fully appreciated.

The underlying principle of 3D printing is that a three-dimensional object is digitally broken down into a series of thin layers by computer. These layers are then printed consequently on top of each other to build up the object. This has the advantage of being able to build almost any shape imaginable, some of which are not possible with other fabrication approaches.

A variety of printing strategies exist. Extrusion printing...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.