The Scary Side of 3D Printing


3D printing isn’t a new concept. In fact, it’s been around for over twenty years. However, more recently there has been a moderate amount of hype around them -thanks in part to pioneering startups like Makerbot and 3D Systems- which is resulting in the everyday man’s fancy to be tickled. Furthermore, not only is 3D printing as a process becoming more refined (better, smaller & cheaper), but it is being pitched at the modern day consumer who will be able to construct toys, or furniture, or even repair parts for broken objects around the house. However, the question is raised as to whether this technology will find itself being misused to make keys, replicas of jewellery or other brand items, among many other aspects.

History of 3D Printing

Charles Hull was the main developer for 3D printing, and founder of 3D systems in 1984. The concept of 3D printing is constructing a three dimensional solid item from a digital model on computer. The process is an ‘additive’ process, which sees layer upon layer being added on. The 3D printing technology has been used in many different industries since the late 90s, including; jewellery, aerospace, industrial design – just to name a few. However only in the last year, are we hearing of 3D printers being pitched at the modern day consumer.

The Misuse of 3D Printing

There is a danger that accompanies the ability to print objects in 3D. People are naturally curious, and will always push the boundaries of what they can do. However, what happens when people stop printing parts of their dishwasher that need to be repaired and start printing parts of weapons? Here are a few examples of this:

Manufacture of Gun Parts

Recently an apparent home gun constructor who goes by the name of HaveBlue actually printed a part of the lower receiver for his AR-15 rifle – thus completing his firearm. This, according to the online blog Global Guerrillas is the first ever three dimensional printed firearm. Even though HaveBlue received warnings from the online community telling him that he would injure himself if he discharged the weapon, he in fact fired more than 200 rounds from it – completely unharmed.


With 3D printing, patent, copyright and trademark laws could all be infringed upon. In the words of Bre Pettis, the chief executive of MakerBot, ‘it’s a sharing world. We are at the dawn of the age of sharing where even if you try to sell things the world is going to share anyway’. As you can already see with the music industry, the foundations have been rocked with the way music is distributed and shared online – causing the whole game to change. The same could well apply to different industries once 3D printers become commercialised.

3D Printed Card Skimmer

Late last year there was a story which talked of a ‘skimmer gang’ stealing over four hundred thousand dollars using ‘ATM skimming devices’ which were in fact built with the aid of 3D printers. The printed device would be placed over the card insert slot of ATM machines and then would steal card information without the owner even knowing. Without 3D printing, the device would not have been able to be made with such ease. With the commercialisation of 3D printers, the modern day consumer has right cause to be slightly worried after reading stories such as this! In conclusion, 3D printing is going to bring about change for the world; for better or worse (or both!). It will be interesting what kind of rules will be implanted with the introduction of 3D printing by the higher powers…and how many people adhere to those rules!

Thanks to PrinterInks for providing us with this fascinating insight into the future of 3D printing. What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments.

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