3D Printers: An Impeding Threat


Quality of printing is rapidly evolving. With 3D printers, we can literally print out tangible objects with materials such as plastics, metal, and even compound chemicals.

But one critical question is arising: Is the technology purely beneficial? If not, what impact will it bring?

In terms of physical safety, there are potential negative impacts. This new technology can print plastic guns that are powerful as real guns. And that fact itself can be detrimental. Not only will it the weapon industry but it unfortunately build a new ground for crimes. Nonetheless, corporations, companies, and individuals are also highly concerned of the potentially permeating impact the printers will bring to the intellectual properties in various fields.

The obvious outcomes from this new development is the ability to replicate objects anywhere from your home to your office, with ease. Here is the result: “IP will be ignored and it will be impossible or impractical to enforce.”(John Hornick, an IP attorney in New York and a speaker at the Inside 3D Printing Conference)

I think this is a very accurate speculation of the imminent future. For example, children will be able to access CAD files on websites, such as Pirate Bay, and download designs of their favourite toys. They can also make use of technology in devices such as Microsoft’s Kinect motion sensor, to scan an object, load it into a CAD file and then onto a 3D printer: Here’s your new toy.

On the other hand, there is, for example, “D Tech Me” in Disneyland’s Hollywood studios. And the studio allows visitors to design and have the scanned toy figure for $100.00. And as Peer Munck depicts this situation, “Napsterization” of the 3D printing will definitely get off hand if we do not take precaution and action right now.

There is also a very critical point in terms of intellectual property, which Gartner, an industrial analyst mentioned. He first noted the common concern that the open, public accessibility to these products allow more potential IP thefts. However, he also concerns how 3D printers don’t necessarily have to produce a finished product. Rather, printers are also capable of printing ‘parts’ of a product, which he believes will be a more convoluted issue.

Personally, I think we have to be first of all, fully aware of this evolution, acknowledge both its pros and cons, and keep in mind of the past (such as Napster), work to prevent similar scenarios from occurring.