3D Printing, or “additive manufacturing” provides significant benefits to a variety of organisations.
It can, however, also introduce additional risks.
This article explores some of the benefits and potential risks of 3D printing and how to mitigate them.
Potential of 3D Printing in the future
Imagine the future – rapid prototyping of new products, producing parts on-demand or creating custom-fitted body parts for a patient.
The potential for 3D printing to revolutionise some aspects of everyday life and how we consume products is very exciting.
Imagine being able to print a replacement part for your car from home.
It’s more convenient than going to a dealer and looking through parts books and diagrams, only to find the part you need is not in stock.
3D printing technology is becoming cheaper and more accessible
Windows 10 now ships with software to create 3D models, a good quality printer can be purchased for under £2,000.
3D printing software is becoming easier for anyone to create and develop a 3D object to be printed.
If you don’t want to buy your own 3D printer, companies like ShapeWays will allow you to upload your 3D model file, then print it and ship it to you.
Industrial manufacturers are also starting to use this innovative technology in their manufacturing or prototyping processes.
The aviation sector is already using this technology, with the automotive sector sure to follow in the near future.
As with everything good, there are also ways to misuse this technology for the criminal’s benefit.
3D printing for good
The world’s first 3D printed restaurant in London, FoodInk, gives a unique dining experience where everything from the furniture, utensils and food are all 3D Printed.
Early research also indicates that 3D printed food may be very helpful to patients with dysphasia who have difficulty swallowing food.
How criminals are using 3D Printing
In the US, there have been instances of criminals 3D printing counterfeit shipping container seals.
The criminal can then open a shipping container and hide any sign of tampering.
This allows criminals to remove goods or exchange legitimate goods for illegitimate goods and hiding the signs of tampering.
A number of startups have come and gone that can duplicate keys.
They allow you to store an electronic 3D model of your door key online.
You can then go to your nearest printing facility to get a new door key printed if you lose yours.
According to this article, even high-security locks with complex shapes can be compromised.
Even good security practice such as using restricted key sets, which require the owner to provide identification to obtain a duplicate key are not immune to this technology.
The article also goes on to highlight the potential risk of a disgruntled employee combining multiple types of keys used within an organisation.
Ultimately, this allows the employee can create a single key which can open any door within a company.
Terrorism and Industrial Sabotage
Imagine terrorists accessing the systems of an aircraft manufacturer and introducing a minor, undetectable fault to a critical part.
This could later cause a particular type of aircraft to go wrong, or worse still, crash.
Industrial sabotage becomes easier by copying products of high value or products in high demand, negatively affecting the reputation of the manufacturer.
By implementing security best practices, these risks can be mitigated to an acceptable level.
Good Cyber and Information Security
- Ensure that critical 3D printing facilities are disconnected from the Internet.
- Implement encryption and control who can access 3D model files.
- Where production is outsourced, implement controls, similar to PAS1192 to securely share 3D models between organisations.
Supply Chain Security
- Embed a chip into the seal during manufacture that customs or border control officers can read to determine it’s validity.
- Manufacturers must restrict access to shipping and dispatch areas to reduce theft of stock for duplication.
Alternative physical protection
Apply defence in depth, by not relying on a single system or layer of security.
- Replace mechanical keys with electronic access control systems using a smart card or biometric credential.
- When wired access control systems aren’t cost effective, consider wireless online or wireless offline solutions.
- Where it’s not possible to eliminate mechanical keys, for example, padlocks for gates, use mechanical keys with a chip inside to restrict the use of the key.
- Electronic key cabinets which require employees to use a card, or other credentials to get a key reduces opportunity.