Print Edition: September 24, 2014
3D printing is the newest technology that is taking over our lives. And since these machines have immense possibilities, the question arises: What will the consequences be? So far, it’s security issues and job losses.
The reason 3D printing is currently hot in the media is because of what you can print. A car, weapons, toys, and accessories are only a few of the possibilities. The ability to print whatever you want might seem cool; however with new technology comes unknown risks and unforeseen developments.
One of the main risks that come with 3D printers is the potential of printed weapons. There have been a few instances in Canada, Japan, and America where printed guns were found in people’s possession. It is illegal to have an unregistered gun but that does not stop people from having them. The technology to print off a gun in your own home makes it easy for people to obtain illegal weapons and use them without a trace.
There are steps being taken toward restricting the use of printed guns. For example, a company in Japan called Dai Nippon Printing (DNP) is working on software that is supposed to prevent 3D printers from printing weapons. However, this software won’t be ready for a few years and the problem is occurring right now. Guns are being printed and modified. By the time the software is finished, it is going to be too late.
Another concern is that 3D printing is taking the place of people’s jobs. Manufacturers can now click print, wait a few hours, and have a product ready to go. If companies have printers to create and assemble for them, then production and distribution by hand will no longer be needed.
Using these machines may be more efficient to make products and prototypes. The public will no longer have to go to the store to buy shoes and toys because they can design items themselves and print it off immediately and in the comfort of their homes. Right now the materials available to the public are limited, but innovation is not going to stop. New materials, faster machines, and better results will be created, and retail businesses will lose customers.
Being able to print cell phone cases, toys, artwork, and many other possible items is extremely cool, and the focus is often on the fun aspect of 3D printing, but the dangers are real. The changes being made will affect everyone, and this technology has an unknown future; meanwhile the current issues are not being dealt with fast enough.