Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Counterfeit Threat of 3DPrinting


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I worry that someone will use a 3D printer to print another 3D printer, and it'll trigger some kind of printopalypse. By 2018, $100 billion of goods could be counterfeit with #3dprinting. 3D printing may be the next big counterfeit drug Big Business Idea! Counterfeiting is an issue but 3d printing has almost nothing to do with it. 3d printer objects are just a piece of plastic which is quite expensive for volume. I love the whole maker movement and 3d printing and all, but i worry about the accelerated rate at which we create plastic crap. That means it can replicate only other plastic objects, which are made hundred times cheaper, so what`s the point? But don't worry, your cell phone will be 3D printing drones and handguns while you sleep, like any day now, I bet. Scanning is just an efficient way of replicating physical model. $500 printers do not have the quality and performance to even try faking a product.

That was the attitude when desktop printing first hit the market and within a very short time people were counterfeiting currency and documents with enough fidelity to fool some, if not all. 3D printing is already moving at top speed, it's only a matter of time, and not much at that, before materials and quality improve to a sufficient level. Don't worry abs with 3D printing and artificial intelligence we can make an android ledger.

I love 3D printers and we use them for prototyping parts and testing fit. But materials selection is a giant part of engineering. I haven't seen a single material from a 3D printer that qualifies as production grade and 3D printing is sometimes less expensive than low volume machining, but it's more expensive than injection molding and machining at any real volume (usually more than 10 or 25 parts). That said, it's pretty easy to copy most products while using conventional production techniques - high end handbag counterfeits are so good that the legitimate copies now have encrypted RFID tags in them so the stores can tell the difference. And China has counterfeit cars! So maybe there's a more conventional use for these technologies. Don't worry if you have no skills in 3dmodelling or 3dprinting: just bring your idea and we'll take care of the rest!

Yep, so far everything I've seen items made by a 3D printer look like... it was made by a 3D printer. The technology will need to get two orders of magnitude better before it would be capable of producing realistic fakes made from a single type of material, let alone composite products made of many different materials. It might happen one day, but not by 2018. Technology has ways of surprising us all, but at the moment 3D printing is 80% hype 20% reality. You should be very worried about 3D-printing because it will lead to a new wave of piracy.
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