As 3D printing takes off, new legislation will have to ensure that the technology is used responsibility, writes DUNCAN ALFREDS.
“I think it will definitely be necessary to put new legislations in place. Even though I see 3D printing as an amazing technology that can add positively to society, we need to handle it cautiously,” Brian Andrew general manager of RS Components SA told Fin24.
According to research firm Gartner, 3D printers are set for a big year in 2015 amid increasing demand for the technology.
The company says that worldwide shipments will hit 217 350 units in 2015, more than double the 108 151 total expected in 2014.
“Unit shipment growth rates for 3D printers, which languished in the low single and double digits per year throughout the 30 years since the first 3D printers were invented, are poised to increase dramatically beginning in 2015,” said Pete Basiliere, research vice president at Gartner.
Home made guns
But there have been concerns that some could use the technology to print weapons that are undetectable by metal scanners.
“The New York City Council for example has already introduced legislation that would prohibit anyone who is not a gunsmith from using 3D printers to print guns and related equipment. In this case gunsmiths will have to notify the police department and seek registration within 72 hours of completing the printing of such a fire arm,” said Andrew.
That legislation was, in part, due to fears that plastic guns could make their way into the hands of criminals.
In 2013, Defence Distributed demonstrated the Liberator, a plastic 3D printed gun that could fire live rounds and avoid detectors at airports.
The design was downloaded more than 100 000 times before being taken off the internet, but it has highlighted concerns that anybody with a 3D printer could potentially manufacture weapons.
In the US, guns that can avoid metal detectors were banned under President Ronald Reagan in 1988, and renewed in 1998 and 2003. However, those laws don’t apply to 3D printed guns and legislation is pending on the issue.
In Japan though, Yoshitomo Imura was sentenced to two years in jail for producing a 3D printed gun. While there is no evidence that 3D-printed guns have been involved in gun violence, Australia’s Senate debated what restrictions should be placed on the technology.
But 3D printing is already proving a hit with consumers – even those who cannot afford the cost of the high tech gadgets.
Printing firm Wizardz and manufacturing Rabbit have launched a 3D printing workshop for the general public in Gardens, outside the Cape Town CBD.
“At Rabbit, we’ve always had the desire to expose 3D printing and Digital Manufacturing to everyone who is interested in exploring their inner ability to create,” said Rabbit founder Harry Ravelomanantsoa.