3D printing has opened up a whole new world of opportunity for designers and other enthusiasts. Unfortunately, it could be opening up a world of opportunity for criminals as well. There have been many recent debates in the media over whether or not 3D printers should be allowed to make guns or gun parts.  While the debate over 3D printers and firearms is still ongoing, it isn’t the only potential area for abuse. As 3D printing technology advances, there are also many possibilities for other types of 3D printing abuses.

The Dark Side of 3D Printing

One area of potential abuse is the emerging ability to reproduce jewelry and works of art. This potential is increasing as 3D printing becomes more and more accessible. As the prices drop on 3D printers, more and more people will have access to their own private 3D printer, allowing users the freedom to create what they will. While many would see this as a positive opportunity, there are those who would also see it as an opportunity for illegal activity.

Makerbot has just introduced a new device called the MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner.  The new device, which was unveiled at South by Southwest, can create a computer model of any small object.  The price was not released, but expectations are such that it will be relatively low-cost. This device automates the 3D printing process, making it much more accessible for anyone who can purchase the device. Makerbot has indicated that the scanner could be used for such things as artifacts, artwork, sculptures, clay figures,  and jewelry. While the dimensions of the potential scanning area only allow for small items, this would not be a deterrent to someone who would want to make a forgery of jewelry or sculpture.  However, the printer can only currently print items made of plastic.  However, as the technology improves, it is only a matter of time before other materials can be used, as industrial printers can already print in metal.

[Image via forbes]