Three-dimensional printers can already make guns, and may soon allow people to create gold, gems, food or drugs in their living rooms, the Customs Service has warned.
It suggests the law needs to be changed to control importing designs for restricted or prohibited goods in the same way as child pornography is restricted.
A report obtained under the Official Information Act says 3D printers have already been used for criminal activity and to create weapons. In Australia, one was used to make a working “card skimmer” device, which could steal credit card details
Designs exist online for printing working guns, such as the Liberator, created by Cody Wilson, a 26-year-old who calls himself a “crypto-anarchist”.
The Customs report, Border Implications from Emerging Technologies, says 3D printers have passed a “tipping point” and will radically change how borders are policed. The ultimate end of the technology could allow molecular-level printing of “gold, gems, food or drugs”.
The Customs and Excise Act is being reviewed, and Customs Minister Maurice Williamson, who requested the report after publicly voicing concern last year, said he could “almost guarantee” the review would include provisions to deal with 3D printing.
“How do you police a physical border when a vast amount of stuff could get past you by way of a digital file?” he said. “You may be able to carry through [customs] the digital specifications for it all . . . the printer can go ahead and produce [it].”
Trying to ban the import of the digital files will just lead to them being e-mailed or file-shared. The genie is out of the box, and you can’t put it back in.