Good luck banning 3D printer designs

February 27th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

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 .

“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.

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39 Responses to “Good luck banning 3D printer designs”

  1. metcalph (1,401 comments) says:

    How the fuck can you 3d-print gold, gems or drugs? Are the 3D printers alchemical transformers by any chance?

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  2. Lance (2,550 comments) says:

    Someones reality check just bounced. This is crap.
    Only an exploding star (or other violent nuclear event) can create gold.

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  3. redqueen (517 comments) says:

    It’s good to see that after a century or so of technology being used by the state to ever increase and enforce coercion and erode free choice and liberty, the technology is swinging the other way. You can see the death throws now: it’s not fair that online retailers and internet companies don’t have to be subject to our extortions of tax, that they aren’t inflicted with crippling costs of complying with state coercion like our local retailers are (be it limiting building or otherwise). It’s not fair that intellectual property rights are being used to seek rents and deny consumers choice or access. Now it’s not fair that the state shouldn’t be able to restrict your access to things it deems bad, based on access to replicating technology. That might allows individuals free choice, with all the misery and happiness that brings…

    Long may our liberty begin to return…

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  4. gump (1,541 comments) says:

    “The ultimate end of the technology could allow molecular-level printing of “gold, gems, food or drugs”.”

    —————————-

    I’m astonished at the level of stupidity required to say something this dumb.

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  5. cha (3,840 comments) says:

    No alchemy – yet.

    http://minimetalmaker.com/

    https://www.makerbot.com/

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  6. georgebolwing (673 comments) says:

    Good to see that Maurice has recovered from his brief stint of being a liberal and has returned to his true nature as a conservative, whose first reaction to any new technology is to have it banned.

    I am pretty sure that the New Zealand customs minister when the telephone was invented was horrified at the prospect of criminals using it to escape the law. I mean, imagine what would happen if law enforcement officials could not longer use the exchange of letters as a way of tracking what the criminal classes were doing.

    But then, I am sure that the UK minister of customs was against the introduction of the postal service, since it would mean that undesirable elements no longer had to be in the same room to plot their activities.

    Of course, allowing the lower orders to speak was probably also a mistake.

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  7. Rick Rowling (823 comments) says:

    Must’ve been a slow news day.

    The 3D printer gun thing is pretty old, and as many people have mentioned before, it’s easier to make a better gun with a fairly simple metalworking workshop – AND you wouldn’t have an electronic trace on your download of the gun pattern.

    As for the alchemy suggestion – I can only assume that Alex Fensome is a churnalist, completely scientifically illiterate, an 8-year-old, or a mix of all three.

    /I take that back, most 8-year-olds know you can’t just “make” gold.

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  8. gump (1,541 comments) says:

    For those of us with slightly longer memories, a similar “techno panic” happened when colour printers and scanners first started becoming available to home computer users.

    Does anyone else remember the dire warnings about the prospect of people producing counterfeit currency and official documents at home?

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  9. Kleva Kiwi (281 comments) says:

    For all those screaming “impossible”, many would have said the same thing about todays 3D printing, microprocessors, the printing press, the wheel, fire…

    I think what the author is referring to is that eventually, as the technology progresses and is further developed, 3D printing will be capable down to a molecular level, with the ability to “print” the chemical composition. I think they forgot to mention that this may not be in our life time, but it will happen.

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  10. Ed Snack (1,781 comments) says:

    Kleva, yes, but Gold and Gems ? I mean, either it is the raw material (as in gold) and who needs a 3-D printer, or the raw materials are ubiquitous but it’s more than just shape but also pressure and temperature required, as in gems. Maybe one could “print” gems, but not easily IMHO; it’s a bit more than just near atomic scale assembly.

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  11. Reid (16,085 comments) says:

    3D printing will be capable down to a molecular level

    Yes that may be and probably within our lifetime but to assemble the molecules you need the relevant atoms and where are they going to come from except from provided input materiel?

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  12. RRM (9,630 comments) says:

    A downloadable 303 machine gun would be… lovely! :-)

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  13. peterwn (3,204 comments) says:

    There was a story of a guy prosecuted for stealing film stock from the National Film Unit lab (the one Peter Jackson owns but he is getting rid of soon). he claimed he did not steal it as it was past its ‘use by’ date. He was illegally printing off blue movies for sale, the originals being smuggled into NZ by airline cabin crew.

    How times have changed!

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  14. cha (3,840 comments) says:

    Bill”s Big Banana and Barnyard Fun – those were the days peterwn.

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  15. dime (9,634 comments) says:

    LMAO

    and ya know what else? if people want a cordless phone they should have to get a permit from the post office..

    these guys are morons.

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  16. Camryn (551 comments) says:

    Can you print the parts to make a 3D printer on a 3D printer? That’d really mess with the ol’ business model.

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  17. Lance (2,550 comments) says:

    Seriously KK
    What part of gold is only made in a supernova don’t you get?

    You know, the old EMC2 stuff.

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  18. All_on_Red (1,483 comments) says:

    3D printers are already creating working body organs and parts. The latest is a lung but kidneys etc have been made. They use synthetic tissue.It’s impossible to stop its development.Eventually every home will have one for a multitude of uses.
    Of course all this was foretold in Star Trek with their “replicator “!

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  19. gump (1,541 comments) says:

    @Kleva Kiwi

    “I think what the author is referring to is that eventually, as the technology progresses and is further developed, 3D printing will be capable down to a molecular level, with the ability to “print” the chemical composition. I think they forgot to mention that this may not be in our life time, but it will happen.”

    ———————-

    Atomic printing of macro-scale quantities will never ever happen.

    As some of you will remember from school, there are 6.0221413 x 10^23 atoms in 12 grams of Carbon-12 (one molar mass). Do you have any comprehension of how many atoms this is?

    If a mythical molecular printer could print one billion atoms per second (which seems optimistic) it would take over 19 million years to print a single mole of atoms.

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  20. gump (1,541 comments) says:

    @All_on_Read

    “3D printers are already creating working body organs and parts. The latest is a lung but kidneys etc have been made. They use synthetic tissue.It’s impossible to stop its development.Eventually every home will have one for a multitude of uses.
    Of course all this was foretold in Star Trek with their “replicator “!

    —————————-

    No – you don’t understand how those structures are made.

    A synthetic support trellis is constructed using a 3D printer and stem cells are induced to grow on it. As the stem cells develop, the trellis gradually dissolves as it is replaced by living tissue.

    The real wizardry is in making the stem cells differentiate and develop into functioning organ tissue. The 3D printed support trellis is simply the scaffolding on which the stem cells are grown.

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  21. Dan (44 comments) says:

    @Camryn: Yep, the RepRap can print most of its own components.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RepRap_Project

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  22. All_on_Red (1,483 comments) says:

    Ah, thanks Gump. I was wondering how you didn’t end up with a pile of tissue!

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  23. wrightingright (145 comments) says:

    @metcalph @Lance maybe it is meant that gold items can be printed, if you use some source gold.

    It probably is already possible? As I know there are already 3D metal printers. (but they haven’t quite yet come down to Average Joe pricing to have in your living room, like other 3D printers have)

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  24. Lance (2,550 comments) says:

    @wrightingright
    Then why it viewed as a threat?

    Don’t get me wrong, I have a 3D printer myself and it is wonderful for prototyping and eventually will open up other possibilities but the over hyping is bordering on hysterical at the moment.
    I rode the microprocessor revolution as a career though the 80′s til now. In the early days the hype was ridiculous. Yes they are fast and the integration has been spectacular but they cannot think and have not taken over the world and enslaved the human race as of yet. They remain difference engines only.

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  25. Reid (16,085 comments) says:

    maybe it is meant that gold items can be printed, if you use some source gold.

    Yes but if Customs was meaning that then why are they saying its an issue?

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  26. Steve (North Shore) (4,518 comments) says:

    How about a #D printed brain, and transplant it.
    Wow, a whole lot of little Russel Normans fighting for dominance – go for it

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  27. nasska (10,865 comments) says:

    …..”How about a #D printed brain, and transplant it.
    Wow, a whole lot of little Russel Normans fighting for dominance – go for it”…..

    I’ve got a couple of paddock-fulls of the raw material since the steers went to the works on Tuesday. :)

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  28. Paul Marsden (990 comments) says:

    The creativity power of the human mind has barely been scratched. When this power aligns with serendipity, anything is possible.

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  29. wrightingright (145 comments) says:

    @Reid I think that is just a tiny throw away comment everybody is focusing on, the real issue Customs has is with guns and such.

    Which I reckon is just a good thing, will get rid of these outdated gun restriction laws!

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  30. davidp (3,555 comments) says:

    I couldn’t believe that this deranged physics-defying article wasn’t sourced from the Onion. So I Googled author Alex Fensome. It turns out he is the DomPost’s residential property reporter. FFS! One minute you’re gushing over some apartment in Oriental Bay in order to sell advertising in your property insert. The next you’re banging on about alchemy. But, worryingly, he also writes about environmental issues and fracking. Without checking, I predict that fracking worries him but he has absolutely no idea how it works.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/comment/blogs/the-inside-story/6574265/The-Dominion-Post-news-reporters

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  31. Monique Angel (262 comments) says:

    So Maurice is a member of the, “People don’t kill people, guns kill people”, Brigade. How sweet and isolationist.
    The only time a 3D printer becomes a threat to New Zealand is the day it prints out a bridge to traverse the ocean to Aussie or another major landmass. Breaches of biosecurity at the border are more of a threat than 3D weapons printing. Metal printers are on the horizon but plastics printing is more mature. Yes you can print a gun but you’re more likely to die on New Zealand’s atrocious roadways than at the hand of a printed gun.
    I have a 3d printer at home btw. It’s not yet a large scale personal toy.

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  32. TM (98 comments) says:

    You can’t 3D print gunpowder, so you can’t get bullets without a licence. And even if you could, there will probably be a lot of crap gun designs on the internet that will explode or backfire – a kind of self-regulation of illegal gun production.

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  33. Steve (North Shore) (4,518 comments) says:

    “You can’t 3D print gunpowder”
    Basic ingredients at your local Bunnings/Mitre10, and Countdowm/Paknsave. Even in your laundry

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  34. Shunda barunda (2,966 comments) says:

    This will revolutionize the porn industry!!

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  35. Ben Dover (526 comments) says:

    Good technology

    RUN NEW ZEALAND RUN AND BURRY YOUR HEAD UP YOUR A

    YOU PEOPLE SHOULD LEAVE THE THINKING FOR PEOPLE WHO CAN THINK

    IT IS NOT HOW DO WE USE IT?

    IT IS HOW DO WE BAN IT AND MAKE IT ONLY ACCESSIBLE TO SCUM
    SO THEY CAN TAX IT

    LEGISLATE IT AND RUIN IT FOR EVERYONE

    AND THAT IS THE TECHNICAL AND POLITICAL HISTORY OF YOUR COUNTRY

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  36. Nuwanda (83 comments) says:

    NZ has quite a conservative, reactionary culture. Queensland in the 80s comes to mind. Witness the degree to which the zealots continue to prosecute marijuana usage when the supposedly conservative USA moves towards a saner approach.

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  37. Ben Dover (526 comments) says:

    Yeah Yeah Light up another one DAK HEAD

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  38. Yoza (1,662 comments) says:

    I thought the gun was printed on an industrial printer worth hundreds of thousands. I suppose these things will be coming down in price and eventually the ‘entry level’ model will be able to perform feats similar to those of its industrial counterparts, but surely we are talking a decade away at least.
    The point raised on RNZ of greatest concern is the ability of these things to manufacture realistic banknotes. How long before cash becomes a non-viable form of currency?

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  39. ChardonnayGuy (1,179 comments) says:

    At least, though, let’s limit possession and use of 3D printers to those not convicted of previous firearms offences. Can you imagine such technology in the hands of organised crime?

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