NZ's Customs Minister is Worried About 3D Printing
Kyle Maxey posted on April 15, 2013 |

New Zealand, Drugs, Parliament, Guns, Science, computer, model, radio, audioMany have said that 3D printing could be a “game-changing” technology, but for Maurice Williamson, New Zealand’s Minister of Customs, 3D printing has the potential to be a security threat as well.

In an interview with Radio New Zealand, Mr. Williamson stated, “If people could print off, on printers, sheets of Ecstasy tablets at the party they're at at that time, that just completely takes away our border protection role in its known sense." 

To help head this potential off before it can become a reality, Mr. Williamson has asked everyone in  his is Ministry to begin exploring how this technology might affect the border security of New Zealand. "I've asked everyone in customs to start thinking about what a new world of 3D printing will mean for us".

While it is import to begin thinking about these questions, and I think the Minister’s intentions are in the right place, if 3D printers can begin reliably printing drugs, guns or anything that’s particularly harmful,l there won’t be any effective way to regulate that type of activity. Of course, printer manufacturers could always build firmware into their machines that prevents a printer from combining certain materials a certain way, but in the end, those machines will be hacked and the cat-and-mouse game of security will just perpetuate itself.   

But to be sure, Maurice Williamson’s concerns aren’t simply based on fear of the unknown. I think he’s genuinely concerned about what seems like a nearly impossible problem. As a onetime computer scientist himself, Minister Williamson is very excited about the potential that 3D printing technology could bring to New Zealand, going so far as to say, “I am just truly a believer that we’re about to undergo a revolution that will change the very existence of mankind beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.”

I think he’s right, and that’s both the problem posed by 3D printing and its benefit. For anyone who’s interested in making anything, whether it be iPhone cases, architectural models, food or even drugs, 3D printing gives you access to a revolutionary technology that changes how, when and where we manufacture anything.

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