While advances in additive manufacturing offer potential breakthroughs in prosthetic arms or jet engine parts, 3D printing, as it is known, may also accelerate weapons proliferation.
A new RAND Corporation paper suggests additive manufacturing could benefit military adversaries, violent extremists and even street criminals, who could produce their own weapons for use and sale.
3D printing technology is also susceptible to hacking, which could allow sabotage by hackers who maliciously instruct 3D printers to introduce flawed instructions or algorithms into mission-critical parts of airplanes, according to the paper.
“Lone-wolf attacks may become more lethal when individuals have ready access to 3D printers,” said Trevor Johnston, lead author and an associate political scientist at RAND, a nonpartisan research organization. “Even in countries like the United States, where gun control laws have done little to restrict access to semi-automatic weapons, additive manufacturing could increase the risk of violence and murder.”