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The 3D printer peril!

Written By: - Date published: 10:47 am, April 12th, 2013 - 108 comments
Categories: you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: , , ,

From RNZ:

3D printers a border security threat – minister

Customs Minister Maurice Williamson says he is extremely worried about what 3D printers will do to border security …

He says household printers will soon be able to produce drugs and weapons, and the country’s borders are extremely vulnerable.

“If people could print off … 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.”

Who can save us from this peril?

108 comments on “The 3D printer peril!”

  1. TheContrarian 1

    Yeah not sure about printing ecstasy.
    It’s a printer not a teleporter you klutz

    • Colonial Viper 1.1

      Invasion of the Star Trek matter replicators….

      WTF is Williamson on about? And National Radio was going on this morning about the coming threat posed by ordinary home printers. I mean, WTF?

      • TheContrarian 1.1.1

        You would still need to raw ingredient to fill the printer with so effectively the printer would just be a pill press.

        (Though there is the threat of people printing off weapons – that is a real issue)

        • lprent 1.1.1.1

          No more so than anyone with access to the internet and a few tools. Plastic spring loaded weapons aren’t exactly hard to make (ie plastic slug guns) and nor are large magazines.

          It will be some time before the 3D printers are able to make barrels, locks, or automatic reloading mechanisms capable of handling the gas discharges on an explosive weapon.

          • chris73 1.1.1.1.1

            Yes but human endeavor being what it is I think Williamson is right to be concerned (about the guns anyway)

            • One Anonymous Knucklehead 1.1.1.1.1.1

              What, you think bad people have trouble getting access to weapons in NZ?

              Don’t want people printing their own paracetamol now, do we? What would that do to profits?

              • Populuxe1

                They don’t find it easy to acquire semi-automatics or high power sniper rifles, no. Silly.

              • chris73

                I’m a firm believer in gun ownership, I like the fact I can go and buy a machine gun, sniper rifle, battle rifle etc etc

                As long as I get my licence and endorsements, printing of firearms for yourself is something I’m not keen on especially as the technology improves

                If people can print off drugs well good on them, I think all personal drug use should be decriminilized, maybe do what Portugal is doing

            • lprent 1.1.1.1.1.2

              There is a whole different level of problem involved in sintering metal to produce the kind of bonded strengths required.

              Of course it is quite feasible to rebuild an existing semi-automatic weapon to become fully automatic. But personally I’d just ban the import of semi-automatics because they serve no useful functional purpose apart from pleasuring people who like wasting ammo.

              • chris73

                I think the gun rules we have now are working just fine, theres no need to ban something just because you don’t like them.

                I would take a look at the 3d printing seriously though.

                • Jackal

                  In 2011, around 7000 prohibited and regulated weapons offenses were reported in New Zealand… Clearly further firearm law reforms are required.

                  I would take a look at the 3d printing seriously though.

                  For making weapons? That says more about your lack of knowledge concerning simple manufacturing principles than anything else chris73.

                • lprent

                  Silly diversion. I guess you just didn’t want to deal with the question…

                  I do like weapons and have done so ever since I was in the army. My sole proactive reason to go to Invercargill is because Lyn’s father is a gunsmith and has some interesting ones to play with.

                  However that wasn’t what I said. What I said was there was no functional purpose in NZ for semi-automatic weapons. If there was a problem with conversions from semi-automatics to automatic with 3D printers or CNC lathes or whatever, then just remove the semi-automatics. The materials, mechanisms and tolerances on those are going to be impossible to produce with a melted sinter technique. It effectively gets rid of the weapons side of Maurice’s foolish fears.

                  Seems like a simple enough thing to me.

                  • chris73

                    “What I said was there was no functional purpose in NZ for semi-automatic weapons.”

                    – I don’t have a problem with semi-auto rifles and shot guns for hunting purposes and if someone wants to buy a machine gun and blat away on the range and waste some rounds I don’t see an issue with that either

                    – I think a bigger problem would be banning things because we don’t see a need for them *insert slippery slope reference here*

            • Rogue Trooper 1.1.1.1.1.3

              ahhh, a “snale” trail. . . . . . . . . .

  2. BM 2

    Google 3d printing drugs

  3. One Anonymous Knucklehead 3

    This.

    “The ‘chemputer’ that could print out any drug”.

    • TheContrarian 3.1

      Yeah but you need the raw ingredients.

      • One Anonymous Knucklehead 3.1.1

        Sure, they just sell the machine, not the print cartridges.

        Oh, and by the way, Wikipedia informs me that Ecstasy, for example, is made of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen.

        • TheContrarian 3.1.1.1

          As well as Safrole
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safrole

          • One Anonymous Knucklehead 3.1.1.1.1

            You use “reactionware” to make it. Google it.

            • TheContrarian 3.1.1.1.1.1

              So all you are doing is replacing one method of doing chemistry for another.
              It still isn’t the equivalent of printing sheets of ecstasy at a party

              • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                The major concern is for the profits from legal pharmaceuticals once anyone who knows what the molecule looks like can make it locally.

                Has the penny started to drop?

                The current manufacturers are looking at a new distribution paradigm with horror.

                • Jackal

                  You can’t manufacture the “molecules” required to produce ecstasy (or any other drug for that matter) out of thin air One Anonymous Knucklehead… You still need the raw ingredients, which cannot be downloaded off the internet. Such a fantasy is quite simply ridiculous! Why would you use a 3D printer when a pill press is cheaper and faster anyway?

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    You still need the raw ingredients, which cannot be downloaded off the internet.

                    No they can’t – but they can be purchased at the dairy.

                    Why would you use a 3D printer when a pill press is cheaper and faster anyway?

                    For now.

                    • TheContrarian

                      ” but they can be purchased at the dairy”

                      You can’t purchase Ecstasy catalysts and percusors at the dairy Draco

                    • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                      TC, what about Soliris? Or herceptin?

                    • TheContrarian

                      You going to make herceptin from ingredients at the dairy? Good luck with that

                    • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                      Carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen and sulphur.

                    • TheContrarian

                      You do know you can’t actually buy hydrogen from the dairy?

                      Secondly are you really suggesting that it is as easy as just combing those elements? Really?

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      You can’t purchase Ecstasy catalysts and percusors at the dairy Draco

                      And what happens when the 3D printer becomes the catalyst?

                      It’s coming. There was an article a few years ago (haven’t been able to find it since which is really irritating) about a Canterbury University team that had managed to perfect the manipulation of atoms by lasers. The next step, I believe, would be to give the atom the necessary energy state that it will form a molecule with another atom or series of atoms.

                      Time consuming? Sure, but when there’s millions or billions of these types of printers around who really cares?

                      And I’m sure that the time constraint will be addressed at some point to.

                    • TheContrarian

                      The key ingredient of ecstasy is a controlled substance which you’d need first

                    • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                      TC: yeah, I know it’s not that easy, but I doubt 3D printing is “that easy” either and yet there’s one right there.

                      And let’s face it, this is only version 2.0 or something.

                    • Jackal

                      Now correct me if I’m wrong, but the catalyst or active ingredient in ecstasy is usually 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine also known as piperonyl acetone, which as TC has noted is derived from Safrole, an organic compound. Also known as MDMA base, it’s a colourless oil insoluble in water.

                      Originally safrole was mixed with hydrobromic acid to form bromosafrole, which was converted to MDMA using methylamine, which is also an organic compound.

                      As far as I can tell, this is a reactive animation process, meaning that simply mixing these separate components together in a printing mechanism using printing cartridges wouldn’t work… You would need a chemical reactive and/or heat process first.

                      Here is a common biochemical sequence in the reactive process: HO2CC(O)R → HO2CC(=NCH2-X)R → HO2CCH(N=CH-X)R → HO2CCH(NH2)R. You can’t honestly be trying to tell me that a 3D “printer” can or will be able to do that?

                      Also, Safrole is derived from plants, meaning that without plants providing the complex active ingredient, synthesis of effective illicit drugs is unlikely to occur. The same can be said for cocaine, heroin and pretty much any illicit drug you can mention.

                      Some prescription and illicit drugs are entirely synthetic, but I would presume that adding the expense and difficulty of mixing various components in order to print them would make the process entirely prohibitive. It certainly won’t be the issue that Williamson and his defenders seem to envision.

                  • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                    Um yes. You have to have access to the raw materials. And the hardware, and the software “formula” and then you can make them anywhere. And it’s a new distribution paradigm, which pharmaceutical companies would doubtless like to control, to prevent someone like me, say, looking up the software for their latest creation on say, Megaupload, and making a batch without paying them a cent.

                    • TheContrarian

                      You have invented a conspiracy (of sorts) before such a conspiracy is even technologically viable.

                      That must be a record of some kind

                    • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                      What’s conspiratorial about an industry doing its best to protect profits?

          • Rogue Trooper 3.1.1.1.2

            love seasonings

      • NickS 3.1.2

        pfft.

        Feedstock is a piece of piss to get your hands on for most organic chemistry work, it’s reactants (attaching carbons to aromatic rings requires “fun”, and nitrogen groups…) and catalysts (ranging from iron oxide, to the esoteric) that’s another problem. Along with the usual low yield issues if the synthesis method hasn’t been or is very problematic to optimise.

        Although nano-scale surfaces have produced some interesting catalysts and the fluid physics of small reaction vessels and delivery tubes introduces some novel solutions (so. much. chemistry…).

        Either way more time and research be needed to make drug-bricks economical compared to current organic synthesis methods. But it’s sure as hell not a piece of pure fantasy, unlike grey-goo.

  4. lprent 4

    I heard this and spent the entire segment saying WTF!

    I couldn’t figure out who were the biggest fools, Maurice, or the gullible idiots that reported that as news.

    You could with the current technology produce plastic spring loaded weapons with a 3d printer. But anyone with access to the internet and a tool shop could produce both them and black powder weapons. Not to mention that it isn’t that hard to find out how to make bombs, poisons, and all manner of interesting weapons.

    And ecstasy? This guy used to be a science teacher right? I guess his time as a politician has just rotted his brain because I can’t conceive of a way that 3d printer can make chemicals.

    At the tag end of the segment somewhere, I finally heard what it was about when the woman from InternetNZ said that downloading copyrighted material is exactly the same as downloading a song. Just Maurice jerking off on intellectual property issues and getting prepped for more dumbass ineffective legislation

      • TheContrarian 4.1.1

        Yes but you still need the raw ingredients.

      • lprent 4.1.2

        Yeah. The tissue and prosthetics uses are well known.

        The production of agents is something that is possible (and is regardless of the type of technology) but you still have to provide the precursors and catalysts. Ask any street P or base producer. They produce quite sophisticated drugs using cookbook techniques. Hell, even producing rotgut alcohol is just cookbook (that my grandfather was pretty good at). Their main problem is and always has been on getting the precursors and equipment.

        Having a printer assemble a catalysed product is just another cookbook technique requiring precursors. You could do the same thing without the printer.

        • TheContrarian 4.1.2.1

          Exactly what lprent sez

        • One Anonymous Knucklehead 4.1.2.2

          I don’t think the manufacture of illegal drugs is the issue here.

          I think the manufacture of legal ones is. Researchers are discussing decentralised manufacture, effectively a new distribution model. Pharmaceutical companies (not to mention the medical profession) will be concerned for their profit margins.

          • Jackal 4.1.2.2.1

            Large manufacturers of most legal drugs can undercut any smaller manufacturer by buying the raw ingredients in bulk. Also, the quantities and makeup of those ingredients are invariably not public knowledge, meaning that any generic replication isn’t usually as good as the patented original.

            With manufacturers having exclusive rights to the drugs they produce and a number of hurdles they must pass before those drugs are allowed to be sold, decentralised manufacturing of safe and effective drugs isn’t likely to be a growth industry.

            Besides, if it was as simple as you make out One Anonymous Knucklehead, why not just buy the raw ingredients and some gelatine capsules? Why the need for a 3D printer?

            • One Anonymous Knucklehead 4.1.2.2.1.1

              the quantities and makeup of those ingredients are invariably not public knowledge

              And with the right software, you don’t need any of that knowledge, and you could say, make your own paracetamol and pay the chemist nothing.

              Pharmaceutical companies will try and control this technology in the same way that Hollywood tries to control software piracy, and for the same reasons.

              • northshoredoc

                Even if you could why would you bother when PHARMAC currently buys it in for the NZ public at $9.38 per 1000 tabs ?

                • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                  Because it might not be paracetamol you were after, and it might not be available through Pharmac.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  Why pay $9.38 per 1000 when you can print 10,000 for the same price?

    • Draco T Bastard 4.2

      But anyone with access to the internet and a tool shop could produce both them and black powder weapons.

      And you don’t need black-powder either. A good workshop and air guns work fine.

  5. Wow seems to me that Williamson may have taken an Ecstasy tab before saying this, and not one of those 3D printer jobbies either …

    [posted also at dim post]

  6. gnomic 6

    What has Maurice been smoking? I think we should be told. I definitely don’t want any. Isn’t it about time this nitwit shuffled off into well-deserved obscurity? I was going to say, took his nose out of the trough, but of course we’ll be paying his bills until he bites the dust.

  7. Dv 7

    So – the 3 d printer could print food!!!!! from c h o and N
    Bugger that could stuff the economy

  8. Populuxe1 8

    I think you are willfully ignoring the asymptotic teleological evolution of any technology. It is entirely possible that, for example, it will become possible to “print” a high power assualt rifle or a machine gun, part by part, without the need for specialised tools. The actual material is somewhat irrelevant in contrast to the engineering specs. More to the point you would probably be making it froma non-ferrous material, so blammo – suddenly you are crawling with the equivalent of those ceramic Glocks that don’t get picked up by metal detectors.

    • TheContrarian 8.1

      yeah – the weapons part is right.
      Not so with complex chemicals. Ecstasy requires Safrole for example and unless you have a safrole cartridge you can’t make ecstasy

      • One Anonymous Knucklehead 8.1.1

        You think bad people have a problem getting access to safrole in NZ?

        This is about profits, not crime.

        • TheContrarian 8.1.1.1

          Ecstasy manufacture in NZ is extremely rare and nearly all of the ecstasy in NZ is smuggled in.
          If you had all the ingredients all you are doing is using the 3D printer instead of using traditional chemistry methods which take much longer.

          • One Anonymous Knucklehead 8.1.1.1.1

            …and this isn’t about illegal drugs it’s about the “right” to manufacture legal ones.

            • TheContrarian 8.1.1.1.1.1

              /facepalm

              • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                Cronin imagines a day when researchers and perhaps even consumers could download 3-D printing instructions as easily as downloading a smartphone app, use the program to print the desired reaction chamber at home or in the lab, and be able to have a customized, fully tested and characterized chemical reaction at their fingertips within just a few minutes. Think printable pharmaceuticals or other beneficial chemicals for consumers or the military, among other things.

                And if you download the software from Megaupload.com rather than Pfizer.com?

                Has the penny started to drop yet?

                • TheContrarian

                  You can do that now with a chemistry set you silly person.

                  The printer just speeds up the process but you still catalysts and chemicals.

                  • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                    Yes, you can do it know if you know a bit of chemistry.

                    The new process requires hardware, ingredients, and software. Where’s the $ for the guy who knows chemistry?

                    • TheContrarian

                      /facepalm

                    • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                      You don’t get it: the “clever chemist” does the job, and then the software gets stolen and mass manufacture goes ahead without the “clever chemist” earning a well-deserved cent.

                      Actually, the scenario is more like “open source” medicine competing with patent-based medicine.

                      You think the industry has a position on that much?

                    • northshoredoc

                      This is effectively what occurs in India where IP on pharmaceuticals is at variance with most other countries but I can assure you it is very much more difficult to formulate APIs, intermediates and finished products than is suggested on this blog even with the formulation.

                    • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                      Do you predict it’s going to get more difficult, or easier, with the advent of this new technology?

                    • northshoredoc

                      It’ll depend on the adaptability of this technology to deal with complex chemical reactions, I think the technology is certainly very exciting in relation to surgical intervention and implants down the track.

                    • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                      Adaptability? My pick is this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

      • Populuxe1 8.1.2

        Until the point technology gets to where some kind of nano-process synthesises it straight out of the carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen in the air…

        • TheContrarian 8.1.2.1

          Yeah of course but that is like Williamson getting all frightened that soon we might be able to teleport drugs from one place to another using a teleporter. Sure we don’t have one yet but one day…

        • lprent 8.1.2.2

          If that happens then I suspect that keeping a planet intact would be more of an issue. If you can do that then there is nothing apart from hackable software to stop it happening to water or rocks.

        • NickS 8.1.2.3

          We already have a means of doing that, it’s called “plants” 😛

    • NickS 8.2

      Meh, ultimately it’s just a materials science issue, if the funding is there, some group will make the right kind of plastic feedstock that is a suitable metal replacement, but it’ll probably be more economical to make guns from metals. Knives on the other hand…

  9. Dv 9

    So why doesnt Ryall talk to Williamson

    3 d printer is a solution to hospital meals.

    • Tigger 9.1

      This.

      In fact, these magical machines could solve a whole bunch of problems. Just had to renew my passport. Pity I didn’t have a 3D printer so I could save myself the hassle. And had to go to chemist to get some medication refilled but hey, the 3D printer can handle an inhaler, right? Also, need a new car. I’ll just spit the parts out of my 3D printer.

  10. Saccharomyces 10

    Oh my god….. words fail me. Wasn’t Maurice Williamson minister of technology at some point?

    And besides, everyone knows that ecstasy pills don’t come in sheets, they come in little plastic bags!

  11. vto 11

    Printed weapons?

    A war of paper-cuts sounds much better than a war of thermo-nuclear exchange. Bring it on I say.

  12. Pascal's bookie 12

    brb, just downloading some water to print out for the front paddock

  13. DH 13

    It must be true, only someone who can print (and ingest) their own drugs on a 3D printer could come up with anything this stupid.

    The weapons argument is a bit daft. You can already build most of the firearm with a home CNC machine and they’re cheaper than 3D printers.

  14. Plan B 14

    Printing guns is basically already upon us. 3D printers can use titanium oxide so key gun parts gun can be made from titanium
    The plans are sort of available and the completely gun is no different from any other gun- a whole bunch of pieces that are then put together. some plastic some titanium
    I say it is almost there. The US are mad on guns, the idea that you can make your own gun is very appealing to a large number of people in the US. Once it is all on the net it will be everywhere.
    It will mean a major change in thinking
    Not sure where it will end up

  15. Descendant Of Sssmith 15

    Of course you can also print heaps of stuff with a 3d printer, including the 90% of the printer itself.

    That was part of the original idea – buy one, first job is to print another one and sell it to get your money back.

    These have been around for quite a few years now but get better all the time. The make your own gun thing has been around a while as well.

    There must be an equilibrium point where idiots get worried about people getting away from the private sector selling them stuff.

    Getting an ouya – you can make your own case – plans are free on the net
    Make you own clothes pegs, clothes hooks, plastic sandals, cups, fruit bowls………

    You might have to inhale a few plastic fumes but what the hell.

    Banning the technology would be stupid.

    It is interesting how it is developing though.

    • DH 15.1

      “It is interesting how it is developing though.”

      They are interesting. I was going to buy one of the Stratasys printers but fortunately I decided to do some research first & ended up giving it away until the market develops more. There’s a whole bunch of different technologies at varying prices and heaps of caveat emptor traps like cost of consumables, print quality and length of time they take to do a print.

      I want one but can’t justify the cost for the type that I want.

      • Descendant Of Sssmith 15.1.1

        I’m in the same boat. The geek in me wants to play though and has done for a few years.

        They are getting better and more sophisticated with each new iteration and it’s cool watching the progression.

        Settled for an Ouya to play with as a compromise.

  16. billbrowne 16

    Why print drugs? – print gold bars and cut out the middle-man

  17. joe90 17

    3-D printed gun fires 6 shots – then falls to pieces.

    • Draco T Bastard 17.1

      And how long before it shoots 12? 24? Unlimited?

      That’s the thing about new technologies – they’re not very good at the beginning but they get better over time.

  18. Murray Olsen 18

    The fact that the average IQ is 100 and half the population are under this sometimes scares me when I think about it. This brain fart by Williamson places him squarely in about the bottom 10%. I’m not even going to insult the intelligence of anyone here by commenting on why what Williamson says is stupid beyond belief. The RWNJs can just believe what he says anyway, on the basis that he’s a Tory minister and therefore godlike.

  19. vto 19

    Are these like those machines where you place some grass and water in and the molecules and atoms get rearranged to make milk?

    Wouldn’t that be grand. Bye bye moo cows.

    Don’t even need to go to the dairy for those ingredients, just step out into the back lawn.

  20. Arto 20

    Nah, I don’t think that 3D printers will be able to fashion gun barrels anytime soon!

  21. NickS 21

    Who can save us from this peril?

    Stupid-Legislation-Twit can!

    Watch as they submit utterly braindead legislation with financial and brain support from copy-right lobbyists, which shall flounder on the reefs of teh law and generally be either utterly ineffectual and/or draconian.

    Watch as they hinge a good degree of their political career to it, only to quickly change tack when the shit hits the fan and flip-flop like crazy!

    And more seriously – the main threat from 3d printers is pirate printing of copyrighted/patented replacement parts + open source or small-fee licensing plans that could replace a lot of smaller household items. Need more pegs? Print ’em! Need some more plates? Print em! Need a replacement plastic buckle? Print it! Missing a bit of lego? Print it!. The list pretty much overs any non-clear plastic item that can fit within a current printer.

    For a insight into the potential impacts – Cory Doctorow book “Makers” or “Rule 34” by Charles Stross.

    • Descendant Of Sssmith 21.1

      A few people have already duped Lego bricks just cause they can – not that it was cost effective.

      Prototype testing seems to be one of the places where there is already a cost effective use for these printers though. The easy ability to move from 3d image to testing to modification to test again without leaving the building is working well for quite a few people.

  22. the pigman 22

    Well, this is going to put Walter White out of a job…

  23. kiwi_prometheus 23

    “If people could print off … sheets of Ecstasy tablets at the party they’re at at that time”

    Cool, dependable high quality E, it might clear out the current bloated commercial electronic dance music and revive the double speed break beats and screeching cartoon voice loops of the early 1990s underground rave scene: “I’LL TAKE YOUR BRAIN TO ANOTHER DIMENSION!!!”

  24. millsy 24

    You are all missing a very important point (like Williamson).

    You cannot just simply go down to Dick Smiths or Harvey Norman and buy a 3D printer. They are a quite expensive. Just did a google now, and a basic one would cost just under $1000. Not including consumables.

    The idea of some homey printing himself off guns for himself and his mates is actually quite laughable.

    • kiwi_prometheus 24.1

      What’s $1000 when you can print off unlimited Es, A grade Colombian cocaine and weaponry to have a better armed gang than the state forces?

    • Populuxe1 24.2

      So? $1000 isn’t exactly that hard to get – it’s the exact amount of the annual study costs payment on a New Zealand student loan, and would be fairly easy to get from a loan shark. Then you print off the parts needed to upgrade the printer, or even print a whole new top of the range one – perhaps not quite yet, but most of you seem to be stuck in a very 20th century paradigm of technological progression.

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