As with any new technology, everyone is obsessed with the benefits that come with 3D printing. The technology has been amazing at revolutionizing designing, prototyping, and manufacturing across several industries. Moreover, it has many indirect benefits that include lowering transport costs, reducing carbon footprint, creating independence and improving the quality of products. However, there can be the dark side of 3D printing. The only reason why we are not seeing the dark side being so pronounced is that the technology is now gaining popularity and its effects have not been studied.
Here are things that could go wrong with 3D printing
Creation of energy shortage
3D printers are big energy hogs. They can consume between fifty to a hundred times the amount of energy it would take for injection moulding to create a similar item regarding weight and size. Direct laser metal deposition (fusing together of metal powder) takes hundreds of times more energy than casting. With this kind of energy requirements, they are likely to create energy shortages when they become easily accessible.
3D printers may pose a serious health risk when they eventually get to be used at home. Illinois Institute of Technology once said that an emission from desktop 3D printers is similar to burning of a cigarette. The fine plastic particles are emitted into the air and can get into the lungs. This may cause respiratory problems and a number of allergic reactions. Plastic is also linked to the development of certain cancers.
Overreliance on plastics
One of the biggest problems in the modern history is the way to deal with plastics. There has been widespread pollution on land and water bodies with devastating effects. People are looking for other solutions beyond plastics. 3D printers will be reversing the trend by increasing the plastic based products in the market.
Most common plastics used by 3D printers are PLA and ABS filament. PLA is biodegradable but expensive. Abs filament is cheap but not biodegradable. This is the most common type of plastic used. There will also be many plastic byproducts in the landfills from the printing beds.
Printing of weapons
The first gun has already been printed and used successfully. This has far-reaching ramifications for gun control and security agencies. With increased proliferation of 3D printers, soon people will have the capability to design and print guns from home. Some of the guns that are printed from 3D printers may be undetectable by metal detectors, as they do not have metal parts. While US law bans these guns, there are weak legislations about the same around the world. Soon, many agencies around the world will have a hard time controlling guns.
Property and trademark problems
There will be the proliferation of 3D designs some genuine and others were stolen from their creators. It will become hard to control some of the goods that will be produced from stolen technologies, as many people will have the capability to make items from home. There will also be counterfeits in the market that will look like the original products.
Ethics and regulation in bioprinting
There are no regulations that control bioprinting. Different companies have been able to print different cells including eye tissue cells and liver cells. There will be people who will be looking at this advancement for malice. There could be mixing of the cell from different types of tissues including those of the animals.
While full organ printing is still several years away, there are many moral, legal and ethical issues surrounding bioprinting. If they are not handled, the technology could prove dangerous for human survival.
Printing of drugs
Researchers are working on ways to manufacture drugs with 3D printers by mixing different ingredients at the molecular level. While this is likely to increase access to lifesaving drugs, the technology may also be used for manufacturing of contraband drugs, which will pose serious problems to efforts to deal with selling and use of contraband drugs.
If you printed a 3D helmet and still got injured when using it, who would take responsibility for the mishap? Is it the printer manufacturer, the creator of the design or yourself for using untested helmets? Such will be the problems that are likely to plague 3D printing in future.