From the very moment technologies appear, so do opportunities for crime and using those breakthrough discoveries for the purpose of pure evil and avarice.
Marc Goodman heads the Future Crimes Institute. It's a think tank which researches and advises companies and governments regarding the implications of emerging technologies. Goodman is also the Global Security Advisor and Chair for Policy and Law at Singularity University.
"Every time a new technology is being introduced, criminals are there to exploit it," says Goodman. "We've all seen 3D printers. We know with them that you can print in many materials ranging from plastic to chocolate to metal and even concrete. But I wonder to myself, for those people that strap bombs to their chests and blow themselves up, how might they use 3D printers? The UK I know has some very strict firearms laws. You needn't bring the gun into the UK anymore. You just bring the 3D printer and print the gun while you're here, and, of course, the magazines for your bullets."
And the list of tools for the criminal goes on and on. Printed guns, credit cards, keys, phone hacking tools, art forgeries and scanners capable of reproducing nearly any patented three-dimensional object in a production-ready form are already reality.
So what's next?
Art Forgery, Scanning and 3D Printing
Canon's Oce Group – makers of the company's professional large format printer line – have collaborated with researcher Tim Zaman to accurately duplicate famous paintings. With the help of the Kroller-Muller and Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands, Zaman came up with a photographic scanning system which can make short work of aping beautiful art.
The system does much more than digitize a high-resolution image of a masterpiece. It can also record 3D information in precise detail. Those details, the subtleties of brush work and the texture of the paint used, are turned into 3D models. A 3D printer can then be used to "reverse engineer" the works of the masters in pixel-perfect detail, and that could potentially render them nearly indistinguishable from the genuine article if the correct paint formulations are used as printer fodder.
If Zaman's scanning system is capable of reproducing the great painted works of art, it necessarily follows that it could also be used to re-create convincing versions of say, a Henry Moore sculpture like 1979's Upright Connected Forms.
Will criminals find that relevant information? You bet they will. An original Henry Moore work sold at auction last year for $30 million, and that much stacked cheddar is powerful motivation for forgers.
While Zaman's intentions are clearly scholastic and benign, it's hardly a stretch to imagine criminals and forgers salivating at the prospect of having his system at their disposal.