• Gregory Nichols

Creating a Community for Additive Manufacturing Security

We need to create a community of practice, a community of interest, a center, a niche dedicated to identifying, studying, mitigating, controlling, and communicating potential security risks associated with additive manufacturing. Need I say more? Well, of course I do, because I wouldn't be writing this post if I didn't have to.

Additive manufacturing, more commonly associated with three-dimensional or 3-D printing (although it's just a tiny part of it), is a class of manufacturing the makes products one layer at a time. This type of manufacturing contrasts with its subtractive cousin, as more traditional types of processes, such as forging and casting, rely on removing material from a much larger chunk of material to create a product. Additive manufacturing is the reverse...we take tiny bits of material and add it a little bit at a time until we have a desired product that matches the original design.

It seems simple, and in many ways it is. There are lots of bonuses to this type of production. For one, there is less waste, and second, since almost everything is self-contained, it's typically safer that traditional manufacturing processes. Finally, products can be printed on-demand, using less material, requiring less planning, and making things easier to transport. However, as with anything with is of course a darker side to additive manufacturing.

First, even though most printing processes are almost entirely enclosed, it's not the case that every little bot of material is contained in the printer. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has shown that 3-D printers do emit particulate matter during the printing processes that can be harmful to human health.

However, the bigger problem is that in order to have a blueprint to make an object, a 3-D printer relies on a digital file, and this file can be altered or corrupted, and causing an alteration on the final product can be detrimental to the well-being of anyone using that product. With the increased usage of additive manufacturing techniques in the automotive and aerospace industries, one can see how this would be a devastating consequence. this has already been demonstrated by at least one group.

Other researchers have shown that 3-D printer's elite unique sound, vibration, and heat signatures riding printing, so these patterns can be detected by bad actors and can actually be used to recreate objects via a counter-engineering methodology. Additive manufacturing has and will continue to make it easier for counterfeiters and saboteurs to flood the market with cheap, unauthentic goods.

Additive manufacturing doesn't discriminate what it prints; therefore, and of course, 3-D printers have already been used by private individuals to create weapons, and there is conner that terrorists can use 3-D printers to manufacture rockets, explosives, and even nuclear weapons.

A few of these challenges are sort of being addressed, but most of these, and others that we haven't even thought about yet, are not. So, what's the deal?

We as a society are just starting to understand the full potential of additive manufacturing, and that's both good and bad. There is no doubt that additive manufacturing will change the world - it already has. But, now is the time to realize that it's not only going to be used for good, and even if it is, there are still flaws in the system that can be exploited. We need to be diligent and to acknowledge the situation now. Much like we've dived into security for other areas, sometimes a little too late, we need to start thinking about a concentrated effort with devoted resources to tackling the issues of manufacturing security.

With that in mind, I'm calling for the development of a center that will lead the effort to identify and combat security risks associated with additive manufacturing. GP Nichols & Company is happy to lead the effort, but we need resources - equipment, facilities, experts, and support. We need a community of practice and the legitimacy to sustain it. It starts today...so who's with me?

For more about additive manufacturing and about how you can get involved in our new initiative, please go to our website, www.gpncompany.com.

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