Cybersecurity Risks in 3D Printing

Cybersecurity Risks in 3D Printing

3D Printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a $4 billion business. A report suggests that it has the potential to change the way businesses operate.

From cars to bridges, medical equipment to product design, and creating machine parts at an economical price, 3D printing has emerged as a business savior for startups and even medium-sized businesses.

With the first 3D part for a jet engine approved by the FAA, companies like Ford and many others are moving towards additive manufacturing to develop parts and prototypes that save them time, resources, and a lot of cash.

However, over the past few years, just like computing and electronics, the 3D industry is being threatened by cyber-attacks trying to access data and misuse it for their benefit.

A team of experts gathered around to understand the cybersecurity risks in 3D printing. We are happy to share the findings with you. These insights will help you stay protected while using 3D printing.

A team that included Steven Eric Zeltmann observed and shared two aspects of 3D printing that can harm cyber attacks. The printing orientation and insertion of fine defects.

Findings Of The Research

Software Vulnerability

The additive manufacturing is done with a CAD file that the designer sends over to the computer. The manufacturing software analyzes the design, divides it into slices and positions it towards the printer so that ultra-thin layers for printing can be applied.

There is a possibility of an attack because, with a CAD file, there are no instructions on the orientation of the file in the head positioning. The head could cause 25% variation, which provides an opportunity for anyone to cause issues by making changes in the orientation of the end-product.

Physical Damage From Compromised Parts

The researchers found that while adding sub-millimeter defects between the printed layers, there is no way that industry monitoring techniques like ultrasonic imaging can detect them. And over time, these materials become weak due to the heat, humidity, and light, making them vulnerable to such small defects.

Ramesh Karri, another member of the research team, suggests improving the reliability of the microchip in the supply chain. There is enormous growth in cloud-based storage, and with that, the files stored over the cloud have a greater chance of being compromised.

Moreover, there is no way of finding out the defect with the online storage unless the part has failed. The hacker can easily breach the printer connected over the internet and insert malicious data into the system.

Breaching With The Network

Zeltmann, another team member, suggests that “Companies should not keep their printers connected to the internet all the time. To prevent remote attacks, it is wise to connect only to print and disconnect the printer after that.”


Moreover, the manufacturers need to encrypt the design files so that only the printer can read these files and use them. The goal of every company should be to protect their design files and protect the integrity of their printed components.

The hackers are busy finding new ways to target startups, medium-sized corporations, which present opportunities by making silly mistakes while using 3D printing.

Criminal Benefits

Almost every technology has a downside. For 3D printers, it can be printing dangerous objects like guns, parts of guns, other weapons and using them for unlawful things. Moreover, authentic skimmers can be created, which can be used to harvest customer information from ATMs.

One solution is to restrict printing certain types of designs. Moreover, raising public awareness that printing illegal things with 3D printers is a crime can help designers and manufacturers to stop dealing with such designs.

Companies and individuals can leverage their capabilities without taking unnecessary risks by understanding the security risks associated with 3D printing.

Traceability Risk

Another key factor in 3D Printing is traceability. Regardless of regulations, requirements, and even quality control, there is a chance that traceability remains imperative.

A compromised process, however, undermines the efficacy of the final product. What is the current design that was sent to the printer? What kind of material was used? Authenticity and digital design are among the many questions that will be raised.

Closing Thoughts

Cybercrime is as likely to hack into 3D printing designs as it is to break into a computer system. Hacking has a profound impact, making it imperative to continue fighting these cyber elements.

Cybersecurity has been one of the greatest concerns in the 3D Printing industry. If you are a company that deals with a lot of 3D printing, there is a chance that you need to take care of the security.


Shankar is a tech blogger who occasionally enjoys penning historical fiction. With over a thousand articles written on tech, business, finance, marketing, mobile, social media, cloud storage, software, and general topics, he has been creating material for the past eight years.

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