When most people think about the dangers that 3D printing may pose for society in the long run, the first topic that is brought to our attention is the potential for 3D printed guns. As many of you know, there have been several models of guns which have been modeled and then 3D printed. These range from all plastic versions which can fire several rounds before ultimately caving to the laws of physics and crumbling to pieces, to all metal 3D printed guns which are just as effective as those on the market today.
With desktop 3D printing becoming somewhat popular a few years ago, the 3D printing of guns is bound to be an issue that will be brought up by government agencies on all levels for a long time to come. Are guns the only 3D printed weapons that should concern us? They certainly have been getting 100% of the attention from the media and the legal system, but could 3D printed knives cause an even bigger issue?
As we all know, if a plastic is constructed correctly, printed thick enough and then sharpened via the right tools, it too could become a weapon. Metal isn’t the only material that is hard enough and sharp enough to penetrate human flesh, but for some reason many people simply can’t fathom the idea that a 3D printed knife could be a very deadly weapon, one which may cause an even larger issue than 3D printed guns. The question that remains though, is, “Can 3D printed plastic weapons pass through common security systems?”
Two freshman students from Avans University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, decided to test and see for themselves. In doing so, with permission, from the Paleis van Justitie (Palace of Justice) in Den Bosch, they proceeded to try and walk past security with 3D printed knives hidden on them.
One of the students, Freshman Philine van Bilsen actually had two knives on her. A smaller knife was hidden under her clothing, while a larger knife was stashed inside of her makeup bag. As the students walked through the security system at the Palace of Justice, they themselves were surprised when they got through security and into the courtroom unscathed.
“We of course asked for approval by the court prior to attempting to bring these weapons in because we didn’t want to do anything sneaky,” van Bilsen said. “So security was aware of our plan. Still, it was exciting. We actually had expected that they would find the knives but that has not the case. After we had managed to get it into the courtroom, we realized how easy it was, and that people with bad intentions could effortlessly smuggle a weapon in.”
More than likely, the rest of the world’s security systems are not yet prepared or trained to detect 3D printed plastic weapons such as these knives. Imagine terrorists smuggling these weapons onto airplanes, or a city bus. This should certainly wake up security personnel around the world. As desktop 3D printing becomes more and more popular, this risk will only continue to increase. Certainly terrorist organizations around the world are already familiar with what can be fabricated on these machines. Hopefully those in charge of security at vulnerable places take note, and realize that they can’t simply rely on metal detectors to keep deadly weapons at bay. No, such weapons can’t cause the carnage that a semi-automatic rifle can, but damage could certainly be done if the wrong person decides to print such items out.
The court in Den Bosch is constantly working with students at Avans University of Applied Sciences on various projects, so they were more than happy to allow them to test out their security system. While security staff are trained to be made aware of 3D printed weapons, court officials really were not all that surprised that these students were able to sneak the weapons in.
“We have known for some time that these kind of knives may not be detected by the scan,” said Ilse Westenenk, Information Officer at the court. “But we maintain the current balance between security and transparency.”
As for the 3D printed knives themselves, tests showed that they were not all that good at cutting, but when it came to stabbing, they were quite efficient, thus proving the fact that they could indeed be considered deadly weapons. What do you think? Has this experiment brought to light more concerns over the 3D printing of weapons? Should security personnel be trained to specifically look for 3D printed plastic knives during security checks? Discuss in the ‘3D Printed Knives Sneak Past Security’ forum thread on 3DPB.com.