International Data Corp. (IDC) recently reported that the $2.5-billion 3-D printing market grew by 20% in 2015. IDC also predicted that education spending on 3-D printing hardware and materials will increase to more than $500 million by 2019.
That kind of spending could be very attractive to hackers. New research on 3-D printing security found printing orientation and insertion of fine defects are areas of concern because of the potential harm to users caused by deliberately weakened products.
“These are possible foci for attacks that could have devastating impact on users of the end products, and economic impact in the form of recalls and lawsuits,” said Nikhil Gupta, an associate professor of engineer at New Your University and a member of the team that did the research.
Since computer-assisted design files used in the printing process don’t include printer-head orientation, hackers could change the process without detection, according to the research. Hacking the orientation could make as much as a 25% difference in the strength of a product.
Hackers could also attack printers connected to the Internet, adding internal defects into products as they are being printed. The researchers were able to introduce submillimeter defects, which could weaken the product, that couldn’t be detected using normal monitoring methods.