It's almost here. 3D Printing looks like it's ready to hit the mainstream. Microsoft has added 3D Printing support to Windows 8, eBay has launched eBay Exact (exact.ebay.com), an app that allows its customers to order personalised 3D-printed goods, Amazon is selling 3D printers on its store and NASA has used the method to build a Rocket Engine Injector.
Of course, the technology is still very expensive, with printers costing thousands of dollars, but the price is coming down and 3D printing companies are filling the gap for now. More importantly, the possibilities of 3D printing are being considered beyond hobbyists and specialist uses. 3D Printers can be used to make snug-fitted casts to help heal broken bones, hearing aids, prostethics, cars and all sorts of goods and services.
Which of course will lead to another potential problem: piracy. Except rather than it being digital files copied over the internet, 3D printing could open up a tidal wave of physical piracy where ownership is sacrificed for the sake of convenience.
Tobias Andersson, one of the founders of, The Pirate Bay, is predicting that this issue will outshadow the problems that the entertainment industry have today.
Andersson said that The Pirate Bay will not be able to stand up to more financially powerful corporations if it gets involved in the spreading of the digital files required by 3D printers to build the physical models.
"When car manufacturers, oil companies and nations start feeling threatened, we're going to need something better," he said.
Can you imagine the chaos that could ensue if 3D printing technology becomes commonplace?
How do you ensure standards in manufacturing, safety and quality if anyone can access a 3D printer? How do you stop the spreading of copyright-infringing blueprints? The digital piracy of the last 15 years looks like it will be relatively innocuous compared to this very real conunudrum.