Remember how I said that 3D printing has the potential to change everything? That wasn't a strictly positive statement. There are some areas in which 3D printing can have a negative effect on the world we live in. It doesn't make it any less cool though.
Forbes is reporting on a German hacker going by the alias of Ray who recently showed off his recent 3D printing innovation at the Hackers on Planet Earth conference in New York. His innovation - using a 3D printer to create the small keys that open handcuffs. The keys that open the kind of handcuffs on display are not easily obtained, but people can now create an endless supply of them thanks to 3D printers and laser cutters.
Ray points out that the keys to handcuffs are standardized to be locked and opened by any police officer within the department. He designed these keys to show the inherent problem with standardized keys - they can be copied.
That isn't to say that Ray wants handcuffs to become obsolete. He warns police officers that criminals already have access to these technologies and can easily crack handcuffs with a printed key. His goal is to inform police of the potential danger criminals can now possess thanks to 3D printers.
So how does Ray make these keys? He found that he can replicate the keys with a laser cutter on plexiglass or with plastic in a 3D printer. The 3D printer solution is more interesting based solely on the cost. 3D printers are quickly coming down in price and people all over the country will soon own one.
The worst-case scenario is that criminals can easily pack in a plastic 3D printed key onto a plane with them. The handcuffs that an air marshall uses can then be easily unlocked with the 3D printed key. It's definitely a security risk and one that Ray hopes to expose before it can be exploited.
Security risk notwithstanding, these keys represent the versatility of 3D printing. When we can go from printing shoes and livers to entire buildings and homes, we have to realize that this technology is pretty special. Like any technology, it can be abused and exploited for all the wrong reasons. It's up to us to make sure it's used in a responsible manner that benefits mankind.[Image Credit]