WASHINGTON - (May 16, 2013) 3-D printers create physical objects from digital models by laying down (i.e. "printing") successive layers of materials. Using a 3-D printer and the relevant digital blueprints, consumers can create many different items-even items that may have been difficult or illegal to obtain in the past such as undetectable, untraceable hand guns.
Should Government Regulate Illicit Uses of 3-D Printing, a new report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), examines the use of 3-D printing, the implications for public safety and intellectual property, and the policy recommendations needed to address the issue.
"Just as the Internet made it possible for anyone to be a publisher, 3-D printing makes it possible for anyone to be a manufacturer," says Daniel Castro, senior analyst with ITIF. "This means that rather than regulating a much smaller number of businesses, governments may suddenly be faced with regulating a much larger number of consumers."
In the report Castro argues that although 3-D printing opens up new practical challenges, especially around enforcement, the policy questions are not substantively different than for other technologies. Policymakers should encourage innovation in 3-D printing, while also ensuring that there are strong enforcement mechanisms to punish those who would engage in illicit uses of the technology.
Castro adds, "Most technologies can be used for negative purposes, steel can be used to make knives that can then be used as weapons, but that does not mean the government should regulate us back to the Stone Age."
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank whose mission is to formulate and promote public policies to advance technological innovation and productivity internationally, in Washington, and in the states. Recognizing the vital role of technology in ensuring prosperity, ITIF focuses on innovation, productivity, and digital economy issues. Learn more at www.itif.org.