When the 3D Printed Imagination Takes a Wrong Turn

I was only a tiny bit surprised when I ran across an article on boingboing.net about a questionable model ordered from a 3D printing company. The model was for what looked to be a faceplate for an ATM skimmer, the purpose of which is to steal information from whoever slides their card in it assuming it’s just part of the regular ATM. The company (i.materialise) refused to print the order thankfully, and made it public that there were attempts being made to make such objects.

atm render

I wanted to touch on this soon to be more prominent issue for a moment. I totally don’t mean to be preachy, but it’s one of those things that at least needs to be talked about for a sec. The idea of making money sounds pretty appealing in general, but not at the cost of your personal and professional ethics and reputation.

I consider all Shapies (aka Shapeways members, and customers too) to be a part of the 3D printing revolution that is slowly but surely taking place, and love to see all the crazy cool things people come up with, but the momentum will only keep going as well as it’s going if 3D printing is kept in a good light and not tarnished by those not thinking of the community they may effect.


  1. Dimitri Kobzar

    once I got a request from some guy to make a 3D model of a key from photos… I refused. I wonder though if he found a modeler who agreed to provide such a model…

  2. Spongeinside

    I think it’s a good thing orders are checked for stuff like this. 3D printing shouldn’t be a technology criminals use for their illegal activities.

  3. Bryton Williams

    Yeah, people need to realize that copyrights and such aren’t the only aspect of illegality companies like Shapeways and i.materialise have to deal with… Kudos to them for catching them and stopping it.

    On an unrelated note, I looked at the picture before I read the article and I couldn’t tell why a 3d printed inkjet printer was a bad idea. Gotta start putting my glasses on before I read this blog.

    1. Christina Westbrook

      It does get into the gray area where manufacturers have to pay attention to things like that popping up once in a while. I’m sure it’s not going to be easy to catch them all before production once criminals start realizing the potential.

      Ha, that’s pretty funny, the inkjet printer part. ;)

  4. Jake Drews

    Good catch, but my only concern is this: Where is the line drawn on objects that *could* be used for unethical reasons? In fact, it would seem to me that patent infringement is huge – 3D printing services dont have time to run a patent check to make sure your printing an original idea, wouldn’t a patent infringing print be qualified as the above mentioned ATM thing?

    I don’t honestly know where I stand on something like this, Im just asking the question. Feel free to provide input on this idea. :-)

  5. Luis Commins

    Also, where do you draw the line when it comes to making a prototype, say for an ATM, that you are creating as a safer faceplate to suggest to an ATM manufaturer?



    1. Christina Westbrook

      It does get into some more weird gray areas, I suppose at some point there may need to be paperwork involved showing that you have permission to make a certain object. As time goes on we shall see.

Comments are closed.