by General Fabb
The venerable magazine The Economist has a long piece speculating on the potential for 3D printed piracy. That is to say, the digital capture of items with a 3D scanner and subsequent reproduction with 3D printers.
But while the pirates' labour rates and material costs may be far lower, the tools they use to make fakes are essentially the same as those used by the original manufacturers. Equipment costs alone have therefore limited the spread of the counterfeiting industry. But give every sweatshop around the world a cheap 3D printer coupled to a laser scanner, and pirated goods could well proliferate.
This is theoretically true, but we believe this won't happen "in force" for quite a while yet - and when it does appear it will do so very gradually. The gradual nature of the effect will parallel the increasing capabilities of 3D printing equipment.
But there's also some severe limitations with this process. No matter how good a scanner could be (barring a Mr. Spock-level scanning technology), you cannot scan inside of an object. You cannot scan the internal electrical wiring of a device, even if you could print electrical circuits. You cannot scan the signal pathways of a chip embedded inside an object. Finally, you definitely cannot scan the software that runs inside of an object on that chip.
All that aside, you may eventually be able to do a pretty decent job copying shoes.
Via The Economist (Hat tip to James)