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NYU Researchers Find Cybersecurity Risks in 3D Printing

A new report from NYU researchers found that printing orientation and insertion of fine defects could affect the outcome of 3D printed products.

The 3D printing industry is currently a $4 billion business, with that number expected to quadruple by 2020. As more and more manufacturers continue to adopt this technology, researchers at New York University (NYU) say that new cybersecurity methods and tools are needed to properly monitor the quality of 3D printed products. A team of cybersecurity and materials engineers at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering published a paper that explores the potential risks that exist in the cyber-physical environment of 3D printing.

In “Manufacturing and Security Challenges in 3D Printing,” the researchers reported that the process of building a product from a computer assisted design (CAD) file could lead to flaws in the product’s design. They examine two aspects of 3D printing that have cybersecurity implications: printing orientation and insertion of fine defects.

“These are possible foci for attacks that could have devastating impact on users of the end product, and economic impact in the form of recalls and lawsuits," said Nikhil Gupta, a materials researcher on the team and an associate professor of mechanical engineering at NYU, in a statement.

They reported that the orientation of the product while printing could make as much as a 25 percent difference in strength. Since CAD files do not give instructions for printer head orientation, malefactors could potentially alter the process, which could lead to product recalls and lawsuits.

Ramesh Karri, a cybersecurity researcher on the team and a professor of electrical and computer engineering, said that attackers could hack into printers that are connected to the Internet as products are being printed. “New cybersecurity methods and tools are required to protect critical parts from such compromise,” he said in a statement.

In addition, the research team introduced sub-millimeter defects between printer layers and found that defects cannot be detected by common industrial monitoring techniques like ultrasonic imaging. As a result, the defected materials can weaken over time as they are exposed to heat, light and humidity.

The paper was originally published in JOM, the journal for The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society, and is available for purchase on the Springer Link site.  

About the Author

Sri Ravipati is Web producer for THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at [email protected].

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