Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is such a rapidly growing area of the industry supply chain that officials should take a close look at the cyber risks such methods pose, a new report finds. While additive manufacturing was once a niche capability, the report notes that it has become widely used for commercial aircraft. In fact, the Airbus A350 incorporates more than 1,000 3D-printed parts. In 2015, the additive manufacturing industry was worth $11 billion and is forecast to reach $27 billion in 2019.
Released by Washington, D.C. think tank the Atlantic Council, the report cites benefits of 3D printing, including less weight, lighter and stronger parts. “Since it is digital, however, there is immediate potential for concern,” it said, adding that such methods are vulnerable to compromise through multiple means. These include disruption or deletion of firmware or product design; the compromise of intellectual property; or sabotage of the printing process with the intention to weaken the products.
Research on additive manufacturing security revealed the ability to compromise either the printer or the design in such a way that a product was weakened without being detectable. Other research showed the ability to weaken the design of a propeller to the point that it failed catastrophically after two minutes of use. “Additionally, for this attack, the researchers were able to demonstrate an attack chain from an external threat into the printer,” the report notes.