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2014年5月12日 (月)

3Dプリンター 過度な規制は普及を妨げる

The Yomiuri Shimbun 6:59 pm, May 11, 2014
Excesses in gun-related control could hobble dissemination of 3-D printers
3Dプリンター 過度な規制は普及を妨げる

What steps should be taken to prevent a promising, high-level technology from being abused, while ensuring its enhancement? This definitely is a stiff challenge.

A university employee has been arrested by the Kanagawa prefectural police on suspicion of possessing a pair of plastic handguns that he allegedly created using a 3-D printer.

The 27-year-old man was quoted by investigators as saying he had downloaded data related to blueprints for the guns from overseas websites and manufactured them on his own by keying the data into a 3-D printer he had purchased for about ¥100,000 on the Internet.

The police investigation showed that the confiscated guns were able to fire real bullets through 11 to 15 sheets of plywood, each measuring 2.5 millimeters in thickness.

Handguns capable of killing or wounding people therefore can be made at home based on data available on the Internet. This has grave implications on the nation’s public security.

Law-enforcement authorities should strengthen their surveillance activities and crack down on this type of offense, while at the same time making it widely known that manufacturing firearms with a 3-D printer and their possession violate the Ordnance Manufacturing Law and the Swords and Firearms Control Law.

One problem in this connection is the possibility that the latest incident will lead to moves calling for regulations that would be detrimental to the spread of 3-D printers. Putting the brakes on the nation’s manufacturing for security concerns would be like putting the cart before the horse.

Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki has gone on record as saying, “There may be discussions in favor of strengthening the regulations concerned, but there also will be problems in ensuring the country’s technological and industrial advancement.” The minister’s remarks should be taken to heart as he was stressing the importance of technological development.

Revolutionizing industry

The technology for making 3-D printers became a focus of worldwide attention at the beginning of the 2000s. By entering such data as the shape and design of an item into the machine, it is possible to create a 3-D object through sequential layering of such material as resin and metal powder.

As the printer performs the manufacturing process without a metal mold, the time it takes to process an object can be reduced significantly. There also is a noticeable cost-cutting effect. 3-D printers can be used in a wide number of fields, ranging from manufacturing parts for automobiles and aircraft, making artificial bones to models of internal organs to train would-be surgeons.

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry envisages that the impact 3-D printers and the products they make will likely be worth about ¥21.8 trillion in the global economy in 2020.

It is natural such high expectations have been placed on the future of 3-D printers, which are expected to revolutionize the world’s manufacturing industries.

As part of its growth strategy, the government has set up a system to extend financial support to companies to expedite their introduction of 3-D printers. In addition, the government has earmarked ¥4 billion this fiscal year for R&D projects through collaboration of the government and private sector to create a next-generation 3-D printer in an effort to catch up with the United States and European countries, which have a technological edge in this field.

Plans by the government also are under way to expand the usage of 3-D printers in educational institutions. Projects are envisaged to provide universities and other educational establishments with subsidies to cover part of the expenses needed to purchase 3-D printers. Such moves should be encouraged.

As the prices of 3-D printers have fallen significantly, even ordinary households are able to afford them. People who use 3-D printers should have high moral standards and abide by laws and regulations when using them.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 11, 2014)


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