According to a Radio New Zealand interview posted at Engineering.com, New Zealand’s customs minister Maurice Williamson is asking his staff to consider the implications of 3D printing for border protection:
In an interview with Radio New Zealand, Mr. Williamson stated, “If people could print off, on printers, sheets of Ecstasy tablets at the party they’re at at that time, that just completely takes away our border protection role in its known sense.”
To help head this potential off before it can become a reality, Mr. Williamson has asked everyone in his is Ministry to begin exploring how this technology might affect the border security of New Zealand. “I’ve asked everyone in customs to start thinking about what a new world of 3D printing will mean for us”.
The article’s author suggests that while the concerns may be well-placed, any response could be moot since 3D printing could overcome any potential attempts at regulation. Personally, I think there’s a difference between tough to enforce and impossible to enforce regulations. After all, even if you ban certain kinds of weapons from entering a country, people will still smuggle them in, make homemade versions, etc. So 3D printing shouldn’t mean the end of controlled goods and border measures. It may mean governments should prioritize their concerns and efforts and consider new research and development into detection and enforcement technologies. Regardless, the important thing is that governments start thinking about a response to disruptive technologies before they, well, disrupt everything.