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Manufacturing and Security Challenges in 3D Printing


As the manufacturing time, quality, and cost associated with additive manufacturing (AM) continue to improve, more and more businesses and consumers are adopting this technology. Some of the key benefits of AM include customizing products, localizing production and reducing logistics. Due to these and numerous other benefits, AM is enabling a globally distributed manufacturing process and supply chain spanning multiple parties, and hence raises concerns about the reliability of the manufactured product. In this work, we first present a brief overview of the potential risks that exist in the cyber-physical environment of additive manufacturing. We then evaluate the risks posed by two different classes of modifications to the AM process which are representative of the challenges that are unique to AM. The risks posed are examined through mechanical testing of objects with altered printing orientation and fine internal defects. Finite element analysis and ultrasonic inspection are also used to demonstrate the potential for decreased performance and for evading detection. The results highlight several scenarios, intentional or unintentional, that can affect the product quality and pose security challenges for the additive manufacturing supply chain.

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  1. Though the term “3D printing” traditionally referred only to deposition methods, we are following the popular trend to equate this term with AM.

  2. Other formats are also available but *.STL format is currently by far the most widely used format.


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The authors thank Fei Chen and Dr. Khalid Shahin for assistance with this work. The NYU-TSE Vice Dean for Research, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship, Dr. Kurt Becker, is thanked for providing an institutional fellowship to Fei Chen to contribute to this project. The authors acknowledge the Global Research Initiative Grant from NYU Abu Dhabi to Drs. Gupta and Shahin. Useful discussion with Dr. Dirk Lehmhus of IFAM, Germany is acknowledged. Parts of this work are supported by the Office of Naval Research Grant N00014-10-1-0988. The views and conclusions contained in this work are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as presenting the official policies or position, either expressed or implied, of the ONR or the U.S. Government unless so designated by other authorized documents. The proprietary and trade names mentioned are owned by their parent companies. Mention of any machines or products does not imply endorsement by the authors or funding agencies.

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Correspondence to Nikhil Gupta.

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Zeltmann, S.E., Gupta, N., Tsoutsos, N.G. et al. Manufacturing and Security Challenges in 3D Printing. JOM 68, 1872–1881 (2016).

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  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Tool Path
  • Additive Manufacturing
  • Selective Laser Melting
  • Selective Laser Sinter