Friday 28 December 2012

3D Printing a Revolution or an aid to Revolution?

Could we soon see governments licensing the use of 3D printers?

The printing of physical 3D objects from digital templates is becoming cheaper and more sophisticated. 3D printing uses an additive manufacturing technique to build up layer by layer from the bottom up.
3D Printing allows designers to create both everyday and complicated objects that in some instances would be impossible to make.  There is currently a limited range of objects that can be printed, but already cars, bikes, houses, prosthetic limbs, keys and guns have all been printed. As a backup you can have 3D printers to print more 3D printers. says that “One example of how 3D printing has influenced the arms industry is that, after the technology was used to make guns, they became more easily available. So countries have to take every possible measure to ensure that criminal gangs don't get access to the technology, because they can wreak havoc in society. Though China has a strict gun-control policy, the fact is that implementing the policy would become very difficult if it is easy for people to download gun designs and forge them with the help of 3D printing technology.”

The New Scientist talks of the US army's Rapid Equipping Force (REF). It has put together three mobile laboratories in 6-metre-long shipping containers. Each lab comes with tools such as plasma cutters and jigsaws, a 3D printer that prints in plastic or metal and a scientist and engineer to run them. The labs, which cost about $2.8 million, can be picked up by helicopter and set down just about anywhere. When the 54 °C heat in Afghanistan was playing havoc with the batteries in a ground-penetrating radar system used to search for mines, soldiers used a 3D printer to make a shielding case to protect them. Interestingly, printing weapons is not on the agenda, although fixing them might be.

In another issue of the New Scientist "HaveBlue", a member of the gun enthusiast forum, which is named after a common semi-automatic rifle, claims to have carried out the first successful test-firing of a 3D-printed gun.
HaveBlue did not print an entire gun but only a part called the lower receiver, which serves as a frame for the other components of the gun. This component is the only gun part regulated for sale under US law and as such must carry a serial number - unless it's made by a private individual for their personal use, so HaveBlue is not breaking any laws. See also 3-D Printed Gun Only Lasts 6 Shots. (Also video here) at Danger Room.

In a further article it is shown how High-security police handcuffs can be opened with keys made by 3D printing.

What other items could be made by 3D printing and what could the consequences be? I did touch on 3D printing in my book Cold Suspenders, but in the story the printer can only be purchased with a specific government ID card. Could this become a reality?

On a lighter note, an IET journalist sampled some printed food, and she says we might find ourselves traipsing into our kitchen, turning on our 3D food printer, and printing out our favourite dinner.

See also Climate Conversations - Could 3D printing be a climate revolution?
3D printing and the future of warfare.
3D printing: Second industrial revolution is under way.

Thursday 27 December 2012

Weather or not

Whether you believe it is man-made or natural, some sort of Climate Change is happening, and probably always has.  It may or may not have a bearing on this having been a very wet year.

But anyway; in a recent IET article it is reported that the IPCC declares that climate extremes, or even a series of non-extreme events, combined with social vulnerabilities and exposure to risks, can produce climate-related disasters. Another IET article points out that recent terrorist attacks on infrastructure have highlighted the vulnerability of our rail and road networks, reinforcing the importance of good risk assessments to protect some of our biggest assets.

One could imagine that if Terrorists can predict disasters that they could then seek to exacerbate the problem. This is something that I explore in my book Cold Suspenders.

Extreme events can have a direct effect on people’s lives, potentially disrupting commodity prices, supply chains, markets, and economies. The recent wet weather makes the possibility of the events in Cold Suspenders look even more likely.

Following some links from the articles I came across the Startrans project “Trains, cars, buses, trucks, metros… are interconnected to create a network of transportation systems. This network, at the heart of our daily lives, fosters social cohesion and needs to be protected as a crucial asset. Terrorist attacks and security related incidents on transportation systems in major European cities have shown that the protection of transport infrastructure is long overdue. This is where the STAR-TRANS project acts: to understand how one incident localised in one single transportation system may affect the whole transportation network: the network of transportation networks. STAR-TRANS will produce tools analyzing how risk propagates and affects interconnected transportation systems in Europe.”

It would seem that some-one is looking into it, although the results from a similar project (DEMASST) are a long time coming.

There was an interesting short story contained in the November issue of E&T.  The year is 2050, the city is London. The landscape of the capital has changed radically after the decision-making process over the effects of climate change was taken out of the hands of engineers and put into the hands of bureaucrats.A London landscape altered by climate change.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Carers UK

I have just been downloading some pictures from my camera. It was pleasant to find pictures of the Carers UK event in October this year.

The event brought together carers present and former who have been with the organisation a long time. My mother has been a member of this organisation for some time. She did some quite heroic work looking after my father who developed Alzheimer's disease. 

The event paid tribute to the late Mary Webster, founder of Carers UK, and was held at Lambeth Palace, home of Carers UK’s vice president the Archbishop of Canterbury; Dr Rowan Williams.

Caring can take its toll on finances, health, career and family and social life. Carers can fall out of paid work and many rely on low-level benefits, forcing them into poverty. Without unpaid carers our NHS would collapse and the country would face an £119 billion care bill it cannot afford. More at 

Data from the 2011 census shows a substantial rise in those caring for a relative or friend. There are now 5.8 million carers in England & Wales compared to 5.2 in 2001.

Baroness Jill Pitkeathley  trained originally as a social worker and led the carers movement for twelve years, creating Carers National Association (now Carers UK) and turning what had been a private, hidden trouble, the needs of Great Britain’s six million carers, into a public issue. She remains a Vice President of CarersUK. 

Amy Cook is a carer to her mum and sister as well a model and an active voice for carers across the UK.
Amy helped Carers UK get out the message on the ITV Text Santa appeal about how caring has touched her and her family and what help would make a difference.
Read more on her blog at 
(Amy is the young one in the picture. My mother is the slightly older one)

Monday 3 December 2012

Dual Cyber and Conventional Infrastructure Attacks Understood?

The Guardian says that for the first time the government  have admitted that firms providing "the essential services upon which daily life depends" have been subjected to attacks from abroad.

See also Power in Whose hands?

British officials will not comment who is responsible for attacks on UK, but earlier this year Guardian revealed the US was also worried about foreign powers mapping America's infrastructure ; The Pentagon pints a finger at "reconnaissance" work by China and Russia.

The BCS reports that the UK’s cyber security strategy has been criticised by a former US cyber intelligence officer for its lack of leadership and direction.

Bob Ayers, formerly of the US army and Defence Intelligence Agency, has questioned the structure of Britain’s cyber security program. He describes it  as “a collective of independent entities’ rather than a streamlined unit.”
A key criticism came from former GCHQ and CESG head Nick Hopkinson, who told Computing that the UK lagged behind the US, France and Germany in its ability to respond to cyber-attacks because of a "lack of cohesion" between the various organisations set up to work towards the strategy.
Comparing the UK's cyber programs to that of the US, Ayers suggests that Britain is decades behind and lacks the ability to produce ‘professionalised’ cyber security personnel.

The UK police now provide a central point of contact for information about fraud and financially motivated internet crime. If you've been scammed, ripped off or conned go to

There should be an announcement by the Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude, of new measures to protect people and companies from a daily bombardment of cyberscams and attempts to steal the nation's trade secrets.
Maude has suggested that cyber security capacity needs to grow globally, and cited the UK's centre of excellence on cyber security as an example of how Britain wants to help other countries by offering independent advice on building a secure and resilient cyberspace.

According to the Intelligence Security Committee the government does not understand the nature and extent of cyber-attacks from other nation states such as Russia and China, which are focused on espionage and the acquisition of information. This suggests that nations may never fully open themselves up to each other, as they are still some distance from being able to trust one another.

Are the implications of both dual cyber and conventional infrastructure fully understood?