Why Security is Critical in 3D Printing

In this new age of technological advancement, 3D printing has emerged as quite the game-changer across multiple industries, promising unparalleled innovation and customization. But in the midst of this revolutionary potential lies a critical concern within 3D printing security: cybersecurity.

Although the relationship between 3D printing and cybersecurity is not often showcased in the headlines, that doesn’t mean it isn’t of paramount importance. The 3D printing industry on its own has a set of unique challenges that demand the spotlight, one of which revolves around the protection of personally identifiable information (PII). Protecting sensitive and proprietary information, patient PII, and design files is vital wherever 3D printing is a part of the production process, like for instance the medical 3D printing prosthetics industry.

Robust cybersecurity protections are required due to the volume of sensitive data involved when designing custom-made 3D medical prostheses, ranging from medical scans to personalized prosthetic designs. Protecting patient trust and privacy depends on protecting the confidentiality and integrity of this information, which is also required under laws like HIPAA.

No matter how slight, any lapse in security could lead to not only the unauthorized access of proprietary information, patient PII, and exposure of brand and trade secrets, but major financial loss as well as tarnished brands and reputations.

What is PII and Why Do People Want it?

Personally identifiable information (PII) is any data that can, well, personally identify us. PII can take on many forms, ranging from our full names, physical and email addresses, and phone numbers, to our social security numbers, biometric data, and medical records—and everything in between.

PII is, clearly, highly sensitive. Exposure of any kind can lead to identity theft, financial fraud, and privacy breaches. When discussing cybersecurity, protecting PII is of the utmost importance, especially in industries like healthcare and finance where the collection and storage of such information are extensive. Robust security measures, encryption protocols, and strict access controls are just a few PII safeguarding methods that can prevent unauthorized access or disclosure.

When PII is mishandled or compromised, it can lead to severe financial consequences for both individuals and corporations alike. It helps to think of PII as being as valuable as the money in your bank account and wallet. Why? Simply because it really is. According to the 2023 IBM and Ponemon Institute report, the cost of an average data breach is $4.45 million. While regulatory fines and maintaining a company’s reputation make up the majority of these expenses, they can nevertheless mount up when personal information is at risk.

So, why do hackers want our PII? Well, it’s sensitive and expensive.

PII can be exploited for financial gain through identity theft and fraud, giving hackers the ability to impersonate individuals, make unauthorized transactions, or apply for loans and credit cards in their name. PII is as lucrative as gold in underground marketplaces, like the Dark Web, where it can be sold to other cybercriminals or as ransom for other illicit activities, like extortion or blackmail.

Regardless of the motive for why a hacker may seek out PII, acquiring it provides them with a wide range of opportunities for financial gain, identity manipulation, and other malicious activities, making it a nice shiny target for cyberattacks.

Issues of Cybersecurity in 3D Printing

Proprietary Information

One of the main reasons cybersecurity is so paramount in 3D printing revolves around the protection of proprietary information. Proprietary information is data that belongs to a company or individual and is not meant to be released to the public.

It’s no secret that the corporate world is competitive. (Hence the phrase, “dog eat dog world.”) So when companies heavily invest into research and development, they expect to always stay one step ahead of their competition in return. Take Apple and Samsung. The two create similar devices and are always compared to one another during new releases. However, Apple has the funds to invest significant resources into opportunities that will allow them to stay ahead of the technologically innovative curve, leaving Samsung (to be viewed by some as) “less advanced.”

Whether it’s proprietary designs, trade secrets, or intellectual property, this kind of proprietary information is as “top secret” as it gets in the corporate world. Any breach in security could lead to the unauthorized selling of replicated products, IP theft, and intentional defects, resulting in critical financial loss and reputational damage.

PII in Medical Prosthetics & Patient Confidentiality

As we know, 3D printed medical prosthetics are precisely tailored to meet the unique needs of individual patients, which means engineers are relying heavily on the use of patient PII. From detailed scans of patient anatomy to customized digital designs, the sensitive data involved just emphasizes the importance of having robust cybersecurity measures in place.

The consequences of patient PII getting into the wrong hands go far beyond just financial loss, including the expulsion of patient trust, violations of privacy, and potential harm to individuals. Patient confidentiality is not merely a legal obligation but a cornerstone of ethical medical practice, regardless of the advances in technology. Any breach in security not only compromises the integrity of healthcare providers but also undermines the very foundation of patient-doctor relationships.

To prevent unauthorized access to or exposure of sensitive medical data, strong encryption measures, access controls, and frequent audits are important. Adherence to compliance regulations, like HIPAA, is vital since it guarantees the responsible and respectful handling of patient data while alleviating the potential of falling victim to cybersecurity breaches.

Protecting Brand and Trade Secrets

In addition to the issues mentioned above, the security of 3D printing processes is crucial for safeguarding brand reputation and trade secrets. Like we said, companies invest a lot of money in order to stay ahead of their competition, and they want to keep it that way. Without adequate cybersecurity measures, these efforts are left helpless to theft and exploitation, which can jeopardize the company’s market position and competitive leg up.

In fact, a major issue with 3D printing cybersecurity is intellectual property theft, a process where hackers try to reverse engineer items by scanning and replicating them. Files used for 3D printing are digital, so a hacker might duplicate and distribute them, making it impossible to secure the files once they are no longer in the public domain.

Big manufacturers frequently invest millions or even billions of dollars in research and development for a single product; therefore, intellectual property and trade secret theft can seriously harm the business and reputation.


To summarize, cybersecurity in 3D printing is not merely a technical concern but a fundamental aspect of risk management and ethical practice. As 3D printing continues to expand across various industries, prioritizing 3D printing security and cybersecurity measures will remain essential in mitigating risks, protecting sensitive information, and upholding trust and integrity. Whether it’s safeguarding proprietary information, preserving patient confidentiality, or defending the brand and trade secrets, proactive physical and cybersecurity strategies such as those employed by ABCorp 3D are indispensable in ensuring the security of PII in 3D printing.