by Steve O'Hear for TechCrunch
With nearly every new and truly disruptive technology comes a moral panic. 3D printers gave us 3D printed guns and other potential DIY weaponry, even if the technology remains relatively immature. Hell, so iconic is the notion of a 3D printed gun, one of the first proof of concepts was recently featured in a museum in London. But society’s fears are a startup’s opportunity.
Enter Radio Physics Solutions, makers of a security scanner that’s able to detect plastic firearms made with a 3D printer. The UK company has raised £700,000 from equity crowdfunding platform SyndicateRoom, which targets professional “approved” investors, as well as the wider public (a.k.a. armchair investors!)
Founded in 2009, RPS is based in the “Cyber Valley” area of Western England, which, apparently, is home to a number of “secretive” technology and cyber security firms — or so the James Bond-esque PR goes.
Alongside its 3D printed gun savvy security scanner, the company designs other types of security scanner, bomb and weapons detectors. Specifically it specialises in imaging devices that use high frequency radio waves to “see” through obstacles and clothing. With its new scanner, this includes the detection of plastic home 3D printed guns. It’s also applying its tech to help pilots fly through fog, dust and smoke.
Lord Douglas Dundonald, Chairman of RPS, tells TechCrunch: “Our scanners use an ultra wide band radar which is able to detect the unique signatures of bombs and 3D printed guns, and are able to discriminate between those threats and benign objects such as your cell phone, your wallet, your keys, your belt buckle.”
But, moral panics aside, how big is the 3D printed threat?
“As you can buy a 3D printer now for two and a half thousand dollars, you tell me?,” he says, unreassuringly. “Google the term ’3D printed guns’ and the number of hits is enormous – and just think where 3D printers are going to go over the next two to three years – we know from our own prototyping the difference it’s going to make to industry.
“Think about the cost and quality of 3D printers now, and what they’re likely to get to over the next three years: you’ll know from many of the companies you’ve been covering yourselves at TechCrunch where the technology is going and how fast it’s progressing. We are just scratching the surface at the moment, and we think that the security agencies and police forces around the world are right to be very concerned.”
I think I need to lie down.