The predicted explosion of 3D printing is set to cost $100bn (£60bn) a year in intellectual property (IP) theft, according to a new Gartner report, which highlights some of the moral issues likely to arise from the tech's rising popularity.
Last year, the analyst tipped the technology for big things and said shipments of 3D printers alone will grow by three quarters annually this year - a figure that will double again in 2015.
But today the firm warned that although the market will present ample opportunities for businesses investing in the tech, it could bring about a flurry of moral dilemmas, from the creation of human tissue to a predicted rise in IP theft.
By 2018, 3D printing will result in the loss of at least $100bn every year globally, as counterfeiters cash in on the ability to print copied goods.
"IP thieves will have reduced product development and supply chain costs, enabling them to sell counterfeit goods at a discount, while unsuspecting customers are at risk of poorly-performing, and possibly even dangerous, products," said Gartner.
Pete Basiliere, research director at Gartner, added that innovation could be stifled.
"The very factors that foster innovation - crowdsourcing, R&D [research and development] pooling and funding of startups - coupled with shorter product life cycles, provide a fertile ground for intellectual property theft using 3D printers," he said.
"Already, it's possible to 3D print many items, including toys, machine and automotive parts, and even weapons."
Elsewhere in its analysis, Gartner pointed to ethical dilemmas involving bioprinting - the 3D printing of living tissue and organs.
It said the technology will develop so quickly that by as early as 2016 there could be calls to ban it.
"[Bioprinting] initiatives are well intentioned, but raise a number of questions that remain unanswered," said Basiliere.
"What happens when complex 'enhanced' organs involving non-human cells are made? Who will control the ability to produce them? Who will ensure the quality of the resulting organs?"
The report added: "Rapid development of 3D bioprinters will spark calls to ban the technology for human and non-human use by 2016."
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