A Commentary from SIPRI on 29th July says that states are reviewing scientific and technological developments that impact the objectives of the treaty. Additive manufacturing (AM) — also referred to as 3D printing — is one of the technologies that is starting to receive attention, next to more well-known biotechnologies and genetic engineering techniques. Advances in AM have been met with concerns over its potential to facilitate the development, production, delivery and thus proliferation of biological weapons — and have highlighted the potential role of export controls in reducing these risks. It explains that an increasing variety of materials can be used as feedstocks to produce objects using AM/3D-printing techniques, including polymers, resins, metal powders and so-called bioinks, and bioprinting which constructs objects made from biological materials such as living cells. The article says that AM promises to bring production to the end-user, who obvious advantages or threats 9depending on your viewpoint) for biological weapons. AM is also said to be ‘deskilling’ certain aspects of manufacturing, making it easier for producers with less knowledge and experience to produce more complex products – but the article says that it is better to view AM as causing a shift in knowledge and skill requirements rather than their reduction. It says that AM has a range of potential applications in the development, production and delivery of biological weapons. AM can be used to print components of production and laboratory equipment and other items required for the production of biological weapons. It could be used to bioprint tissue samples for testing of products. AM could be used to produce components for delivery systems such as drones and make them more suitable for use as a delivery system for biological weapons. The Commentary also discusses how the Australia Group and Biological Weapons Convention controls might be adapted and applied – but these are confronted by a difficult array of challenges. It argues that while export controls are currently a focus of regulatory discussions in the context of AM, meeting the challenges it creates in connection with biological weapons requires a more comprehensive approach, including the role of research ethics and risk mitigation procedures in relevant research fields.
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