Cool Stuff & Geekery

Is That for Real? 3D Printing Hoaxes

3D printing used to only be in the sci-fi realm, but technology has given us the chance to make our dreams come true. And excite the kids in us.

All sorts of cool things have been made through 3D printing, but there also have been “not-so-true” stories. Read: 3D printing hoaxes.

Check these out.

An explosive 3D hoax

This is probably one of the weirdest 3D printing hoaxes to date, with a genius troll story to boot. On 31st December 2015, a post by KnightofSunlight on Reddit’s WhatIsThisThing showed a picture of a man holding an object, and accompanying text asked for help identifying the object, which had been found on a construction site. The thread identifies the object as an old landmine. One Redditor, an ex-combat engineer confirmed it as the Italian VS-50, an anti-personnel landmine.

Following the post, all hell broke loose at Reddit, with fears over KnightofSunlight’s life. The previously active Redditor went quiet; in fact, for 6 months there wasn’t a peep. Many feared the landmine had detonated. One post declared ‘OP, from the looks of your account, you haven’t posted since you discovered what the others say is a landmine. For the love of God, please don’t be dead.

There were all sorts of speculations, even suicide was suggested by one Redditor who had trawled the guy’s posts and discovered he’d been down on his luck. The story’s thread was also backed up by his post about a visit to Ecuador, where landmines are not uncommon.

It took a serious internet sleuth to uncover the truth. Redditor’s Electronic-Dad did some delving and was able to prove the existence of the face behind KnightofSunlight. He admitted to burning his Reddit accounts at the end of every year, so he engineered the prank and sat back to watch the story unfold. Trawling links and making connections with other usernames finally led to the exposure of the elaborate hoax.

The landmine, it turns out, was made using a 3D printer and the rest can only be put down to one of the greatest trolls ever seen. An explosive hoax indeed.

Duping the diehards

Earlier this year, leaked posts of the new Nintendo NX controller showcased a very sleek piece of kit for the gamers. There were a couple of attempts, with the first one being quickly weeded out as a fake. The second design effort, however, looked so real that it had even the most serious of gamers duped.

The hoax was just a bit of fun for Frank Sandqvist, co-founder of the Finnish design company, CNC, who made the fake controller using a 3D printer. He wanted to see just how easy it would be – and, he says, “it was.” The prank was mostly forgiven by the gaming fraternity. It got everyone talking Nintendo. Meanwhile, the real thing isn’t due for release until March 2017. Gamers wait with bated breath.

The horn of controversy

Now this story isn’t exactly a hoax, but it does have an air of trickery and deception about it. It’s essentially a controversial and bold idea to ward off the rhino poachers. Sadly, the demand for rhino horn has escalated in recent years. Its use in Chinese medicine has been well documented and goes back centuries. The cure-all properties of the rhino horn have consistently fuelled demand. Most worryingly, the rhino horn has also long been seen in some cultures as a status symbol for wealth and social standing.

The ‘fake’ horns with the same genetic fingerprint were born out of developments in biotech 3D printing. The fakes are identical to the real thing, and the idea is to flood the Chinese market, bring down the price of rhino horn, and eventually force out the poachers.

Both the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) and Save the Rhino International (SRI) are against the idea, arguing amongst other reasons, that people won’t buy synthetic versions if the real thing exists. “Why would Jennifer Lopez have cubic Zirconia in her engagement ring” is a compelling argument against the synthetic approach. Equally, those against the fake solution, argue that flooding the market is likely to grow demand, not hamper it.

The sensible way forward it seems, and as endorsed by Save the Rhino, is about education to reduce demand, and conservation to protect rhinos from poachers. Faux horns won’t save the Rhino, just as faux fur hasn’t halted the killing of millions of animals each year out of a bloodthirstiness for the real thing.

Related: 3D Printing Just Keeps Getting Cooler and Cooler [LEGO Alert!]

This post was written by Lloyd Wells, geek, gamer and content writer working with PBS Group.

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