3D Printers,Cyber-Security and the Build vs. Buy Decision

While browsing the Black Friday offers for Christmas presents, I stumbled upon a 3D printer for the bargain price of £130. The only caveat being it came as a kit, self-assembly required. I’m a fully certified geek, and as someone who has built more than their share of Ikea furniture, how difficult could it be?

A week later, after spending 2-3 hours every evening faffing about with nuts, bolts, cables, screws, firmware modification and all manner of plastic parts, I had something which resembled a 3D printer sat on my living room floor. I switched it on, and to my surprise it didn’t catch fire! There was a satisfying hum and I looked forward to printing all sorts of stuff.

I connected my laptop and starting simple, printed a small 2 cm plastic cube. After 20 minutes it finished. I picked it up and it fell apart in my hands. Clearly some tweaking was required.

After another week, a couple of trips to Screwfix for replacement parts and many hours of browsing forums and watching YouTube videos, I managed to get something resembling a cube out of the printer.

A completed GEEETech i3 3D printer.

As a hobby, it’s quite entertaining. It gives me the opportunity to learn new skills, play about with new technologies and get a sense of accomplishment despite the odd burnt finger. The chance of a major disaster is minimal. However, I see some people and organisations taking a similar approach to their Cyber-Security…

Some of the common mistakes are:

  • Not having a strategy and buying point solutions.
    Organisations often make rash decisions and purchase siloed technology without considering the wider picture. This leads to overlap in capability and wasted expenditure which often goes for many years until it is noticed. Know what your end goal is, and plot a course to that, not just the current burning issue.
  • Not considering the appropriate staffing to derive the full value from a technical solution.
    Complex solutions require skilled individuals which are expensive and difficult to find. Often this is found where technical strategy comes from technical requirements, rather than business requirements. Technologists take a home-brew approach with open source systems without realising the hidden costs and complexity and the tech is abandoned as a failed project.
  • Going to RFP and focusing on a technical wish list, rather than a business problem.
    Often RFPs are just a long list of “does your service support A, B, C, D…”, unsurprisingly you’ll end up with all vendors saying yes – and you’ll end up no further forward. A better approach is to ask “how do I solve…” type questions or even better, work with an impartial organisation who are experts in the field to help you with the process.

So, if I were to heed my own recommendations, I would have thought that maybe instead of buying a cheap Chinese 3D Printer, I should have researched the market more and realised that actually I needed to spend a little more to get the results I wanted and avoided spending 3x what I originally budgeted for on replacement parts and upgrades – not to mention wasted time. I should have sought out a trusted friend’s recommendation on what they know about 3D printers, and which were the best quality for my budget. Finally, I might have realised that actually, I don’t have the skills to make what I would like to make, and I should just work with an expert to create things for me occasionally.

Armadillo Managed Services can’t help you with your 3D printers, but fortunately we can help you with Cyber-Security. We work with you to understand your business and design a solution which fits your short term needs while moving you towards your longer-term goals. We can advise on which technologies you might need and manage them on your behalf. We can help reduce costs by reducing technology overlap and support you with leveraged resource meaning you don’t need to hire more security staff. Let Armadillo Managed Services become part of your extended team, and you can avoid getting your fingers burnt like me!


Written by: Rob O’Connor, Chief Technology Officer at Armadillo.