In the latest smuggling attempt, as reported by The Guardian, it appears that 3D printers were used in an attempt to move 30 kg of methamphetamine from the US into Western Australia. The street value for 30 Kg is $45 million Australian, or $30 million USD.
Smugglers will always look for new ways to move products illegally, as we’ve seen with recent events like the 200 Alder Lake CPUs stashed in a fake pregnancy belly and a laptop that hid a double-edged knife, but this case has its own interesting twists.
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The best 3D printers come in all shapes and sizes, and it appears that the two smugglers, part of an international crime syndicate, were using Flashforge Creator 3 FDM 3D printers to move an alleged 30 kg of drugs. The pair were captured as part of the Operation Ironside sting, a joint operation between the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the FBI.
Both agencies monitored messages posted via the An0m encrypted platform for over three years. The AFP became aware of the issue when one message on the platform allegedly indicated that one of the pair had coordinated over 30 methamphetamine imports into Australia in 2020.
The agencies intercepted the narcotics in the US before they reached their destination in Western Australia. One of the pair was arrested in New Taipei City in late July, the other was arrested in Taoyuan City in October. Both have been charged with illegal transportation of category 2 drugs, and, if found guilty, could face life imprisonment in a Taiwan prison.
The Flashforge Creator 3 seems to have been chosen as it is an enclosed 3D printer, meaning that it has a door to firmly hold objects within. The printer is also now discontinued, which means that it can be picked up for a lower price than other printers. Measuring 627 x 485 x 615 mm, the Flashforge Creator 3 has a build volume of 300 x 250 x 200 mm. Add to that the extra space around the axis motors and the space reserved for the control board and PSU, and a clever person could maximize the amount of product enclosed within.
The gross weight of the printer is already a heft 52 kg, so it is obvious that multiple printers would be required to spread the load without drawing suspicion. Had the smugglers chosen the smaller Flashforge Adventurer 3 Lite, then it would’ve required many more printers. In our review we found that its small size meant it could not accept standard 1Kg spools and the internal build volume was only 150 x 150 x 150 mm. Add to that the gross weight of 13Kg, and it would make the additional weight of the meth much easier to spot.