WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration on Wednesday accused three U.S. companies of sending plans and engineering drawings for satellite and rocket technology and other defense prototypes to China.

The Commerce Department leveled the allegations because it barred the three companies from exporting items to foreign countries for 180 days. This penalty, known as a temporary denial order, is considered one of the most severe civil penalties available to the department.

The companies – Quicksilver Manufacturing Inc., Rapid Cut LLC and US Prototype Inc. – provide 3D printing services to customers including space and defense technology manufacturers. The Commerce Department said customers would send plans and designs to companies they wanted printed — and the companies would in turn send that work to China, presumably to cut costs.

The transaction would have required US government approval, but no clearance was sought, the Commerce Department said.

“Outsourcing 3D printing of space and defense prototypes to China harms U.S. national security,” Matthew Axelrod, assistant secretary of commerce for export enforcement, said in a statement. “By sending their customers’ technical drawings and blueprints to China, these companies may have saved a few dollars, but they did so at the collective expense of protecting US military technology.”

The Commerce Department’s 11-page order does not allege the plans ended up being exploited by the Chinese military, but it does say the actions present “serious national security concerns.” private industry.

The Commerce Department used the companies’ clients to check their records to ensure that their intellectual property was not compromised.

Businesses use the same rental mailbox in Wilmington, NC. Requests for comment sent through the Quicksilver Manufacturing Inc. and Rapid Cut LLC websites were not immediately returned.

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