We wrote a year ago about 3D printed guns and it seems like they continue to be one of the most talked about issues related to the technology. Michigan Tech even launched a contest called Print for peace in order to highlight non-weapon aspects of 3D printing. I’ve seen 3D printing in popular culture from TV episodes of Elementary to CSI. You can even watch a documentary about it and and one museum has even added it to its display because of the historical value. It seems like when you mention 3D printing, a 3D printed gun comment is soon to follow.
Our buddies from over at PD&D who make the great web show Engineering Newswire also have a great show called RapidFire that covers much more 3D printing. The episode below gives a great history of the 3D printed gun situation with a little humor.
Jason Lomberg wrote an excellent article in ECN where he did a great job summarizing the current legal landscape:
“I previously noted that 3D-printed guns aren’t inherently illegal. ATF regulations allow unlicensed individuals to manufacture firearms for their own use but not sell or distribute them. But the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 makes it illegal to “manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer, or receive any firearm which is not detectable by walk-through metal detectors.” And that’s where Cody Wilson, “Matthew,” and their contemporaries could run afoul of the law.”
Since Jason’s article has been written, Cody’s DEFCAD site was indeed ordered by the State Department to remove the files and their site has morphed into a 3D part search engine. The key thing with their open source search engine is they claim no tracking and just link to files rather than hosting them, think “Pirate Bay” for 3D printing.
These weapons don’t exactly strike me as something to fear quite yet. Maybe you’ve seen the latest 3D printed gun demo from “The Grizzly” which resembles more of civil war musket than cutting edge weapons technology. People in prisons have been making deadly non-metal concealed weapons much more cheaply and easily for years. People perhaps don’t realize the limits of the technology in terms of cost and speed. I think however there may be a place/benefit for 3D printing in traditional firearm manufacturing (like every other type of manufacturing) as demonstrated by Solid Concept’s 3D printing of a traditional metal gun.
Of course all the worries may be for naught as Radio Physics Solutions has created a scanner to detect 3D printed guns. That’s the way it usually goes, in the eternal game of cat and mouse, measure and countermeasure have a way of not staying out of balance for very long.