Tomorrow You Will Be Able to Download Plans for a 3D Printed Gun Legally…Maybe

Several years ago we wrote about Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed about 3D printed guns and he’s back in the news this week in a big way. Through a settlement with the state department over a several year legal battle, the files for a 3D printed gun will be legally available for download beginning tomorrow (August 1st).  The plans were originally held-up under a trade restriction given the fact that “weapon technology” could be downloaded overseas.  You can learn more about Cody Wilson here and 3D printed guns in general here.

For Wilson this has been a free speech issue with plans contained in a 3D file just being protected speech. It has long been perfectly legal for people to manufacture guns for their own use, so the argument against here is the relative ease 3D printing provides for this process. Other current laws prohibit guns intentionally designed to evade metal detectors and x-ray detection requiring at least 3.7 ounces of metal.  Of course the opposite side is untraceable plastic guns available to anyone, anytime and anywhere and the fact that most of the metal can easily be left out of the gun in question by the builder as it’s not functional, it just for legal compliance.

With all the other political news this hasn’t been getting much discussion, but at the 11th hour many states and members of Congress are sounding alarm bells. Even Alyssa Milano is chiming in calling it “Downloadable Death”.  President Trump weighed in with a tweet this morning showing there may still be a last minute federal reversal if a court injunction or congress doesn’t act first.

This may largely be a debate about what could be than what is. Currently you buy a $1,000 3D printer, wait many hours and get a somewhat flimsy unreliable single shot untraceable gun where your Google search for the files could probably be traced back to you. A serious criminal would probably save money and time buying a superior untraceable gun in a back alley somewhere on the black market. However in a few years as metal 3D printing gets cheaper, faster and more widespread, it could be a different story.

At time of writing there are still 11 hours to go and not doubt there may be some last minute news as 21 states are suing to prevent this.  There is some wonder if the NRA even supports this from a business sense (why buy guns from gun manufacturers when you can make your own).  Today could be an interesting day in the history of 3D printing.


Is 3D scanning a privacy concern?

Is new technology threatening privacy in new ways? (Image courtesy of adamr /

Is new scanning technology threatening your privacy in new ways? (Image courtesy of adamr /

Maybe you’ve heard about some of the privacy worries and fist fights or people getting kicked out of businesses over Google Glass and fears of being filmed.  It seems to be the thing replacing 3D printing of guns in mainstream media in terms of new technology concerns.  I’ve also heard of door mats that will weigh everyone who comes to visit you.  Are these things invasion of privacy or just the natural evolution of cellphone video cameras and cameras at every street intersection? Continue reading

Should 3D Printing Go Open Source?

File:Roadster 2.5 windmills trimmed.jpg

This is now open source!

You may have seen in the press this week that Elon Musk has released all of Tesla’s electric car patents into the public domain.  In doing this he channeled a classic video game quote titling the release, “All Our Patent Are Belong to You.”  Just like it has benefited computer software (WordPress, Firefox, OpenOffice, Audacity, etc.) , it appears “open source” is benefiting 3D printing with low cost and high quality alternatives to commercial 3D printers and traditional CAD software. Continue reading

3D Printed Gun Update

Wikimedia Commons

The Liberator 3D Printed gun (from WikiMedia Commons


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. Continue reading

Good Versus Evil in a 3D World – New Laws on the Horizon?


Image courtesy of chanpipat at

Technology is usually neither good nor evil, it’s all in the application.  Unfortunately the criminal element is up on 3D printing technology as well.  Here’s the latest such infraction with thieves using 3D printers to make ATM card skimmers.  Without giving too many suggestions, you don’t have to think long about other illegal applications from key capture and duplication to simple counterfeiting.  Just like the internet brought a technological revolution, it also brought the need for new laws and security.  I imagine 3D printing/scanning will be no different.  Many crimes with a 3D printer will violate existing laws, but no doubt there are gaps we can count on criminal creativity to find for us to fill.