Guns and 3d printing – my take

This past weekend I worked a 3d printing booth at my kids’ elementary school carnival.  It was wonderful to watch scores of 6 to 10 year olds creating in Tinkercad.  I’m still catching up on printing their work.

Defense-Distributed-Liberator-3D-printed-gun-by-Cody-WilsonWhy it’s in the news again: While the kids’ were building the parents wanted to talk 3d printing.  Guns and 3d printing.  Senator Schumer (D-NY) is seeking an extension to the 25 year old Undetectable Weapons Act.  This act bans manufacturers from creating weapons that are undetectable by metal detectors.  The frequently referenced 3d printed Liberator handgun plans do include provisions for the owner to install a metal slug thus making the weapon detectable. That bit of the installation process is in control of the builder.  And the folks at Defense Distributed aren’t the only producers of 3d printed plans for guns or gun parts.

I’ve been using a Makerbot Replicator dual for a year and a half and would not fire a handgun created on this machine.  As much I appreciate the marvel of the 3d printing I don’t have much faith in the strength or integrity when it comes to explosive forces.  There are 3d printers on the market that could fabricate and the prices will continue to fall.  But for now don’t assume that every sub-$2000 3d printer will be used to crank out functional firearms.  

The focus of the Schumer’s work is not to limit 3d printing.  The goal is to limit the manufacture of weapons that can be concealed from the view of a metal detector.

Those of us who are early adopters of 3d printing need to keep directing the conversation away from the 3d printed gun to 3d printed EVERYTHING ELSE.  And we need to keep maintain awareness of any effort to add DRM to the 3d design or printing tools.  The creativity spurred by 3d printing will only thrive in an open environment.


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