An Older (This Fall!) Article About Guns and 3D Printers #3dthursday
Here’s an interesting take on 3D printed weapons controversy from earlier this fall that addresses many of the steps involved with the complexity of this topic. Now, this was before the recent firing tests, before the elementary school shooting, and before the removal of gun-related parts from Thingiverse: the absence of these elements in the story can be distracting, but as the person sharing the tip to this story pointed out, more recent posts are, not surprisingly, so stirred up one way or another politically and emotionally that taking a look at this snapshot from the past is helpful. I agree. Because most of the recent posts about this topic at both extremes — I’m just not going to touch that stuff.
Welcome to the dark side of 3D printing.
The hobby is best known for creating colorful toys and trinkets, but some enthusiasts are working on design files that would allow anyone to print a working gun. These don’t exist yet, but some believe it’s only a matter of time.
Why would a 3D-printed gun be appealing? For one, it could potentially be cheap. You can buy a preassembled 3D printer for about $500. A spool of ABS plastic to print with goes for $50. Depending on where you shop, you can buy .38 Special ammunition for 30 cents a round. The plans will undoubted be distributed free like so many MP3s.
In fact, plans for working gun parts already exist. They can be found on a site called Thingiverse (EDIT: not anymore!) and on similar sites, alongside thousands of free plans for toys, jewelry, tools, and design equipment.
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The article, and all others like it, touts the fundamentally flawed notion that a 3d printer can produce a complete working firearm.
That’s flawed at best: a gun barrel made from layer-printed ABS would be about as useful as one made from chocolate. It’s like saying a 3d printer can make a car.. execept for most of the engine, the suspension, the power train, the crash cage, and anything that touches gasoline.
The parts of a gun that a 3d printer can’t fabricate are the ones that make it a gun, as opposed to a plastic toy that will only hurt someone if you throw it hard enough.
The parts that actually chamber, fire, and direct a bullet would have to come from some other source.. a gunsmith’s machine shop if you wanted something decent, or a hardware store if you wanted a quick and dirty zip gun. People have been making guns both ways for decades.
here’s a large body of settled case law exploring the ramifications of letting people make guns for themselves. The specific fabrication technique of 3d printing non-essential parts doesn’t bring anything new, important, or interesting to the discussion.
Hey Mike! Actually, I felt this article took some effort to talk about how the uses of 3D printing that have actually worked for weapons has NOT included the chamber, barrel, etc.. and is a bit skeptical about the all-printed weapons group that did (since this article was run) successfully fire a bunch of rounds with a printed AR Lower Receiver: http://boingboing.net/2012/12/04/3d-printed-gun-fires-6-shots.html. I included the movie prop as the photo for a reason — that represents the fear rather than the reality.
That said, one bit issue with this topic is that it is difficult to get all of the physics and all of the politics clearly on the table at the same time.
The quoted article is pretty useless, the kind of vapid vaguely techie “some people think” school of what cannot be described as journalism. I could probably 3-d print a ham sandwich for $50 as well, but why would I want to?
Yeah, we’ll, there wasn’t anything that great about this topic to choose from that wasn’t a rant. Would love it if some folks would share better articles about this subject. I’m not sure this article is sharply enough opinionated to deserve such frustrated responses but I agree with the general sentiment of frustration that this topic isn’t being discussed that well.