It's always been legal to manufacture a firearm for personal use in the US, as long as you comply with the NFA 1934, GCA 1968 - meaning no restricted classes of firearms (automatic, suppressed, short barreled rifles/shotguns. Restrictions only come into play when you wish to sell them. Fear of home built weaponry used for evil looks to be a result of going out of your way to find something to be afraid of or the search for sensational storylines for ratings ("Tonight!!, 10 things in your home that may kill you....Details at 10" ). After all, you can go to the hardware store, buy some gas pipe, a spring and some fittings and build a zip gun in your garage in an afternoon – it won't be as effective as a pump shotgun but to paraphrase your own words: it only takes one round to kill. How about the fact that you can buy a black powder revolver without all the paperwork of a cartridge firearm? I guess the public is not as likely to be riled up over the availability of metal working tools that is being stirred up in the area of 3d printing.
The Undetectable Firearms law is perhaps the finest example of this level of silliness. This law was written after it was revealed that Libya had purchased an order of Glock pistols in the 1980's. This resulted in ignorant press featuring hysterical stories of "plastic guns that were invisible to airport xrays". Of course, the Glock showed up just fine on xrays since they contain a considerable amount of steel but still, Congress leapt into action to pass a law against something that does not exist. I'm still waiting for them to pass laws banning concealable rail guns or pocket plasma weapons.
The future tech of printing out useable objects is fascinating. However, by the time someone figures out how to 3d print a barrel capable of holding realistic pressures involved in pushing out a projectile at lethal velocities, the public will quite probably be more worried about the availability of Han Solo's blaster than antiquated firearms technology.
Thanks for covering this. The danger is more evident than some may realize, since 3D printing of metals has been around for a long time. Even if it can't yet be done in the strength required for guns, that's probably not so far away, since NASA is developing 3D printing technologies for making rocket engine parts http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=254513
It's not as though criminals have any difficulty obtaining firearms in the U.S., even in jurisdictions that have very tough gun laws. I strongly doubt that many criminals will go to the trouble of using 3D printers to make guns, when they can get guns so easily already.
Growing up in Chicago, I used to sweep bullet casings off the sidewalk in front of a community center where I was a volunteer. I lost two friends to gun violence before I graduated from high school. This was in a city that had a total ban on handguns.
When my dad was growing up in rural Michigan, there was a gun in every home, yet shootings were unheard of.
We would be wiser to focus on the causes of violence, rather than on access to firearms. I don't think 3D printing hobbyists are our biggest problem.
It is always the object that kills and never the responsibility of the user? So politicians consume political clout to villify the object and the person that pulled the trigger is a victum of the 'gun' culture.
The printing of any object should be interesting and worthwhile. However, trying to repeel open and honest research of legal persons and the subjugation of such will lead to hidden and subversive research from persons of questionable goals. I would rather see this in the open.
I agree. As always, it isn't the gun, it is the nut behind it.
But, I have purchased several ceramic knives in ny Japan visits over the last several years that are so sharp and deadly I would place them in the same catagory as a gun. I could probably get these thru the metal detector easily. So I won't worry about synthetic guns. Remember, knives don't kill. People and governments do...
I agree Dave - hubby grew up in West Texas where every home had fire arms. Children were taught gun safety at an early age and no one ever heard of anyone getting shot. If you needed to kill a stray coyote attacking the herd - you had a solution.
I just can't imagine a criminal bent on violence taking the time, effort and expense to fabricate a gun when they are so easily accessible otherwise. I am not even sure why you would want to go through all that trouble legally as a hobby - just go down to your local Cabellas - they have a fine selection of used rifles and shotguns out on the sales floor that you can walk up to and play with. I even saw an M-1 Garand there a couple of weeks ago...
I couldn't agree more with popuptarget. I know several people who have fully automatic weapons they made illegally... without a 3D Printer. Let's face it, it is far easier and less expensive to get the parts you need for your automatic weapon from other sources, 3D printing them is done strickly for fun. Let's not get too carried away with this story, after all, no matter what you invent, some idiot will find some illegal, immoral, or dangerous way to use it.
Yes, anyone with a machine shop can make gun parts. But that requires a lot of investment in time, money, and learning. With 3D printers, they are very inexpensive and require very little skill to operate. Load the optimized file and hit "GO." I think the main issue is accessibility.
I am also from Chicago, and (illegal) guns are very easy to come across. But with printed parts, no one ever has to know what you are up to. Sometimes... the law enforcement can stop illegal street sales of firearms. But, will they bust someone for having a 3D printer? Doubtful.
@Cabe: Organized crime has no problem operating chop shops for stolen cars, so I don't think they'd have any problem making receivers for firearms, if they were so inclined. They probably already have the equipment. An AK-47 receiver is a relatively simple stamping. If there were money in making them, they'd be doing it already.
Right now, it's so easy for organized criminals to get illegal weapons that they have no motivation to make them themselves. I don't see this situation changing in the near future.
I could be wrong, but I don't think gangs are going to be buying up 3D printers anytime soon.
Weapons have several uses: hunting, exercising terror & compulsion over others (by government and lone or organized sociopaths), and defense against the latter and tyranny by freedom-loving individuals. None of these is going to change by hysterically banning printed weapons.
Ho flippin' Hum. Can we get back to covering ENGINEERING and DESIGN issues and quit playing with milky-toast lamby-pie leftist political worries?? I am not joking. Every engineer & designer I know [roughly 250] really find this kind of article/commentary a complete waste of 1's and 0's. B O R I N G and Irrelevant. Grow up already.
If this was sooo boring perhaps yourself and the 250 friends you have so kindly spoken for should have been inteligent enough to stop reading. more over you continued to waste your time writing a rant about afformentioned boring article.
3d printing is on the verge to becoming one of the next big revolutions in prototyping and manufacturing, get used to hearing about it!
I do apologize for any confusion in my alleged rant about 3-D printing. To clarify, the group of engineers I refer to is many years into the effective utilization of 3-D printing. It is, in our case, old news, if you'll pardon the contradiction in terms.
Your reaction completely missed the meat of the message. My point, to be clear, was about the hemorrhoidal reaction of gun-worriers and their hinting at the need for some form of "control" over what is allowed to be produced in the 3-d world. That, and the insinuation that this phenomenon is the next burgeoning source of violent crime tools... BOTH issues are political and uninteresting when one seeks to find technical/industrial [not political] content on a certain site.
Wow, now that's a lot of attitude! I do feel sorry for those 250 engineers you know though. You could have ignored this of course, but no, you couldn't. You had to throw your 2 cents in to let everyone know just how right-wing you are, never to miss just such an opportunity. Besides, this is an issue for engineers to discuss just as was the nuclear bomb for physicists. Enjoy!
I'm rather dismayed to see the wrong fear-mongering question again being asked in one of our trade magazines. If we're going to write about 3D-printed guns, the question should be how to make new and innovative guns, not whether or not someone could make one for evil purposes. We can read about a new drug in terms of its benefits, without any mention of how someone could use it for criminal purposes. We can read about a new rocket motor without any mention of someone using it for a ballistic missile. We can read about a new metal alloy without worring that someone is going to use it to make a deadlier knife. And we can certainly read about all kinds of software innovations without any discussion of how someone could use them for criminal purposes. For that matter, people could (and sometimes do) use plain old 2D printers to commit fraud and forgery.
So how about Design News sending a reporter to a legitimate firearms company and interviewing the engineers there about how they are using 3D printers? I can think of two main applications. One is to produce non-firing prototypes to check fit and finish and fine-tune ease of assembly. The other is to produce PARTS for weapons in production. The AR15 platform seems to be the most popular for home builders.
Most of the receivier of any gun, but particularly an AR15, is subject to fairly low stress, and yet it has a complicated shape. In any gun, the chamber, the bolt, and the bolt lugs are the high-stress parts. Most of the rest is just a jig to hold the trigger assembly, stock, and magazine in position. A reasonable approach would be to machine or forge a piece of metal, of fairly simple shape, to carry the ~50,000 psi stresses of firing, while using 3D printed high-strength plastic to hold that and the other low-stress parts together.
An article focusing on how to optimally combine 3D printing with traditional metal manufacturing processes would also be far more useful to us real engineers than another round of hand-wringing about "what if criminals print guns?"
Everything, including new technologies, has unintended consequences. In light of our violent culture, it seems that discussing the ease of weapon manufacture is relevant just as is software development with regards to identity theft and that 2D printing technology you mentioned for counterfeiting. We can handle these seemingly peripheral topics as they are a consequence of the underlying technology.
Wow... now someone feels sorry for me and my peers... I don't get it, but OK. The assumption that we "right-wing" types don't engage in broader discussion is just as inane as the assumption that the original article is worth the space it occupied on the cloud. Y'see... my friends and I are not about to lose one breath of sleep over the things that make the spineless jellyfish among the unarmed or otherwise defenseless populace squirm. Quite the opposite. As thinking men and women, as educated men and women, and as realistic men and women we routinely revel in the freedoms we claim as Americans and laud the creative application of all kinds of technology to the enjoyment and benefit of all. This is what engineering and design is all about. And, as the needle deflects from professional-level creativity to trade-level hands-on application, it is pure rubbish to ask that fine folks within our government protect us from ourselves. Quite honestly we are more than capable of doing so without much assistance, especially if we are not stripped of the freedom that allows us to do so. Attitude? Yes, absolutely. I am proud to be an American, proud to be as self-sufficient as I can be, and proud to live with little or no fear. How can one possibly live in this great land of ours without some "attitude"? But it's a good and wholesome attitude. I refuse to become part of the hysterical set that demands that EVERYONE stripped down to a cell phone and a home alarm system as self-defense mechanisms. Too slow, too ineffective, and too late. And, quite frankly... the attitude embodied in the original article is far more bothersome to freedom-loving Americans than ANY of its opposition so well-expressed by those who took the time to express their valuable counter-arguments. Enjoy?? indeed. Bring it. I LOVE a good debate.
I don't feel sorry for you but those you know. You didn't comprehend my post so of course you don't get it. What was that diatribe about? First you don't want to talk about the implications of the 3D printing of guns and then you spill your guts about what you believe, which is nothing but singing the praises of your "freedom" (whatever that means) loving, and more important, tough self. Wow! You're not afraid! Thanks for letting us know.
The fact is that guns don't guarantee "freedom" (whatever that means), culture does. This article is not a wate of time as it forces a discussion of things that are a consequence of engineering and are thus part of engineering. Of course you could "debate", but you haven't. All you've done is belly ache about you.
Yes, culture underpins freedom, and government is the product of culture. The bottom line here is this... I have no opposition to debate if the original premise is legit. However, in this case, the article begins with the completely false assumption that the 3D printing of a weapon is a noteworthy development. I would easily argue that in fact it is not. People have developed hundreds if not thousands of methods to hurt [or terminate] each other since time began. It's a product of the culture. As such, the only common denominator to all those methods is the human being. So, in summary, I will not accept even a suggestion or hint that the wrong item be termed causal and then summarily demonized, limited, restricted, or regulated on the false premise that it'll somehow make us all "safer". THAT, my friend, would be an unintended consequence of a paranoid and squeamish culture. And, for the record, there wasn't any "belly-ache" in my previous post. Nothing but love and enthusiasm, buddy. Have a nice day.
Alright, so you don't think that it's note worthy. That's your opinion and I don't see anything in the article that supports your assumption as there are references to other articles on the subject. The article is a good overview discussion of the legality of use of 3D printing to manufacture a gun - it points out accurately the legal issue of producing a gun without metal.
I think that your opinion is clouded by your ideology and that inhibits your ability to engage in a discussion as there is nothing in the article that demonizes 3D printing nor even guns - saying that guns are deadly or that a catastrophic event could kill is merely stating fact. That you see demonization implies that you are more concerned with projecting your will than anything else.
I'm sorry, but your summary is terribly misleading, and irresponsible. A gun with 3d printed parts has been fired (some time ago, mind you, this story is old news). There will probably be an issue when some dork tries to print an entire weapon, and the thing shatters into a million pieces when fired.
I think that you are right that the seed has been planted, and there may be some impetus to pursue it. But I think this particular story is over-hyped.
I agree, it's not like anything new is happening from a legal standpoint. The use of a 3-D printer will not require any laws to be changed or added.
Reading the source article is highly recommended, folks! This plastic lower broke during initial assembly, many holes were intentionally under-sized & needed to be drilled, reamed, threaded & tapped. This project was not a 'print & go' gun but is just a hobbiests venture to push into new frontiers.
The source article has a series of comments worth reading, as well. Looks like a very serious community is referenced there, who will continue this kind of development individually no matter what anyone here might think of it.
The file which was downloaded from thingiverse to make this receiver lower resulted in the thingiverse site owners to issue a ban on any future weapon files from being uploaded. I expect this kind of reaction will become a standard for any widespread public forum which I think is a fair reaction. The only people who really are pioneering this kind of technology will continue to share their files on specialty forums, which will limit the public impact.
The printing of a firearm will not be the first thing a common criminal will choose as a way to arm themselves, but I'm sure they will be reading about it! The fact that a printed firearm has no registered serial number, might be interesting to a higher class of criminal. Just take a look at the rapidly booming specialty of 3-D printing ATM scanners, which are designed to fit perfectly on top of an ATM's keypad and allow a 'man in the middle' attack to steal your login details. These scanners are being developed by organized groups who obtain 3-D printers any which way they can. These groups are using these printers specifically to break the law, and for no further use. I would bet they will be thinking about printing weapons.
There's a huge market south of the border looking for any kind of firearm. I can see how the fact that a weapon might break after a couple shots will not matter to someone who will mix 5 pounds of baking soda with a couple ounces of crack cocaine just to increase their profit margins. So I expect to see some kind of funny business in the near future. Maybe a hostage situation where the guy holding the hostage cant take it any longer, pulls his trigger and the gun falls apart. He'll be thinking about how he got ripped-off for a bogus weapon while getting a free trip to the state holiday inn!
look up King Gusavus Adolphus of Sweden and his cannons made of leather dating from the 1600's. It says something that a cheap leather cannon that lasts for about 20 rounds lasted longer than an expensive 3d part that lasts for 3. Sure Iron tubes replaced them but it was still an interesting technical achievement.
I'm not sure selling a weapon you make is a problem. Unless the weapon leaves the state you live in. There are more than one groups of people who have thought of manufacturing weapons in Texas. There are some thinking of making 100 watt incandescent light bulbs. There is no problem till the articles cross the start line and come under Federal jurisdiction.
My thought was to use the printer to make prototypes for casting molds
I think this article is a bit hysterical.
"Move along. Move along. There is nothing here to see. Move along.
redandgearhead, I agree. Guns aren't the problem but irresponsible people who used them. The 26 deaths that just occured in Newpoint, CT is a good example of how irresponsible and unstable people are. Giving them access to print guns make these concern not hysterical, but a dangerous REALITY. Like all things created for the benefit of society, those who are unstable will find a dark side application for them. Its unfortunate that a good machine like a 3D printer can now be used to make weapons instead of a child's toy. Speaking of a child's toy, my prayers go out to all the parents, family, and friends that have lost their children, and co-workers in such a senseless act of destruction.
So you agree that it is the person and not the object that is irresponsible, so why is it "unfortunate" that a 3-D printer can print said object? If I have a 3-D printer capable of providing me a competive product (that is protected from government infringement as clearly stated in the 2nd amendment), why is it not economically good for me? Can I not use my resources to provide for myself?
And by the way, I do not believe 3-D printers are used to make child's toys (except maybe in prototype engineering for toy companies). This same type of technology is being used to prototype and produce military hardware!
Ah, the consequences..... Just remember the vast number of EXISTING laws violated in the Newtown and Colorado, and in other similar events.. ......more laws , more regs do nothing but disarm the law-abiding. AND , don't forget what put an end to each incident...... good guys, WITH GUNS!
Of course, we'll now have the outcry for the government to once again protect us.... when the result will be just the opposite.
shrimper, you can minimize the impacts of this all you want, but I work in an educational institution where many people have access to 3D printers. We now have to keep a more vigilant eye on what is being built and by whom. My main concern is not that someone is going to shoot up the place. I am worried that a curious student or staff member is going to print out these parts, assemble them, and then have it blow up in their face. Who do you think will get sued?
Others have made comments that technology has existed to make guns for many years and that is true. In fact, we have machine shops here for training purposes that have all of the equipment. The big difference is that it takes a certain amount of skill and time to make a functioning weapon out of steel. These 3D printed guns require nothing more than the knowledge to download the files, open them in the printer software, and assemble the parts when they are done. It is designed so that ANYBODY can do it.
I, for one, will be watching this very closely. Another thanks to Cabe for bringing this to our attention.
bronorb...... I also could not agree with you more. Particularly from your "institutional" perspective, monitoring of what goes on is crucial. There are way too many knuckleheads out there ready AND able to do some pretty stupid things with this new technology.
A good and timely discussion to have, nonetheless.....there are ALWAYS unintended consequences to be dealt with on both sides. Thanks.
3-D printing of weapons doesn't present any new threat to our society than what already existed. Why is this even a discussion?
A common kitchen knife is a lethal and unregulated instrument of harm when found in the hands of some irresponsible person. They sell these lethal items in grocery stores without a background check or even so much as checking ID! Now they have ceramic (undetectable) knifes that are also abundant, cheap and unregulated. Where is the government to save us! :P I'm sure someone can figure out how to make a straight piece of plastic, get a 3-D printer to produce one, then sharpen it.
We have to allow everyone the opportunity to be responsible with their choices and punish those who fail. We must not punish everyone just in case there's one possible chance of harm being done, otherwise we're not a free society but a society of panic-striken reactionaries. 3-D printed lower receivers is no more of a threat than the 99 other ways to die at the hands of someone.
at one level, you're correct; however, there is a quantum jump at this juncture.
Namely: the availability of hard-to-detect tools (weapons) that deliver lethal energy will minimal effort.
I don't know why you mention advanced-tech kitchen knives. They're a benign example in the middle of the whole argument at hand. Means to deliver lethal energy have existed since the invention of rocks and stones.
then came knives, spears, flintlocks, percussion-fired guns, grapeshot, machine guns, mustard gas, alphas, betas, gammas, neutrons, etc.
The constant theme: easier delivery of lethal energy.
Why not make your argument with a couple of pavers I can buy at Home Depot and throw and the neighbor's noisy dog? (or at the noisy neighbors?)
Somewhere between rocks and nuclear is a dividing line between what's available and not available to the general public.
I challange you to make the conversation a bit more interesting: recraft your argument into something about why I can and should be able to buy and/or make cleavers, but not be able to do the same with tactical nuclear devices.
or maybe you think I should be able to craft my own TNDs. I don't know; maybe you're a "no boundaries at all" kind of guy and you're OK with your neighbors running their own breeder reactors.
Shrimper53 - I think the best source of crime statistics (unbiased) is the FBI database. I think you'll find a nearly equal number of blunt instrument/stabbing deaths. Most firearms deaths are suicides, but that fact is often left out of articles on the subject of gun deaths. Let's not forget vehicular deaths which far outnumber firearms deaths, but we all drive without a second thought. (Be careful this Memorial Weekend, all).
TunaFish5 - I was particularly referring to kitchen knives because they are easy inflicters of mortal injuries. Knives are much more effective at close range than guns. Many modern soldiers carry a knife for this reason. Guns are stigmatized yet knifes can be put on every table in the country and sold in sets at garage sales. Again, effective range is a differentiator, but just as many people find themselves dead whether at a distance or upclose.
Tactical nuclear devices (TND) are a considerably larger project, only within the means of select governments (at this time) due to material requirements. There's little point of working this part of the discussion as we both know the limitations.
I'm not a "no boundaries" type. I just think the stigma on firearms in this country is unjust and ought to viewed more rationally. That's where 3-D manufacturing and gun control have crossed paths. Many will disagree with me and that's fine. Don't make guns. Don't own guns. But, don't go making legislation to limit or criminalize personal freedoms (firearm ownership) with the intent to prevent something that's already illegal (killing).
Granted, I was (still am, a little bit) being sarcastic in my tone, but not necessarily being extremist in my statements. I only site a practical useful example of how a gun is viewed differently than other equally lethal and dangerous devices. I wholly disagree with the notion that it's a quantum jump between knives and guns.
The likely scenario (in my opinion) is that the government will close the loop by adding "additive manufacturing techniques" into the existing laws regulating firearms manufacture. After such time, makers will have to get their ATF licenses then brand-label and serialize their products. The open-source files will also ultimately have to be regulated despite the practical issues in doing so on the internet. I guess there is something to discuss here?
In trying to keep this discussion in the spirit of the intended thread, I don't think (in my opinion again) 3-D printed weapons will last as a vexing issue. Additive manufacturing technology has great promise in many areas and personal responsibility in the items we design and use will always be pre-requisite. We simply can't make certain decisions for other people.
Human beings have been making tools since the species came into existence. Of late our tools have become more sophisticated but they are born of the need to design and use tools. The tools created to provide for defence or offence are among the most basic of tool wants. I have made knives and guns although not with a 3-D printer. There is a certain satisfaction in hunting with a gun you have made yourself.
All of the laws to the contrary, there is no way to prevent determined people from obtaining or manufacturing weapons. Restricting the capacity of magazines or the types of weaponry that is legal to own will not prevent someone with sufficient intent from getting them and potentially doing harm. Understanding these people exist and providing a strong active defence, not lows, is the best way to thwart their actions.
Once a design approach has been published or circulated, restricting its dissemination will be innefective and may actually make the approach go viral. Secrets are fleeting, military secrets the most fleeting of all.
The threats are already there.....and I am tired and ANGRY at the stupidity on the gun-control" side of this issue. There is a stat that I heard (cannot recall the source) that more people are killed by knives and baseball bats than rifles. The guns (actual, or 3-D printed ones) are not the problem; it's the criminal that uses it.
Actually, my only other thought re: 3-D printed guns is this; we've all seen the articles here in Design News and elsewhere indicating these things have a finite life span before they "fail"..... maybe there is some justice in having this happen to the next criminal thug that uses one. Call it karma, or maybe just weeding the herd....
I was in Europe eating lunch in a place with TVs tuned to a channel -- or maybe a very long show -- that was exclusively about idiots exercising their right to avoid any burden of foresight. I saw so many examples during that meal where fools and their health were soon parted. Perhaps the gravest example was these clowns who broke into an under-construction waterpark and wanted to go down the giant slide. Their problem was, they didn't realize the full value of a water-cushioned landing until they were sliding down too fast to stop their imminent flight into an open concrete pit.
Another example - maybe 10 or 20 years ago. Some enterprising mechanic obtains a jet-assisted take-off (propulsion power booster for heavily laden C-130 aircraft) and afixes it to his car. The trial goes fine until the road bends left around a mesa, but his vehicle continues straight into it.
So, it's fine if people want to do these things on their own time, at their own expense, in isolated locations, without disrupting others.
Not all knuckleheas are so considerate, though. Those are the ones society needs to protect itself from.
And -- oh, by the way -- even the ones who do keep their mistakes to themselves, RARELY keep other folks out of their trouble. Somebody has to clean up and pay for their mess, whether it's the water park operator that needs to buy another couple gallons of powder blue paint for the pool and several more spools of concertina wire for the perimiter, or the ambulance crew dispatched to pull a sheet over any still-twitching body parts.
Even when knuckleheads are not directing lethal energy at others, somebody has to buy the bleach and work the scrub brushes.
When knuckleheads get direct lethal energy at others, the results only get messier.
No, I'm not happy that people will be able to make their own guns that much more easily. But what is by far, the most disturbing is the KIND of weapons that can be easily fabricated. Assault, fully automatic, melee, even ultra-high capacity magazines for existing weapons. All the illegal stuff. This isn't funny. And the difficulty in preventing the proliferation of proven, working designs is spine-chilling. Trivialize this at the risk of real mayhem.
I don't want to trivialize the effects of gun violence, but printing assault weapons won't flood the streets with weapons of mass destruction. Any citizen can go to the hardware store right now and get everything they need to make slew of pipe bombs and cause some serious mayhem. The REAL cause of violence isn't the availability of weapons, but the social, economic, and mental health factors that make people behave violently. Any serious effort to control gun violence (or any other type) should worry less about the availability of weapons and more about the root causes.
Quacker, you have lost your mind. You are nothing but one of the fear mongers. What you do not understand is that people who have intentions to hurt others are going to do so regardless of what weapons they use... By the sounds of your argument we should ban cars because somebody might get behind the wheel drunk and kill people or maybe ban forks and spoons because they are intruments of mass consumption, therefore are rsponsible for making people fat.
Tank the emotions out your thought process and realize a firearms or components are nothing but in-animate objects that CAN, let me repaet CAN never hurt anybody without human intervention. Responsible ownership of firearms has been proven time and again that it reduces overall crime rates and over control of them has the opposite effect. Look to the statistics of Chicago for instance, it has some of the most stringent firearms restrictions but has a higher than normal homicide rate because the criminals have no fear that they will come up against an armed citizen.
Sweden for example issues fully automatic weapons to their citizens and requires them to practice with and know how to use the weapon and they have a violent crime rate much lower than countries with oppressive gun control laws.
Quacker, I'll grant that your concerns may be completely warranted. So, what could be proposed to stuff this genie back in to the bottle? I mean, short of forming a complete police state, what could possibly stop this?
Shall we license the use of servo and stepper motors? Shall we license the use of heated nozzles for plastic? How would we control or track these 3D printers? Worse, how would we know what the parts it makes are for?
The reality is that people have always had the ability to build offensive weapons in their basements and garages. The only thing that keeps us civil is a belief in the value of civilization. Regardless of whether one is religious or not, it is very important to teach civility.
Yes, the veneer of civilization really is that thin. It is indeed very easy to forget this fact. But the existence of a 3D printer is no more a threat than a hardware store. I'm not trivilizing the possibility. There will be attacks like Oklahoma City. And yet, we can't ban the use of ammonium nitrate or fuel oil either.
My first reaction to this article and many of the comments are impolite and unprintable. Let's start, then, with a few basics of firearms. Even the lowly .22 cartridge requires a metal chamber and barrel to contain the heat and pressure of the propellant gasses, and centerfire rifle and pistol cartridges even more so. Engineers, do the math! Chamber pressures range from 40,000 to 80,000 pounds per quare inch (psi), and the temperature of the expanding gasses is on the order of 2100 degrees Kelvin. Simply put, an "all-plastic" gun would instantly and catastrophically fail. What the author and makers have failed to to disclose is precisely how much metal is actually employed, and where it is--e.g. the chamber, barrel and breach. All firearms require high-strength steels to conatin the pressures and temperatures of the cartridge--this is an incontrovertible fact. The discussion of "plastic guns" concerns only the fabrication of what is often termed "the furniture". I do realize that that the "lower reciever" is the part recognized to constitute the "firearm", but this was the invention of idiotic bureaucrats in an era of all-metal guns. The minimally-structural lower reciver that merely supports a fully-structural barrel/reciever/breach appears to be the "invention" of record. This is truly much ado about nothing. As an aside, I would be interested to see a demonstration of a 100% printed gun (behind a shield, of course)!
Well put. I agree completely with the ridiculousness of the upper/lower receiver distinction. My hunch is that this developed from the fact that, in many cases, the lower receiver controls the rate of fire (full vs. semi automatic) which was used as the distinction between "legitimate" firearms and assault rifles. Obviously this definition is somewhat flawed.
I've been working with this technology since the late 1990's mostly in automotive at the time but it was a fast way to find interferance fits and other anomolies when designing vehicles. At the time it was abs plastics but today, you can print in ceramics and even metals. A gun made with ceramics can effectively meet the standards used for normal firearms and with the use of minimal amounts of metals if any at all. These have been demonstrated as being able to pass through security devices with out issue. My concern would not befor the commercial use of these but the illicut intentitional use of such weapons and the govt, needs to react to this quickly and be ahead of the curve for a change. This is a change this world DOES NOT NEED.
I'm appalled at the scare tactics of this terribly mis-informed article. 3D plastic printing of a gun receiver still leaves a lot of necessary metal parts- there is no such thing as a plastic gun. 3D plastic printing of gun parts is for gun geeks, not criminals, plain and simple. There is zero reason or advantage for a criminal to print a 3D receiver.
I just have to say as a mechanical engineer and a firearms designer you are completely irresponsible in writing and article like this. This article will be taken by a person who knows no better that "Yes I can print a whole gun". You will potentially be responsible for someone getting hurt from try to fire a printed gun. Even though you used a metal based upper receiver assembly that contained a properly designed barrel assembly and bolt carrier assembly people who are not engineers may miss that point altogether.
By the way it is completely legal according to the B.A.T.F. for a non-prohibited persons to build their own firearms as long as that do not fall under the regulations of the National Firearms Act, which regulates automatic weapons short barreled rifles etc... or build it with intent to sell it.
The whole argument about criminals printing non-traceable guns is a bogus point as they; (1) by definition are criminals and therefore will not or would not abide by the law or laws anyway.
(2) are usually lazy and opprotunists, who will go out and steal a real firearm rather than spend the time and effort required to print and build a firearm.
Please in the future think more about the consequences of an article such as this and the unintended consequences of the interpretation of said article by a person or persons who do not have the educational background to fully understand the consequences of purposely initiating what should be a controlled explosion mere inches from ones face to expell a projectile from a barrel.
The AR lower receiver is a low stress part that cannot fire a projectile. You can buy a good metal lower for well around $75 (stripped). "Have Blue" simply merged his 3D printing and gun hobbies. He certainly didn't save time or money printing the lower. He still needed the metallic trigger group, barrel, gas tube, buffer spring, and various other parts.
The "news" about printing guns is simply that additive manufacturing can be applied to a field that is completely dominated by other manufacturing methods. I don't recall such outrage when CNC machines came into existence. But now even small gun shops can get CAD drawings and manufacture their own OEM replacement or custom parts. Perhaps if costs continue to progress downward, a process like DMLS can be used instead of CNC milling.
The real story is the all too familiar one, gross ignorance of firearms by media and the general public. A firearm is simply a machine for launching projectiles. It isn't much different than a nail gun, except that its projectiles are not fasteners; they make holes. What many are squeamish about is that a gun provides a capacity to harm other people that cannot be mitigated; for if a gun was made that could not harm someone, it would not function in any capacity.
The idea of some utopia where there are no bad people is now, just as it has always been; an unobtainable myth. History and the world are rife with examples of people who cannot resist tyranny because they lost or never had the ability to resist it. Those of us who have stood, and will continue to stand up to provide safety and freedom to our follow man require arms; the better the armament, the more enduring the peace. Whether I have my uniform on or off, the oath I took remains.
I have always been intrigued by the dichotomy of how some celebrate certain freedoms they want, yet arrogantly seek to give away the freedoms others deem immutable. Indeed many, including the founders of the US recognize that the right to self-protection is derived from natural law and cannot be taken away.
The illegality and unconstitutionality of various federal gun laws including the NFA is a different, very involved discussion.
Sorry for the rant – but you have to admit, the story was begging for this type of response :)
Ok, I was engaged right up until this little gem right here...
"No federal laws address manufacturing weapons with 3D printers, so anyone owning a printer could make a weapon -- even if they're not allowed to own one."
No federal law is required to address manufacturing weapons with 3D printers because federal law already addresses manufacturing weapons in general regardless of the process used. Anyone who can legally own a firearm can legally manufacture one so long as they fill out the appropriate paperwork with the BATFE, get approved, pay their $200 tax, and never transfer the firearm unless it's to a rightful heir in their will. This does not apply to Title 2 (NFA) items such as machine guns, silencers, short barrel rifles and shotguns, and items classified as destructive devices. Those are the facts. To say anyone owning a printer could make a weapon even if they're not allowed to own one is a moot point. They forgot to mention that this would also make them a criminal. Any criminal not allowed to own firearms could also make a weapon if they owned a lathe, or a file, some pipe and band clamps. In the end, they'd end up with a more robust metallic improvised weapon rather than a plastic one printed from a 3D printer. Still, the fact remains that criminals don't generally manufacture weapons. They've got other crimes to commit and that simply takes too much time. Instead, they buy them out of other criminal's trunks.
I'm dissappointed. Let's look at the facts. A 3D printer was used to fabricate a low-stress component, which was used on an existing firearm. They did not fabricate an assault rifle as you implied. Also, the 1988 Undetectable Firearms Act does not create a loophole for hobbiests as you stated. It has always been our right to make a firearm. This act explicitly prohibits hobbiests from making weapons out of materials that can't be detected. Single-shot small caliber guns have been made out of ceramics and they work. Any gun of leathal caliber made of plastic will fail catastrophically on the first shot. Some 3D printers (very expensive ones) can fabricate using metals. It might be possible to fabricate a metal weapon using one of these printers. The weapon would not be very good and would likely fail after a few shots. However, it would be legal if the metals are detectable. Unwise, but legal.
Buying stolen guns on a street corner or at a pawn shop is breaking the law. Using a gun for illegal purposes is breaking the law. Owning and carrying a gun is our right. Using a gun for self protection, sport or competition is legal and protected by our Bill of Rights. I'm amazed and saddened by the number of people who are ignorant of their rights or are so willing to take away the rights of others. We have laws to deter illegal use of weapons and punish law breakers. Gun-control laws only impact law abiding citizens. Criminals are already breaking the law using a gun to comit a crime. A gun-control law won't deter them.
Removing guns from the hands of citizens won't prevent violence or prevent people from killing each other. Knives, hammers, axes, baseball bats, vehicles, bricks, bombs, etc. are all leathal weapons. The list is endless. The problem is not the weapon or availability of weapons. The biggest problems are ignorance, fear and hate.
Thanks for the article, it's a fun diversion to read the comments on these "red meat" subjects.
I would be interested in seeing the cost comparison between additive methods vs. other manufacture methods for the firearms industry. It would also be interesting to see how close state of the art 3D printing is to being a viable part of the industry and how close it is to being able to produce the stressed parts. Metal deposition is already being used in aerospace structural elements for fighter jets; but that customer base has deep pockets.
The frame, grips and magazine shell can be made of plastic. I few other low-stress parts could be as well. However, the parts of the gun that make it a firearm can't be made of plastic. At least not the plastics we have today. We're not talking about metal inserts, either. The chamber, barrel, hammer and firing pin, plus various pins and springs must be made of metal.
Real weapons manufacturers might consider 3D printing for initial prototyping, but I doubt they would concider them for manufacturing. It's far cheaper and faster to cast plastic parts than print them.
A company in South Africa is aready looking at 3D printing for Military hardware. They are working out the details of using laser sinturing to build parts for a military drone aircraft.
While we spend all our energy worrying about how a civilian might use this technology to create a low production weapon, what about any governments ability to mass produce weapons and use them on the civilians?
Engineers and scientists have produced many things over the years with no thought as to how they could be misused, of maybe without imagining how they could be misused only to have various governments gladly pay for a way to weaponize them. Aircraft - much of the early development was funded by governements to use as weapons. But we still use them for peaceful putposes every day. Nobel - explosives used in mining only to be weaponized by governments going to war.
And lets look at the things that truly create dangers for peopel. Guns are not the first thing on the list, but they are the first thing that many would do something about. What about the dangers brought about by alchohol? or Drugs? or Baseball bats? Or are we just more comfortable with those things and better conditioned to not see the misuse of other common objects?
Lets apply some of that engineers logic and analysis and be a bit less knee-jerk and more level headed in our approach.
This is the beginning of the end of government control of everything. As we move down the chain of size, we will be able to print or fabricate anything, regardless of government, public or other opinion.
It's this thing we call freedom.
Just avoid the thrashing tail of the government dinosaur. You know the reason politicians hate the idea of uncontrolled weapons is that they will be the primary targets. We have a near infinite supply of politicians, so we may eventually get some honest ones.
Arguments aside, will 3D printing change the manufacturing world? In particular, the weapons makers of the world?
This person's experiment shows that the materials needed to make the gun work is not what is readily available. Is glass filled plastic for printers is an option? Even if the gun's critical areas are metal inserts, the surrounding plastic would warp easily.
I think 3D printing may still stay in the prototype/concept/model area for some time to come.
Good article, Cabe and good discussion. I think it is very important that we are all aware of the progression of this technology into the arena of gun manufacturing. A lot of the discussion is around the fact that an actual firing gun cannot be created with a 3D printer,... yet. As the technology moves ahead, it surely will be possible.
As an instructor in a college where we use 3D printers every day, I have to be aware that students may be downloading files from the internet and building inherently dangerous objects such as these. I really can't think of a student of mine that would use this technology to harm others, but how do I really know for sure. The Sandy Hook killer was just a guy with some mental issues before that tragic day.
The 3D Printed cat is out of the bag. This article increases our knowledge-base on the capabilities. Be aware, people.
Are suggesting beware of the printed object or the people with mental issues? Because I would not fear an object and would not object to students utilizing their intelligence for exploring their interests (or 2nd amendment rights).
Somehow the "cat is out of the bag" tripe is emotionalizing something that is just a technology no different that machining the same components. These are the facts and trying to place an emotional connotation to a legal engineering venture is political haymaking!
Take a chill-pill pal. I merely suggested that the article has some legitimate points about the fact that dangerous items may be produced with 3D printing and I feel that it is important that we keep up on that. As an instructor, I have to guide my students and make sure that they do not do anything inappropriate. For example, our students can get in big trouble for surfing porn on school computers. Using our 3D printers for creating potentially lethal items is another thing I will have to watch out for. They can "utilize their intelligence" in a less destructive direction.
I would also suggest that you are the one getting a little "emotional" here.
bronorb, I agree the article Cabe wrote is a good one. Based on the conversations this topic of 3D printing guns is quite controversial. If Ford Motor company can use 3D printers to make engine parts through casting via molds, guns are quite trivial to make using this technology. Again, guns don't kill people but irresponsible individuals do.
Nothing will stop the production of weapons. I can whittle a knife out of wood or plastic. I could pound a pipe down, sharpen the now flat edge, and make a sword. I could just take the pipe as use it as a club. The possibilities are endless.
What I want to know, how can the average person profit from this worrying trend? Sell parts. Start a regulatory business. etc
Cabe, My point exactly. Individuals who are committed to the life of crime will use surrounding/availabe resources for destruction. Its unfortunate that a machine designed to unleash creativity and allow imaginative freedom to make wonderful products may fall under government regulation scrutiny. What a sad day in the Maker community when the event happens.
"The permissive liberal is a myth. They will be willing to chase this through the Internet and cut through every single civil liberty they can in the name of 'safety.'" Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed
There are laws that cover the manufacturing of firearms; even un-serialized ones built by hobbyists at home. Also frames have been made from injection molded plastic for a long time now. This issue really has nothing to do with guns. It is about what restrictions the can be put on computer data, and how far the government is able to go to control the data you access.
Cabe, You bring up a very good point about regulation. It seems as though if all eyes are on a subject, say drugs, then the offenders become more active in trying to beat the system. So, if there is no regulation (attention), then maybe the offenders will not attempt to use 3D printers for wrong doings. It may just work.
I am amazed that any plastic material could stand up to the chamber pressure of a gun. Of course it seems that the one used had a lower chamber pressure than most military ones.
Perhaps the legal definition needs to be revised a bit.
Of course many of those other matal parts could be made from a ceramic material, which would probably not show up on a metal detector. I know that knives made of FR4 circuit board matrerial, and of polycarbonate material, don't show up at all. The polycarbonate knife does not hold a decent edge very well, but the FR4 one will stay sharp long enough to cut up a cheap steak. They both resharpen with an ordinary sharpening stone.
Don't ask how I know, I forget the names of those who carried things as a test.
I think the bigger problem here is the gun manufacturers intellectual property is being made willy-nilly. Guns are not open-source. So, I am sure people who print them may get prosecuted if they try and peddle their wares. Same goes for any object.
However, to the model builder, this is the ultimate evolution.
My guess is that if guns are produced by the 3D method, that they won't be sold for legal,use anyway, so it is very unlikely that patent law vilolations will enter into the mix, even if they are blatant. But that could be one way to nab the bad-guys, I suppose. It seems that most bad-guys don't choose to be very public about announcing their tools.
It's not a good thing when a government wins an arms race against the private sector it's supposed to "serve". It's also not good when laws punish the law-abiding more than the lawless. I'm having difficulty trying to think of a gun "restriction" that didn't further skew both of those imbalances.
If the social contract otherwise known as the U.S. Constitutiion were to ever become binding between its clients again, we'd find that most "laws" restricting access to guns are a violation against that contract.
Yes, there are consequences to liberty, but the consequences of not having it have been far more dire for millions of people before us.
Government should not regulate weapons or be involved. Not only is the genie already out of the bottle, but government is the main reason weapons are necessary in the first place. If any individual does not have the right to make weapons, then who does? Can't be the government because government only acts as an agent for individuals, and has no authority of its own. To attempt to make illegal what is so easily done, is just douible speak. It makes no sense, and it makes individuals subordinate to government, which is backwards in a democratic republic.
Yes, Boston will probably result in more rules. But you have to then wonder, since we now know that the FBI provided the bomb used in the 1993 WTC crime. The paid informer, Emad Salem taped the conversation where the FBI admited their involvement. So we can expect more attacks whenever there is a push for more regulation.
The media is full of dire warnings about 3D Printed weapons, and everyone is calling for new laws to address the issue. It is ridiculous to treat this as anything new, when this process cannot do anything that cannot be done using other methods which are readily available. Fully functional firearms can be, and have been, constructed from back-yard castings, CNC milled parts, and even hammered out of sheet stock.
The comments about personal responsibility are certainly correct. Why is it that so many refuse to acknowldge that individuals are responsible for their actions. Then there comes this other fact, which is that most crimes are committed by lawbreakers. So how is it proposed that some law about producing weapons is going to stop somebody from breaking other laws.
Besides that, at least in this corner of Michigan, it is possible to "buy a gun on the street" for about the same price as to purchase the materials to produce one part using the 3D printer. And most commercially made guns will work every time with far less experience needed, and they very seldom fail catastophically. So in reality the possesion of home-manufacture d weapons is a much smaller threat. One more thing is that I could also make the parts with conventional tools, such as a mill and a lathe. So how would those be regulated, since they have been around for a whole lot of years. Yes, somebody has demonstrated a new way to make gun parts, but that is not the source of the problem.
And the comment about knives is also certainly correct. Any doubters should see what they teach in the USMC infantry training classes. You don't run out of sharp nearly as fast as you run out of bullets.
RURC, The run-on may be an issue with the default font that your web browser uses, or possibly the character set. I have seen that in postings that came from other parts of the world, far away from where I live. Unfortunately I was not able to reconstruct the document after I pasted it into Word. So I have an interesting description of an interesting chemical process that requires a bunch of assumptions to interpret. Oh Well.
But my comment was made because I have seen things like that on other sites made as a means of hiding inappropriate comments from the filter. Hence my upset.
This was such an ignorant article. The lower reciever is a low pressure component which is easily obtainable for about $20 so why put $30 in materials into it? Note the upper receiver/firing chamber was the original so it was no suprise that it fired normally.
The two shot all plastic 22 cal from last month that fired with NO Metal except the cartrige with the brass case and bullet was much more of a milestone for 3D printed firearms but I have seen a ball point pen with one 22 cal bullet and a firing mechanism inside is more of a security threat for terrorist activity. Or a length of nylon cord is an easier to conseal as a deadly weapon, Chill out on the Firearm Anxiety! To protect yourself study personal defense methods like hand to hand combat. You can increase your defence capability 500% with a one day class....
Making weapons in a shop is nothing new. Back in 1959 one person made a zipgun in our junior high school shop class. Of course it was not very accurate and not very safe, and in addition it was a single-shot weapon, but it could be made by a thirteen year old using only a bandsaw, a grinder, and a drill press. So the clandestine production of firearms is certainly nothing brand new. Besides that, what about the price of that metal 3D printer? For a lot less than that purchase cost one can buy quite a few AK-47 weapons in working condition, if one uses the underground market. And more common weapons are available much cheaper. So it is not some huge disaster that has suddenly appeared because of 3D printing becoming available. Criminal types determined to do criminal activities will find a way outside of the law to do them, that is nothing new. And those terrorist types bent on causing death and destruction to the innocent will not be deterred in any way by whatever laws and restrictions are forced upon other decent people.
Consider that those choosing to operate outside of the laws are willing to break any of those laws to accomplish their goals.
Watashi, your information about costs backs up my assertion that presently 3D printers are not going to be a dangerous new source of weapons. Too expensive, too techincally demanding, and way to slow.
But of course 3D printers are a new technology and get a lot of attention, and the hysterical bleatings of the unknowing do make a lot of noise. Which is unfortunate, since those of the limited attention span will never get to the conclusion of the discussion. Thus public opinion is lead "down the path."
It is interesting that there is no move to ban box cutters, but 12 years ago they seem to have been the weapon of choice on 3 airliners...
As far as dangerous weapons - How about the Papermate or Bic stick type pens? Properly (improperly?) applied they can be used as a very effective and deadly weapon.
As with any "weapon" the real problem is the human being that is in posession of it. I know of many firearms that have never been used to threaten or kill anything. Their total use has been for target shooting of one form or another. And the folks using them have developed a set of skills that can be very impressive.
It is easy to call a firearm deadly, but what of those who have poisoned bottles of painkillers, or would taint the food supply. Those would probably be far easier than we would care to admit (the various salmonilla scares) and can spread harm over a much larger area.
How about the harm that is spread by the abandoning the teaching of morals and ethics? That dirty word "Values" that we have to be careful about teaching our children in the schools. We have created a far more dangerous country and world by doing that than any gun or knife could ever create. We have become a nation that thinks that everything is someone elses fault and that "someone" must pay for my every percieved injury. When I was in school (graduated in 1976) most of the highschool boys had a pocket knife. And there were no knife fights because we still had a sense of personal responsibility. We knew that we would suffer bodily harm if we even thought about using that knife as a weapon. Fear of Dad resulted in respect for other authorities.
It is still easier, faster, simpler, and cheaper to purchase a weapon of any degree of sophistication, although $18,000 for a minicannon and a hundred rounds and no guarrentee is quite expensive. But at least around this corner of Michigan weapons can be purchased by any who have cash. And one must first have a design before the 3D printer can make anything. And as others have pointed out, there is a large difference between some plastic hardware and the steel barrel. A plastic gun made with any of the commonly available plastics would not be very accurate, and would probably not last very long.
But a knife made out of a good grade of circuit board material will pass right through all of those metal detectors easily. But for a simple and deadly weapon that is completely innocent looking, conside a half dozen new #6 pencils recently sharpened.
The skill and patience needed to produce a useable firearm are more than most nut-jobs can muster, and with the ready availability of other means of obtaining them there is no real need to use a 3D printer, especially when there are thousands of conventional machine shops around. So the 3D printer is only one more tool among thousands.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.