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3D-Printed Weapons & the Consequences

Have Blue's 3D-printed converted AR-15. (Source: Defense Distributed)
Have Blue's 3D-printed converted AR-15.
(Source: Defense Distributed)

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William K.
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Even now, steel printing is not cheap
William K.   10/9/2014 9:04:11 AM
While 3D printing costs are dropping every day the cost of any printer able to produce all of the parts of a firearm is still a lot more than the price of any handgun. The problem is that not only do the various parts need to be very precise, they also need to be quite strong, and, unless the user is an idiot, the assembly needs to be durable. Any failure while firing a gun is likely to cause serious injuries. 

So while a shotgun could certainly be made of cheap plasic on a $500 printer, the first and only shot would be quite disasterous. And a whole lot of much more reliable and accurate guns are available for much less than $500.

The production of more advanced weaponry such as a "minicannon" machine gun would be a different issue, since that variety of weapon is far more expensive and a lot more dangerous. And given the black market price of $18,000, the cost of a steel-capable 3D printer might be reasonable. But most folks don't want a 3000 round per minute gun for any purpose. And probably the drawings are harder to come by.

William K.
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Once again, the cost is prohibitive
William K.   9/6/2014 5:35:39 PM
Even now, two years after this blog started, while there are now 3D printers that probably could produce all of the needed parts for an AR15 or any other gun, it is still a long way from a cheap and dirty way to make weapons that are available on the street. AND, it takes a lot less skill to buy an illegal gun off the street. The other fact is that the majority of those who would be in the market for such a weapon lack the skill to use a 3D printer to produce it. 

And remember that all of those parts can be produced in any good machine shop, and that has been true for most of the past hundred years. And while I am certain that a few guns have been made that way, it has not been a flood.

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Prior to 1938...
ProfShadow   2/12/2014 6:46:31 PM
The Federal government was NOT involved in firearms manufacturing.

It was only with the enactment of Federal Firearms Act of 1938 that FFLs came into existence.  A law based on the emotions of the time.  

There was some minor legislation prior to that, but that's where the downhill slope began.

These firearms aren't "undetectible" in spite of whatever people claim.   That's a cover to increase the unavailability of firearms to law abiding citizens.  

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Ideal is impossible so..
ChasChas   2/12/2014 11:01:13 AM
Anything that helps keep the goverment honest and afraid of the armed citizen is good.

Bad people, we will always have, no matter what.

William K.
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Re: all hell is already loose
William K.   2/12/2014 8:54:03 AM
The local news media have repeatedly demonstrated that a reporter was able to purchase a gun off the streets for only a hundred dollars cash, and with no paperwork at all. Such a gun is fully functional and quite able to be deadly.

For that hundred dollars it would be a challenge to even buy the materials to 3D print a gun, and that hundred dollars would not go very far toward buying a 3D printer able to make useable gun parts. In addition there is the cost of the file to drive the printer to make the parts.

Any machinist with access to a milling machine could do a better job for less cost, and probably do it faster as well. And there are lots of milling machines around, and they have been for years. And there has been no rash of home-made guns produced on milling machines. 

It is also possible to produce a quite effective knife with even fewer resources, and while their range is less than a gun, knives don't run out of bullets, although they do become dull eventually. My point is that the 3D printer is not a game changer in the production of weaponry.

William K.
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Re: all hell is already loose
William K.   1/6/2014 1:47:09 PM
R.M., the very worst has come about in my town now with the latest liberal ordinance to be passed. Never mind the firearm, one can be arrested and convicted for shooting their mouth off. No bullets, no endangermant, no violence. All it would take is a vocal criticism of the activities that some of us find un acceptable. So with the open carry law in our state one could be free from prosecution for having a serious firearm, but get locked up for recklessly shooting off one's mouth.

Now I have been called a few bad names over the years, and while they did offend, they never made holes or caaused physical traumas. So the logic behind some actions is difficult to imagine. And the reasoning behind the relative magnitude of the reactions is non-fathomable.

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all hell is already loose
RogueMoon   1/6/2014 9:47:48 AM
I agree with you, William K, it is always the nut job with the gun, not the gun to be blamed.  Knives and sharp sticks aren't regulated, but guns are.   Murder and robbery are still crimes.  Gun ownership, like freedom of speech and assembly is not a crime, nor should it ever be in a free society.  Crimes are illegal and only the perpetrator should be punished.  We put up with our government (in my country) monitoring our emails and texts without limit, but yet a new gun manufacturing process comes about and we're bothered by that?

This article is of minor interest as only another mechanism being made with 3-D printing, but largely serves to be inflammatory when it presumes all hell will break loose once a 3-D printed weapon is used in a crime. It seems "all hell" has already broken loose with just the thought of what may or may not be.  The possibility of a $100K+ printed weapon committing a crime is barely a possibility but yet intolerable, but yet we live among armed citizens (at least in my country) with millions of $500 and under guns without any worse crime than most countries.

It's all about perception and misperception.  I think it's best not to recycle this news article, Cabe.  All this article does is raise the issue of gun ownership instead of what the intent of Design News has in mind.  If we're talking about technology, this is only one application of a medium complexity mechanism being built.  I'd like to see other examples of mechanisms being built with 3-D printing, but PLEASE not this one again.

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Post 3D Printing Processing
wbswenberg   12/26/2013 10:49:19 PM
So in printing say a barrel does one include the grooves or is this left to post processing?  And for heat treating I'm guessing that there is a factor involved.  I'm referencing ferrite cores where the mold is larger and ends up smaller after firing as in heat in the furnace.  Are there rules of assembly?  

Referring to the wooden AR lower the guy should have considered epoxy soaked wood.  Then drilling and machining.

Now that I'm retired I have two legal transfers that are somewhat demilled.  I want to learn the machining and welding to make them operable once again.  So and probably induction heating or gas.

I have built kit guns which require finishing skills.  So Im interested in just how each of the many parts are made.  I see no skill in NCN or 3D printing but perhaps there are skills.  



William K.
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Re: It is much closer than you think!!!
William K.   12/26/2013 1:05:40 PM
I have no doubts that in the future such a 3D printer will revolutionize manufacturing, especially given the progress already made. BUT that machine will not be very cheap, it will certainly cost a few thousands of dollars, which, while a real bargain for the capability, would certainly be far more than the cost of almost any personal firearm today, at least in most of the USA. In a "Police State" country that might not be true, but in such a country it is also likely that owning a 3D printer would put one under close observation.

And while the capabilities of the 3D printers are quite extensive, most of what they can produce can also be produced by machines that have been around since the 1950's and mostly much longer. Probably the same receiver could be machined from steel with a bit of skill and effort, and certainly it would have been at least as durable. All that the 3D printer advances is the convenience of producing parts, and of course, it changes the required skill set a wole lot.

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It is much closer than you think!!!
dsgn2mfg   12/26/2013 11:47:44 AM
In the mid 90's I developed a 3d printing method that allowed printing of almost any metal as long as it wasn't heat short or plastic that was thermosetting.  This would allow for all components to be printed (though not metal and plastic simultaneously).  This method is also capable of very large sizes (auto body components or an engine block are readily doable) and printing deposition rates in the ft^3/hr are readily achievable. 

I was beat to the punch by the academic publish or perish paradigm.  That said follow on communication with the professor that wrote the patent convinced him of my expertise and subject matter knowledge and that I had prior art with the methodology that was several years ahead of him; accordingly for a token royalty, he agreed to provide permission to use and develop the process if I could obtain the funding.  Unfortunately, the combination of a funky election and 9/11 made raising appropriate funding to begin a company impossible at the time. 

Both the professor and I had built proof of principal prototypes and proved the technology to be readily available.  Unfortunately neither of us pursued this technology and work on patents needs to occur to maintain them.  This has not been done.

My point is I'm not a genius and there is no doubt someone else will again figure out this technology.  In today's business climate and with 3d printing accepted and a hot opportunity, being able to get funding and bring it to fruition will much easier than when I tried to do it.  When this happens, guns be they metal, plastic or a combination will be readily printable.

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