Naperlou: I like your synopsis of where 3D printing is going in terms of freeing us up from a dependance on companies for consumables. As much as I found this example pretty compelling from the standpoint of what the technology is capable of, I definitely am not on board with giving people the tools to produce their own firearms or other weapons. Laws or no laws, it just opens the door to bad behavior.
This is an interesting development. I am not suprised that this worked, since in the AR-15 design most of the stress is contained in the upper receiver. What is interesting is that the lower receiver is what is licensed.
I can speak to the implications in Illinois. We do not register particular guns. Yes, you go through a process when you buy a gun in the state from a retailer. On the other hand, buying a gun from an individual does not require a check with the authorities. Generally, you should keep a record of the sale for ten years (this is a federal requirement). What we do have here is a Firearms Owners ID (FOID). This is what allows an individual to possess a firearm. You are not allowed to own a full auto gun without a Class 3 license (again, a federal regulation). I have known people to make their own hunting guns, for long range hunting. They did not have to register them. They, as a registered gun owner, are permitted, not the gun. As with most laws, the enforcement is after the fact. If you drive a car and you kill someone (a much more likely event than ine using a gun) then you are prosecuted after the fact. Little is done to stop people, although there is technology coming that might help.
Enough of the legal rap. What is interesting is that, through computer technology, we are freeing ourselves from the dependence on large organization for many of the things we consume. Think of the production and distribution of music, and now video. With 3D printing, this is extending to many physical products. Change it is a coming!
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Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.