Firing only 200 shots is not a true test of durability. More like 25000 shots or more is needed. An interesting achievement in making a plastic receiver, but a long way away from making a truly durable component. Steel and aluminum still rule in "real world" conditions. Heat of burning deserts can warp this plastic receiver into uselessness. Good prototype, but "not ready" for outdoor conditions.
Sad to say, the mostly steel AK-47 is the "world standard" of performance. Not much need to worry about this plastic prototype.
Design wise, "The cat is out of the bag". Access to these printers by Muslim extremists is already a reality. No friends of "gun control". Now, a war of wits and ingenuity, as well as physical weapons. "Safety not guaranteed". Got to keep closer watch on invention.
Although it is true that the military can be a technology driver most technology today is not driven by the military. Practically all the electronic toys that we love today are not the result of military research. This goes for the medical and biological fields as well unless you are talking about war in a more general sense against diseases.
The point of technology has always been weapons. It is what gives us food and defends us from predators. Without a need for weapons, we would never have bothered creating or learning our technology. The the extreme need for weapons will never go away. Nor is there anyway to put the genie back in the bottle.
Any CNC milling machine could already do this, but simply cost a lot more. But while this is very inexpensive, it also is only capable of firing tiny .22 bullets, which are barely lethal.
This was supposed to be an article about some exceptional capability of an engineer who was able to produce a sophisticated part, using conveniently-available drawings & files. What happened? Because the author decided to inject a personal bias against the product having been manufactured, this blog turned into a typical rant about the horrors of firearms ownership with all sorts of accompanying statistics & emotional rhetoric attached.
It's a shame we could not have kept to the original subject matter to praise & critique this engineer's "genius" at work.
By the way, since several people decried the availability of "homemade" firearms falling into criminal hands, may I remind you that our current federal administration conjured up a devious scheme to place weapons INTO foreign criminal hands WITH COMPLETE AFORETHOUGHT! Why aren't you devoting any editorial space to that heinous act of our government, which resulted in the death of a federal agent????
I think you make some excellent points, kf2qd. We need a cultural shift back to absolute truth, where right and wrong are clearly defined and real consequences occur. Establishing this type of world view will roll over to every aspect of life including gun use. Criminals are not going to turn in their guns (which are readily available without this technology) and the average criminal is not going to expend the time, money and energy to fashion an AR-15 when he can easily buy one at a much cheaper cost. I am excited about the possiblities offered by 3D printing but I think a lot of what is being developed will stay in the hobbyist realm for a long time...
And kf2qd - I totally agree with your cell phone statement!
The number of individual parts needed to make a handgun would preclude all but the most dedicated CAD/3D printing enthusiast/home machinist from even contemplating this endeavor. I'm really not concerned that this might become a technology to be feared. The potential for 3D printing as a development tool, for research, prototyping, and analysis is amazing and look forward to future enhancements.
Beth - I believe your alarm, while understandable, is probably unwarranted. First of all, people have been making their own weapons for millenia. Anything in your house can be a weapon. Prisoners make deadly weapons out of toothbrushes. So this is not some technological door that has been broken down, just a tiny bit of evolution. Secondly, this is not, as you assert "highly accessible technology". Anyone who can afford a 3D printer could also afford a mill and lathe, which are much more effective for making weapons. Lastly, for you and Mr. Jones, this type of access to weapons does not necessarily open the door to bad behavior or "bad karma". I live in West Virginia, one of the most heavily armed states in the US. If someone wants a firearm to engage in "bad behavior", it would be stupid to 3D print one when you can just buy one for a couple hundred dollars. So by the logic that easy access to weapons leads to trouble, this should be the most violent place in America. But it's not. To summarize my point, touching a gun will not turn an honor student into a violent criminal, and taking guns from violent criminals will not turn them into model citizens, therefore we can conclude that the gun itself is not responsible for "bad behavior".
One of our resposibilities is to be truthful in our works. So an to clarify an AR-15 is a semi-automatic version of the M-16. If any of you has had any of the rapid prototype parts created you know that they polymers used in most of the commecially availible 3-D printers is not very structurely sound. One of the comments states you could use a printed part for a lost foam or lost wax process... How many people really have the ability to do that?
Gun laws and over controlling them are only as effective as the true deterents to committing crimes using guns. If criminals know that the repercussions of their crimes are going to be the possibility of facing a law abiding citizen who may be armed as well, their resposonse as criminals will be to go and find a victum in a state or city that does not allow law abiding citizens to protect themselves or their families. The police cannot be everywhere and if you believe that outlawing all guns will make you safer, I am sorry to tell you not only will you expose yourself to criminals but also to an over repressive government. Look back to the 1930's first thing Hitler did was disarm the public. We all know the horrific result of that.
We are taught as engineers to think critically and emotion plays no part in critical thinking. So critically thinking about guns, gun laws etc... We all know beyond reason that anybody who choses to do no good will do no good without regard to laws that only law abiding citizens chose to obey.
Like others have said, I'm not sure this is really troubling, since there are many other ways to acquire or build a firearm. Interesting about the AR-15 lower receiver being the lower stress part of the weapon. I suppose if one would buy all of the other AR-15 parts, and then 3D print a lower receiver specifically to skirt the law (if they aren't legally permitted to own a weapon), that would be the biggest problem.
I am looking forward to the day that I can manufacture my own 3D printed replacement parts for things. Specifically, I'd like to have a small 3D scanner to scan in a damanged part, good design software that it easy enough to touch up / repair the scanned part to how it should be, and a 3D printer to manufacture the replacement in a material strong enough to use.
Using wireless chips and accessories, engineers can now extract data from the unlikeliest of places -- pumps, motors, bridges, conveyors, refineries, cooling towers, parking garages, down-hole drills and just about anything else that can benefit from monitoring.
With strong marketplace demand for qualified engineers across the board that currently outstrips the available supply, there may never be a better time for engineers and project managers to advance their careers and salaries. Whether those moves are successful in the short-term and long-term is likely to depend on how the transition from one job to the next is handled.
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