I don't think it would be too much to say that most of our current toys originated with the Military. Think of those little gadgets like GPS and cell phones. Mobile phones were developed for the military, as was GPS. Now GPS is being built into practically everything, even pets. Talk about ubiquitous. And household appliances are being fitted with cellular tech so you can call your refrigerator from the store to find out whether you need milk, or the gas stove can detect a leak and call the gas company before the house blows up. But wait, there's more!
SORRY! But I can't disagree with you more. This is a technical publication, and the associated blogs & forums should remain about the technical aspects of a product, service, etc. There's plenty of general purpose outlets for expressing your political, social, religious bias available to people now.
However, I DO give you credit for allowing that if a person wants to secure a firearm ILLEGALLY of ILLEGAL intent, then there are many places that one can go to to achieve that goal in far more timely manner than by investing in a CAD program, with its steep learning curve, and purchasing a "$500" 3-D printer to manufacture Bazookas in their backyard.
Finally, do you really believe that even IF EPSON, CANON, H-P were to introduce a 3-D printer for $99, available at WAL*MART that there'd be hoardes of people buying them to remanufacture a bracket for their broken doohickey? I'd advance that the ONLY people who would rise to that challenge would be other engineers, draftsmen, etc. who have experience w/ using screwdrivers & wrenches & soldering irons. JOE SIXPACK ain't gonna spend his Saturday afternoon creating a part for his NORGE washing machine!!!!!
Thanks everyone, for your comments. For those who are bothered by the fact that I injected my opinion, I did so because this is a blog forum, which gives the writers a bit more creative license to impart some of their personality/ideas/beliefs more so than a facts-based news article. I definitely think the discussion is worthwhile, however, despite any differences in opinion.
I do agree that most criminal types won't go through the expense or bother of producing their weapon via a 3D printer. And all of you who said so are right that it is much easier to get guns via other channels. However, once these printers become regular household items (and that's not far off given that some cost $500+ and prices are coming down and packaging is getting more and more turn-key), it will be easier and easier for teens, kids, DIYers to be tempted to experiment with making weapons, and that can end poorly. I'm not saying a 3D printed gun is the only scenario for something ending poorly, I just couldn't write about it without putting it in that context.
@Old Curmudgeon: I appreciate your comments that some of the discourse on this community based on this post is veering off into highly political territory and perhaps losing sight of why I choose to write about this in the first place, despite my reservations about making it easy for people to make guns. The major point of the piece is to continue to chronicle how far 3D printing technology has come and to showcase how close we are to a time when we will be able to download 3D CAD files of common household appliance parts or products and print them out ourselves, potentially at less cost and definitely at less hassle than buying via mail order or at a retail store.
As for injecting my opinion into the piece, well, that's sort of the new world of journalism when it comes to blogs. I almost felt compelled to do it, even in a small way. Hopefully you'll keep reading!
I think I would disagree that all the electronic toys we have today are not spin offs from military projects. I believe the semiconductor is the result of weapons research, and therefore everything using them. And certainly the DOD created all the original computers, networks, etc. Medical and biological are good points, but I think all medicine owes its herititage to the battlefield wounded. Civilian injuries historically just were not constant enough to warrant a medical field being researched enough to exist. Once we understood the function of the human body better from the military applications, only then was it possible to move further into things like disease control. But even the basic research facilities like land grant universities were created by the DOD investments.
In reply to Chuck_IAG: Indeed it's a "firearm", though not a particularly practical one. I hope the maker paid attention to the relevant laws. The BATF is notorious for being out to get people, sometimes shooting to kill first and asking questions later. (Look up "Ruby Ridge".) So while it's not a big deal in a rational sense, it might very well be made into a big deal by government officials with big guns and small minds.
3D printing isn't going to do much for actual whole firearms. You're not going to get a workable barrel this way.
I wonder what people who think this project is bad think of http://thehomegunsmith.com/index.html .
Finally, it's well established that guns do far more good than harm. But to get the benefit, you really need one that's highly reliable, which means made in a more conventional manner from steel and other appropriate materials.
My point was merely a "reductti ad absurdum" to show that no right can be absolute or unlimited. Please be assured that I have no intention of making any kinds of weapons, so you don't have to arm yourselt to defend against me. I'm really not out to get you.
Charles, Please don't forget the next wave of additive manufacturing...metallic media. Examples of a functional rpg launcher have been made using the Direct Metal Laser Sintering process. None of the parts on the launcher (empty tube and ignition mechanism) are highly stressed during use. It's merely a function of time before highly stressed parts (rifled barrels, receivers, bolts, rocket cases for the rpg, etc) can be made using DMLS materials.
It's still very costly...but remember where sterolith was 20 years ago costwise.
At this year's MD&M West show, lots of material suppliers are talking about new formulations for wearables and things that stick to the skin, whether it's adhesives, wound dressings, skin patches and other drug delivery devices, or medical electronics.
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