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.
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?"
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!
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.
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.
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.
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