Mar. 4, 2015 | By Alec

Remember the Mark One 3D printer? This interesting machine was made available as a pre-order around this time last year, and caused quite a lot of excitement throughout the 3D printing community for its unique and surprisingly affordable printing properties.

For as you might recall, the Mark One has been specifically designed to overcome the strength limitations of other 3D printed materials such as PLA and ABS. Developed by MIT veterans at the New England-based MarkForged company, the Mark One 3D printer instead 3D prints composite materials such as carbon fiber, fiberglass and nylon. These materials (especially carbon fiber) have been a staple in automotive and aerospace industries for its light weight and and extreme strength, but the Mark One was the first 3D printer capable of working with them. It’s secret? A process called Composite Filament Fabrication, in which strands of fibers are continuously embedded in a thermoplastic matrix. This results in 3D printed parts that are up to 20 times stiffer and 5 times stronger than similar parts made in ABS.

The promo video of the Mark One 3D printer.

While proving a big hit with so-called ‘pro-sumers’ for these qualities, it is hardly surprising to hear that the gun activists from the Texas-based company Defense Distributed were also interested in the Mark One. Experienced hobbyists will have doubtlessly heard from this company, that has become (in)famous for 3D printing the world’s first plastic revolvers. They have also been at the center of controversy since their inception, for while gun rights are just about sacred in Texas, making ‘ghost guns’ without serial numbers interests criminals everywhere.

In an e-mail sent yesterday, the company’s founder Cody Wilson revealed to his supporters that he initially preordered one of these carbon fiber 3D printers, but that MarkForged refuses to do business with him. "I bought this printer a year ago and waited that long for them to decide they didn't want to sell it to me after all. Before the weekend they returned the money and told me due to business risks they wouldn't sell it to me," he writes.

MarkForged has since released a statement saying that it reserves the right to refuse certain customers, and cites terms of service that "limit experimentation with ordnance to the United States Government and its authorized contractors." As MarkForged told Wired: "Our website automatically took Mr. Wilson’s pre-order, and we certainly regret that we did not catch this sooner. We are expediting his refund with interest."

Cody Wilson has since also released a video (below), in which he says he will get his hands on the Mark One one way or another. "We all know that in the end, I get this printer," he says. "We all know that I’m going to print a gun with it." Literally putting his money where his mouth is, he adds: "I will pay $15,000 to the first person who can get me the Mark One printer." The regular retail price is just $5,500.

Wilson's response.

This feud is piling on top of another one, as FedEx and UPS released a statement just a week ago saying they refuse to ship a digital milling machine to Defense Distributed. As a FedEx spokesperson argued: "We are uncertain at this time whether this device is a regulated commodity by local, state or federal governments. As such, to ensure we comply with the applicable law and regulations, FedEx declined to ship this device until we know more about how it will be regulated."

Of course, it all sounds a bit like a publicity stunt by Defense Distributed. If getting your hands on a machine was so important, why not anonymously purchase a machine and save $10,000? Why release a bounty as if it’s some cheesy western?

However, it cannot be denied that the Mark One 3D printer has the potential to turn a largely theoretical debate into a practical one. For while potentially lethal guns have been successfully printed in plastic, they are rather ineffective. John Sullivan, an engineer who works for Defense Distributed, has admitted in the past that plastic guns can only be used for just a few shots before they fall apart (and can potentially harm the user). A gun made from far stronger and more durable carbon fiber, on the other hand, definitely changes the tone of the whole debate.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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Thoughtful wrote at 3/5/2015 6:36:32 PM:

Lets compare this to a fictional company, BakeRight, that makes baking equipment. What would the uproar be if BakeRight refused to sell baking equipment to an GLBT activist who made a habit of publicly throwing gay weddings in a state that prohibited them? The press would lose thier minds. The courts would crucify BakeRight for discrimination. Now remember that, like it or not, the right to keep and bear arms is butressed by both the 9th amendment and the 2nd amendment, where the right to marry who you choose is only secured under the 9th alone. Why is this denial of service considered acceptable, and the other one is reason to bankrupt and threaten imprisonment?

Proteus wrote at 3/5/2015 2:13:11 AM:

Absolutely none of the current firearm manufacturing methods are banned. Why would composite printing be an acception? While Defense Dist. stunts like this are loud and obnoxious, they do get attention. Is that any different than so many other loud and obnoxious folks with a point to make?

PinkAsso wrote at 3/5/2015 12:00:46 AM:

Hey Cody Wilson, how about your update your Ghost Gunner blog and let people know who PRE-PAID for your mill what is going on. Stop drumming up press for yourself.

M.Scott wrote at 3/4/2015 11:18:31 PM:

Cody Wilson is a self described crypto-anarchist. His purpose in doing these things is to stir debate and bring about his definition of "positive reform." This means making the rights and freedoms of the people a priority and not government "security." Based on the second amendment, ALL people have the right to bear arms. The purpose of this was to allow the people to overthrow their government in the case that the government has violated their purpose. The purpose of government is to bring freedom and security to it's people. The U.S. government is not fulfilling this role, by Cody and many other's views. The 3d printed gun and publicity is his method to shake people out of our over marketed government mandated placation. As F.P.Greco's point is that the government is that his actions will force the government to make the choice to overstep it's bounds. The general populace is content with this as they don't actively have a reason to stop something that will in all honesty be a few degrees of security. Chances are that rather than banning, the government will instead require licensing, which Cody will legally obtain and cannot be legally denied.

F.P.Greco wrote at 3/4/2015 1:35:33 PM:

these jerks can't understand that acting this way will lead governments to ban 3d printing in composite materials, in the best case.

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