Jan 22, 2019 | By Cameron

Some questions, once they’re asked, are forever debated with no discernible resolution: why did the chicken cross the road, what is the human condition, and what is the best way to prevent people from 3D printing guns? The matter of whether people should be allowed to 3D print guns is its own worthwhile question, especially in a country where the manufacturing and (some) sales of guns are strictly regulated while it also remains legal for someone to make their own gun as long as they don’t sell it.

Guns are a divisive issue in the US. Efforts of gun control are thwarted by the existence of 3D printing because it enables a scale of manufacturing too small to effectively regulate through traditional means. In the olden days before the RepRap 3D printing revolution, manufacturing equipment was very expensive and took up a lot of space; only a few companies could afford the machinery and factories necessary to handle metals well enough to make guns, so regulators could literally go examine manufacturing facilities if they thought someone was illegally making guns. With 3D printing, that could be anyone’s home.

To complicate matters, the firearms that come out of standard desktop 3D printers are made of plastics and thus undetectable by metal detectors, earning them the “ghost gun” designation that also references the lack of a traceable serial number. Hewlett Packard (HP) chief executive Dion Weisler recently stated in a letter: “HP is against ‘ghost guns’ being produced on our 3D printers.” He did not clarify how the company would stop clients from using HP 3D printers to fabricate guns, though there was mention of a “responsible use” policy that precludes its printers from being used to manufacture guns unless the proper licenses are in place and the guns have traceable markings and screener-detectable materials.

From that, it sounds like HP plans to enforce these limits with contracts, which doesn’t explicitly stop customers from 3D printing guns but it does provide HP a legal cushion separating them from the liability of damages that may be caused by one of its clients 3D printing a gun with one of its 3D printers. And it’s this author’s opinion that that’s what this is all about: liability. As previously mentioned, it’s legal to make your own gun in this country, and HP doesn’t necessarily want to infringe on that right, but they definitely don’t want to be associated with drug lords who are making their own guns either.

The conversation around making your own guns changed radically when 3D printing became accessible to anyone with $500, and it’s mostly related to quality repeatability. People aren’t scared of people making their own guns out of plumbing pipes because those homemade guns don’t function well enough to hurt more than a couple individuals at close range, and they require assembling by hand. Currently, that’s true of most 3D printed plastic guns as well, but designs and materials are improving and those limitations will soon be overcome. And that’s what people are afraid of: someone pushing a button and a high-quality gun coming out.

There’s a sense of security that comes with knowing that if someone wants to make their own gun, they have to look up designs, acquire the specific parts, and then teach themselves how to put it together. Even then, it won’t be a good gun. 3D printing takes away that security because even a child could 3D print a gun with the press of a button.

3D printers can be programmed not to print certain files, but Dogan Yirmibesoglu, an Oregon State University researcher studying 3D printers, points out the major flaw in that tactic. “With small changes you can probably trick it, and the printer will think, ‘Oh, then it’s OK,’” he said. Last summer, a federal judge banned the distribution of 3D gun design files online. Yirmibesoglu feels that it may stop some gun making, though not all. “It’s a problematic issue,” he said. “But if there’s no blueprints of the weapons online, out there for free, nobody can print those unless they’re gun specialists.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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TheLoneGunsmith wrote at 1/29/2019 3:18:02 PM:

Then I guess I won't buy HP's? What do they think this will accomplish? Also, a few corrections to common misconceptions: 1.While plastic springs do exists, none are good enough for a hammer or striker, and a firing pin needs to be metal to be reliable, so the metal detector thing is a non-issue. Metal detectors do not make you as safe as you think, as a gunman will just shoot the dude standing there and walk right through. 2. It is not illegal to sell your homemade gun, you just can't make a business out of it. It's no different than selling a gun you bought, sometimes you want to make room in the safe and buy something different. It's ridiculous to think that you can't sell your own property, it would be like having every car you've ever owned rusting in your back yard. 3.You don't even need machine tools to build firearms, I've seen people dremel molds out of wood blocks or plaster around an existing receiver and cast a new one from short chop fiber filled epoxy or even molten aluminum drink cans. You can make an AR15 receiver from welded together steel plates and even a block of wood. 4. Plastic ammo is a definite possibility if not inevitability. Nitrocellulose gun powder is itself a type of plastic, same thing billiards balls are made of just nitrated more. Nitrated PVA (elmers glue) also forms a hard plastic that is highly combustible, and may be used in the future to make combustible cartridge cases that replace metal. 5. And lastly but most importantly, can't stop the signal Mal

Sudsy wrote at 1/25/2019 8:55:19 PM:

Manufacturing firearms out of metal is far cheaper and easier than the author implies. Both 3D printed (desktop 3d printed at any rate; sintered metal processes are on a whole different level...) and improvised firearms share common weaknesses with regard to reliability and danger to the user after more an single round is fired. I suggest the author dig up vintage catalogs from tool suppliers who marketed bench top lathes and milling machines to the home machinist. While not as inexpensive as the cheapest 3D printers, mills and lathes are comparable to mid and high range desktop 3d printer models (being a CNC machinist and draftsman, I saved up for a mill from Grizzly, and ended up getting a Lulzbot TAZ instead as an example). Any one with an Internet connection and some skill with building anything can figure out how to improvise a firearm. Ammunition is considerably harder to produce, yet not out of the realm of improvising either (especially given the availability of fireworks at various times of year). Again, the danger to the user is about the same as the probable victims.

Please address the real issue wrote at 1/23/2019 10:43:11 AM:

This is just a band-aid on an ripped off limb The real issue is the availability of bullets

James D wrote at 1/23/2019 6:20:54 AM:

A plastic gun can pass through a metal detector, but AFAIK there are no plastic bullets. Shotgun shells are plastic except the metal primer and lead load. Bullets are copper, brass, lead, etc. Who knows, maybe non-metal ammunition can be made

Eduardo wrote at 1/23/2019 12:58:36 AM:

Tired of looking at the picture of that print.

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