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3D Printed Guns

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8/14/2013 9:19:57 AM

Last month the first shots were fired from a 3D printed gun. As expected it sparked debate regarding the future of 3D printed firearms.

For many, 3D printing is a revolution, using a special hardened plastic to print, layer by layer, actual physical objects. While there are many uses for this, for example the printing of spare parts for models or architects constructing 3D replicas of their projects, American Cody Wilson had other ideas. Starting last year in August he created the non-profit organization Defense Distributed, with the aim of providing freely available plans for 3D printable firearms.

For many, 3D printing is a revolution, using a special hardened plastic to print, layer by layer, actual physical objects.

For many, 3D printing is a revolution, using a special hardened plastic to print, layer by layer, actual physical objects.

Shoot’ em up

In a relatively small amount of time, Wilson's ideas came to fruition, since last month he managed to fire the first shot from a 3D printed gun. Called the Liberator, the gun is constructed out of 16 pieces, 15 of which were printed on an $8,000 3D printer. The final part is a simple nail that you can buy from a hardware store (the bullets are also shop bought).

3D printed gun

3D printed gun

Wilson's success led him to release the plans on his website, even though at this stage the Liberator cannot fire more than one shot at a time. This, while its ability to withstand the pressure associated with shooting more than a few rounds, is in doubt. In the two days before the American State Department ordered him to take it down, the blueprints for the gun were downloaded 100,000 times. And just because it is not available on his site any longer doesn't mean they are gone - the plans quickly made their way to Torrent Ting networks such as The Pirate Bay.

To the point

3D printed gun

The availability of 3D printed guns, and the US government's attempt to regulate these, brings up numerous difficult question s. On the one side, the Liberator is crude, costs a lot to produce and seems to be as much of a danger to the person behind the gun as in front - for now at least. For the US government the problems are numerous: Is it at all possible to stop the distribution of these blueprints‘? Is banning the plans not a violation of freedom of speech‘? How do you enforce a ban on printing 3D guns‘? Do you regulate the sale of 3D printers at all‘? These questions will most probably be answered by US courts.

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