The world’s first operational plastic gun to be made from a 3D printer has been fired.
It’s been created by a group called Defense Distributed in Austin, Texas, led by self-proclaimed “crypto-anarchist” Cody Wilson, who believes easy access to a gun is a right to all.
3D printing allows someone to download a blueprint off of the internet and load it onto a 3D printer, which can then take plastics like ABS and mould them into the complex objects laid out in the blueprint, building them out of many tiny layers at a time.
Defense Distributed plan on making their blueprint for the plastic gun available online, allowing anyone with access to a 3D printer to make a weapon with deadly potential
Depending on the size of the objects the 3D printer is capable of, a 3D printer can be bought for just a few thousand pounds, and the materials needed to make objects within it far less expensive. The 3D printer that made the Defense Distributed gun cost little more than £5,000, and could be used to make thousands of identical weapons.
The idea behind 3D printing is to eventually allow regular people to have one in their house, and download and “print” off all kinds of items without ever going to the shops – perhaps cutlery or flat-pack furniture.
However, there’s always been an air of inevitability about the potential for the technology to allow for the cheap and easy distribution of dangerous items such as firearms. Many thought that the machinery in a gun, which requires many moving parts, to be too complex for 3D printing, but Defense Distributed have proved otherwise.
The fear now is that, as 3D printing technologies become cheaper and more widespread, criminals will be able to easily access 3D printing blueprints for guns and create them without having to go through underground criminal markets, making them even more difficult for authorities to track.
There are also increased security concerns with the weapons – apart from a tiny, easily-removable firing pin, the entire gun is made of plastics, meaning it could go through a metal detector without setting off an alarm.
Before we get into the realms of demonising 3D printing we need to note that it’s a massively exciting technology with an overwhelming potential to do good. 3D printing can be used to replicate valuable historical artefacts and bring them into a classroom, or help recreate intricate bone tissue for use in structural surgery, to give just two simple examples. There’s also really beautiful 3D printed art and sculpture out there too, as we showcased last year in this gallery.
Image – BBC