3D Printer (Almost) Used to Build Gun

Dennis Faas's picture

Manufacturers of a three-dimensional printer have pulled the plug on a customer who planned to use the device to make a replica hand gun.

The 3D printer works like a standard laser printer, but with two key differences. First, it uses a special "ink" made of plastic that becomes solid when heated. Second, it can print multiple layers on top of one another.

Because the printer is driven by a computer, users can "print" almost any 3D shape using design software.

'Printed Gun' Info Tests Free Speech Limits

A group called Defense Distributed wants to use the technology to make a point about freedom of information. It says firearms have "pride of place in underlining an individual's significance as a moral agent."

Printing a gun will test the limits of free speech because, the group believes, people who object to such detailed information being shared don't truly believe in a censorship-free society.

The group also wants to make a point about gun control. It believes the debate on who can obtain guns would be very different if people could easily produce their own.

Whether the project could ever produce a functioning homemade gun is open to question and may depend on funding. At the moment, the group's members say they could make a real gun eventually, but it wouldn't be as accurate or reliable as a professionally manufactured weapon.

3D Printing Raises New Legal Questions

Although a member of the group had already taken delivery of the printer, it was only leased. The printer's manufacturer, Stratasys, has now cancelled that lease and has taken back the printer. Stratasys says its policy is to not "knowingly allow its printers to be used for illegal purposes." (Source: bbc.co.uk)

Some say a gun printed entirely from plastic with no metal parts would violate laws designed to stop guns from passing through metal detectors at airports. (Source: huffingtonpost.com)

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