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3D-Printed Guns Can’t Be Stopped

Written By : Warner Todd Huston
April 26, 2013

According to many at the 3D Printing Conference and Expo, 3D-printed guns are inevitable despite the efforts of some 3D printer companies and politicians to try and stop it.

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The expo now underway in New York revealed opposing views on the issue of printed firearms, but according to 3D gun advocate Cody Wilson, 3D-printed guns are not only already here but should be legal.

Wilson, the founder and director of Defense Distributed, scoffed at claims by other conference speakers that 3D-printed guns are still not technologically viable. “No, it’s here today,” he said from the podium.

Wilson’s group has printed several gun parts and used them to fire live rounds. Defense Distributed isn’t the only group that has done this, either.

Several 3D technology companies, however, are not as excited as Wilson about the possibility of printing firearms.

When Defense Distributed first started using 3D printers to make parts of guns, 3D printer company Stratasys pulled the group’s leased printers. Additionally, hosting service Thingiverse deleted all 3D-printed gun files from its servers after Defense Distributed made headlines for printing parts of a working firearm.

Back at the Expo, a leading 3D printing company expressed its unease with 3D-printed firearms.

During his keynote address, Avi Reichental, CEO of 3D Systems, the world’s largest maker of 3D printers, worried that the technology could “empower” the wrong people and have “unintended” consequences. He also said that “legislators have a responsibility to grasp (this), and to make sure the legal and political infrastructure keeps up.”

Wilson denied such negative talk. Wilson has announced that his 3D-printing computer files have been downloaded over 800,000 times already. But no one should worry, he said. “No one’s going to print out a thousand guns and start a revolution. I really believe that.”

Though there has been much confusion in reports on just what Defense Distributed actually printed, lawmakers have already started to turn their attention to regulating 3D printed firearms.

Regardless of what the starry-eyed 3d gun fans think, though, a fully printed gun is simply not possible at this time. The materials that a 3d printer “prints” in cannot take the pressures of a real firearm. Even the pieces printed by Wilson and others have a high failure rate.

A fully printable, serviceable gun is a long way off right now.

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