3D Printers: Guns or Toys?

  • 3D Printers allow the everyday to print 3D objects
  • Cool huh? What if there was a way to print a fireable gun.
  • There is...but is it a threat enough to ban 3D Printers altogether?



Who would've thought in the year 2013 we would see printers raising serious, ethical questions?


I sure didn't. I doubted printers would be around in any great capacity this year but the internet has once again proved all my logical conclusions false.


Over the past year or so we have seen 3D printer technology turn from a hobbyist's fantasy into an affordable and available device. If you haven't heard of 3D printers before then the name should explain it all. They print 3D objects. Pretty amazing huh? Load up a 3D model on your computer on your PC, hit print and whoala! The printer will build your 3D model from the ground up.


While the technology has been around for many years now it has been way out of reach for the average man with each machine costing 10s of 1000s of dollars. The resurgence of 3D printers over the past year is due to the lowering costs of the printers allowing small businesses and even enthusiasts to purchase them. The public’s rave over 3D printers is perhaps best shown by the results from FromLab’s 3D Printer Kickstarter. Aiming to raise only $100,000, they in fact received an overwhelming $2,945,885 in donations from the public.

Beyond  the idealism and drooling geeks there does lie somewhat of a dark side to the 3D printers. In the boom of the technology’s internet popularity a blueprint for a gun that could be milled using a 3D printer appeared. The greatest fear with the blueprint was that it was freely available to download (over 100,000 did so) and could be crafted in any home with a machine such as FormLab’s.

From an engineering standpoint it’s pretty awesome:

“You mean I can create a working piece of machinery capable of firing a projectile at a speed of of 500 metres per second with nothing but plastic and 3D printer? Awesome!”

On the other hand there is something very disconcerting about being able to print a weapon capable of killing someone with nothing but household materials. I understand the interest in it though, it’s an amazing engineering and technological feat (not to mention the blueprint itself is open-source). Nonetheless, the availability of a printable gun has raised flags across the world and possibly stands to see 3D printing tech banned or at least it’s sale restricted.

No such comments have been made yet by the Australian Government but if the rise of 3D printers hits Australian in the future, it may be a matter of time before we see restrictions in place.


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