Increasing accessibility of 3-D printing raises concerns about plastic guns

Oct 02, 2013

Three-dimensional printers can make artists' and hobbyists' dreams a reality, opening up a new world of inexpensive, on-demand plastic parts manufacturing, producing anything from garden gnome figurines to nuts and screws, but there's also a dark side. As these printers—now available at major U.S. retail stores—become more popular, concerns are growing about their use for designing and building custom plastic firearms—weapons that could conceivably go undetected. The cover story in Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, details the progress in this small but controversial corner of the market.

Alexander H. Tullo, senior correspondent with C&EN, points out that earlier this year, a self-described anarchist group called Defense Distributed fabricated a nearly all-plastic pistol using a 3-D printer, published the design online and demonstrated that it works. Other hobbyists also have made their own plastic guns with the machines. Although the printed firearms work, they can become deformed after firing, and some have burst into pieces. So far, they aren't nearly as reliable as guns that are professionally manufactured. But that could change as 3-D machines improve, more materials become available and the designs of the firearms evolve.

Defense Distributed's pistol demonstration earned them swift condemnation from critics who worried that easily accessible, unregulated and undetectable firearms would make the problem of gun violence even worse. In response, lawmakers introduced legislation to extend the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 to include a ban on homemade 3-D-printed gun parts.

Explore further: First rifle constructed from printed 3D parts by gun enthusiast in Canada (w/ Video)

More information: cen.acs.org/articles/91/i39/Ma… ing-Desktop-3-D.html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Files posted online to 'print' working handgun

May 06, 2013

Computer files to create a handgun almost entirely from parts made with a 3D printer went online Monday, alarming gun control advocates after it was successfully test-fired by its inventor.

Recommended for you

Student develops filter for clean water around the world

22 hours ago

Roughly 780 million people around the world have no access to clean drinking water. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 3.4 million people die from water-related diseases every year. ETH student Jeremy Nussbaumer ...

Minimising drag to maximise results

Jul 23, 2014

One of the most exciting parts of the Tour de France for spectators is the tactical vying for spots in the breakaway group at the front of the pack.

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

dan42day
2.6 / 5 (5) Oct 03, 2013
For a fraction of the price of a decent 3D printer, you can go to Harbor Freight and buy enough machining equipment to build real steel guns that don't explode when fired. Printed guns are nothing but hype. Anyone could build more effective firearms with standard plumbing supplies from Home Depot.
Sinister1811
1 / 5 (3) Oct 03, 2013
Printed guns would probably break anyway. But there's no doubt someone will find a way around that. Kinda sucks how this interesting technology is being used to make guns.