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

October 2, 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: Files posted online to 'print' working handgun

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

Related Stories

Files posted online to 'print' working handgun

May 6, 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

A not-quite-random walk demystifies the algorithm

December 15, 2017

The algorithm is having a cultural moment. Originally a math and computer science term, algorithms are now used to account for everything from military drone strikes and financial market forecasts to Google search results.

US faces moment of truth on 'net neutrality'

December 14, 2017

The acrimonious battle over "net neutrality" in America comes to a head Thursday with a US agency set to vote to roll back rules enacted two years earlier aimed at preventing a "two-speed" internet.

FCC votes along party lines to end 'net neutrality' (Update)

December 14, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission repealed the Obama-era "net neutrality" rules Thursday, giving internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T a free hand to slow or block websites and apps as they see fit ...

The wet road to fast and stable batteries

December 14, 2017

An international team of scientists—including several researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory—has discovered an anode battery material with superfast charging and stable operation ...

2 comments

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.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.