Friday, May 03, 2013

Company to release blueprints for 3D-printed gun

3D printers are the future, many say, but perhaps they weren't thinking along these lines. Cody Wilson, a University of Texas student and founder of the non-profit group Defense Distributed, said on Friday that he intends to release -- early next week -- the 3D-printable CAD files for a working gun, which he has dubbed "the Liberator."

The Liberator consists includes 16 pieces of ABS plastic. The gun's only non-printed components are a nail, used as a firing pin, and a six-ounce piece of steel inserted into the body of the device. That piece of steel was inserted to make the gun visible in a metal detector, as required by the Undetectable Firearms Act (UFA).

Wikipedia describes Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 as follows:
The Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 (HR 4445) makes it illegal to manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer or receive any firearm that is not detectable by walk-through metal detectors or has major components that do not generate an accurate image when subjected to inspection by airport x-ray machines.
However, just because Wilson has included such metal, doesn't mean that others using his designs will. Once the CAD files are uploaded online, anyone can download and print the gun, without a serial number, background check, and other regulatory requirements.

In addition, the UFA is due for renewal in December. It was put into effect in 1988, with an initial House vote of 413 - 4 and a signing by then U.S. President Ronald Reagan. While it was allowed to sunset in 1998, it was renewed in 2003.

With the advent of 3D printers, some -- such as Rep. Steve Israel (D - N.Y.) -- see not just similar, but increased need for the Act's renewal. However, many expect getting it through Congress, despite what would seem to be an obvious need, to be difficult.

On Friday, Israel issued the following statement to the press:
Security checkpoints, background checks, and gun regulations will do little if criminals can print plastic firearms at home and bring those firearms through metal detectors with no one the wiser.

When I started talking about the issue of plastic firearms months ago, I was told the idea of a plastic gun is science-fiction. Now that this technology appears to be upon us, we need to act now to extend the ban [on] plastic firearms.
The gun is capable of being fitted with different barrels, allowing it to be used with various calibers of ammunition.

In mid-January, Defense Distributing debuted a video, showing a working 30-round printed magazine being used in an assault rifle.

Wilson's work have made him controversial, and even makers of 3D printers are aware that the publicity is not going to shine a halo on their devices. In October of last year, Stratasys seized a printer it had leased to Defense Distributed after it learned of how its machine was being used.



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