The successful test firing of the Liberator last month has triggered a massive wave of criticism, but has also led to the expansion of 3D printed gun designs and plans. Over the last couple of weeks, there have been several reports related to the topic, including the manufacture of 3D printed bullets and of a $25 plastic gun.
After US law student Cody Wilson test fired the Liberator, he uploaded the gun’s blueprints online. The plans were downloaded hundreds of thousands of times and even after the US authorities ordered Wilson to take them down, the plans were still available on other websites.
Recently, a leaked Homeland Security Department memo revealed that US officials too believe it is now impossible to stop the world from manufacturing 3D printed guns. Even if they don’t use Wilson’s plans, people will eventually come up with their own designs and be able to manufacture 3D printed weaponry, the memo says.
And this is probably what Wilson wanted to prove all along. Wilson insists that he manufactured the gun and made the plans available in order to allow people access to an advanced 3D printing technology that can have many uses, including for manufacturing various medical devices, and that this can gradually lead to decentralized control.
Leaving the ‘let’s undermine state authority’ rhetoric aside, a problem arises when it comes to how safe it is to use such guns. The Homeland Security memo warned about the public risks of having unqualified gun seekers manufacture or obtain 3D printed guns. Legislators are considering a ban on the manufacturing and use of such weaponry, which cannot be detected by routine arm scans, and this may deter production, but cannot completely stop it, the memo says.
Australian police have also warned residents not to download designs or try to manufacture 3D printed weaponry. In a YouTube video, New South Wales police explain that they were able to manufacture two guns based on the blueprints, for only $33.
Both weapons were tested. One was able to fire a bullet seven inches into a resin block resembling human flesh, which was deep enough to be lethal. The other came apart when fired, with potentially catastrophic effects for the person yielding the weapon. The police video also underlined that there are no standards in the manufacture of 3D printed weapons, which makes them very dangerous as they are unstable and cannot be detected.
3D printed bullets
As the 3D printing technology is expanding, so are its uses in the field of weaponry. A Tennessee man used 3D printed bullets with a regular shotgun and caused some serious damage with them. The tests were shown in a YouTube video.
This came as a Wisconsin engineer managed to print a gun using a Lulzbot A0-101. This is a relatively cheap 3D printer, costing only $1,725. The materials used cost $25, making this the cheapest 3D printed gun that was also successfully fired.
[Image via Forbes]