Thinking Tech

Uh-oh! 3D printer produces a real gun

Uh-oh! 3D printer produces a real gun

Posting in Technology

Now that someone has figured out how to print out a fully-functional firearm, 3D printing is about to become a whole lot more controversial.

You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who has anything bad to say about 3D printing. Besides having the potential to revolutionize the manufacturing industry, the machines seem to spit out one crowd-pleaser after another, objects like musical instruments, candy, toys, trinkets and even cars. But now that someone has figured out how to print out a fully-functional firearm, the technology is about to become a whole lot more controversial.

Photos of the world's first 3D printed gun were discovered on the AR-15.com, a forum for firearms enthusiasts and supporters of gun rights. The creator, who goes by the username HaveBlue, assembled the weapon by combining the body of a normal .22 caliber pistol with that of a printed plastic version of the lower receiver used in AR-15 assault rifles (similar to the military's M16). HaveBlue then tested out the creation by successfully firing 200 rounds without any signs of malfunction or complications, according to a post on the web site.

HaveBlue documents his gunsmithing process in such a detailed way, it might be a bit unnerving for some folks. With little more than a Stratasys 3D printer, a $30 batch of plastic resin and printing specifications available on the internet, the user was able to produce several of the necessary working parts. A step-by-step blueprint for making your own AR-15 lower receiver can also be found on Thingiverse.

While only one part of the gun was actually "printed," the lower receiver is the critical piece that enables the weapon to fire. It holds the bolt, trigger and the magazine, where ammunition is stored. Thats why under the American Gun Control Act, it's this lower part that constitutes an operational gun and thus is heavily regulated.

The issue which arises now is that if anyone with a 3D printer can manufacture this part themselves or, as my previous report found, can purchase firearms freely using underground websites, what good would any form of "gun control" be?

Correction: Due to a typing error, I stated that the lower receiver "includes the bolt, trigger and the magazine, where ammunition is stored." That sentence has been changed to accurately state that "it holds the trigger and the magazine, where ammunition is stored."

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure