A test for 3D printer technology: the plastic gun


What’s billed as “the world’s first gun made with 3D printer technology” had its BBC premiere Monday with a video demonstrating how, with the exception of one small metal pin, the weapon is wholly constructed of plastic components made with a machine bought on EBay.

As L.A. at Home reported in January, 3D printer technology is advancing toward the mass market, for better or for worse. Although our Solidoodle 2 review revealed that some low-cost models are not quite ready for prime time, a surprising number of 3D printers now can be bought for a fraction of the $8,000 reportedly paid for the machinery that created the gun.

The 3D-printed gun’s maker is Cody Wilson, described by BBC science reporter Rebecca Morelle as a 25-year-old law student at the University of Texas. His gun -- made of ABS, similar to the kind of plastic used to make Legos -- can fire standard bullets using interchangeable barrels.


“I’m seeing a world where technology says you can pretty much have whatever you want,” Wilson says in the interview, conducted during what the BBC said was the first testing of the gun.

“Aren’t you worried about the kinds of people who will be using this technology?” reporter Morelle asks, to which Wilson responds: “I recognize that the tool might be used, yeah, to harm other people. That’s what it is. It’s a gun. But again, I don’t think that’s a reason not to do it, to not put it out there. I think that liberty, in the end, is a better interest.”

The BBC report appears to have been produced in advance of a Forbes article posted Friday and video snippet posted Sunday that Forbes said is based on the first test firings of the gun. Regardless of who was first, response to the coverage has been abundant, with much outcry as well as some yawns. Boing Boing, among others, declared Wilson’s gun “not [yet] a game-changer,” mainly because traditional guns are so inexpensive and easy to get.

Although Wilson said his intention is to release his designs so the gun components can be reproduced, at least one forum in which 3D designs are shared was quick to close that door. Thingiverse, a popular ideas exchange where users post their designs for others to download, told The Times that its terms of service would prevent Wilson from sharing his gun. Users of the site must agree not to upload, transmit, display or distribute any content that “promotes illegal activities or contributes to the creation of weapons,” a Thingiverse spokeswoman said.

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