When writing this article I couldn’t decide if the subject was an idiot or a genius. I’ll let readers judge for themselves as this is a precarious quandary. 3D printers are here in a big way. While still in their infancy, the capabilities are mind blowing. It’s even been argued that this new technology is our civilization’s closest version to teleportation. As with any technology, the user determines the moral alignment of it’s uses.
Let’s explore a pedestrian scenario where the 3D printer is useful in average, everyday life. Imagine needing a small, obscure plastic part for an appliance. The hardware store doesn’t carry it in stock, and the factory no longer makes it. In the past you were pretty well screwed. But in the world of 3D printers, all one needs to do is find the schematic online, download it, apply it to the printer, press a button, and presto! Appliance repaired! (With a little training, of course.)
Now, let’s put our minds on another scenario that is anything but pedestrian. What if the exact same printer that made our aforementioned appliance part, was used as a virtually untraceable weapons factory? That scenario has arrived. Upon reading a recent 3D tech blog, I was pointed to an interesting entry. The writer was giving detailed schematic dos and don’ts about how to create a fully functional .22 caliber pistol. I’ll post a link to the blog below to spare you all the technical jargon that goes into using a 3D printer for such purposes. The point being, he’s done it. Here is a photo of the fully functional prototype he created with the use of a 3D printer.
I’m aware that the rarity of 3D printers makes it logistically impossible for them to be a significant safety concern at this moment. Not to mention the high learning curve of operating one well enough to make complex schematics into a working part, let alone the money to pay for this newest tech toy. The current running price runs over twenty grand depending on quantity and model type. If your average violent criminal had twenty g’s to blow, I doubt they’d spend it on a 3D printer. So there’s no real danger at the moment, just the novelty of such a concept.
That concept can be very frightening when you think of how fast technology evolves in our hyper industrialized cultures. How soon will it be before Poindexter decides he’s had enough wedgies and prints out a Tommy Gun to show all the cool kids how wrong they really are? Banning schematics and printers are both impossible options. The internet has shown time and time again that once data has landed in it, it is truly immortal to a dauntless seeker.
How can we stop this coming tidal wave of plastic pistol peril!?? The truth folks, is that we can’t. We just can’t. If we’ve learned nothing from prohibition, the drug war, or the war on terrorism, I hope we have the insight to realize that attempting to eliminate the tools criminals use is a futile endeavor. I must admit it is a little unnerving that a gun can just be plucked out of a hopper, with no paper trail linking it to it’s owner. Ultimately it doesn’t worry me, because what the government has missed with regularity is that the danger really doesn’t lie in the tool used by a transgressor. If one person is determined to kill another, they will find a way with or without a printed .22. It’s the transgressor’s motives that need to be dealt with. I found this to be an interesting topic, I hope you did too.
Thanks for reading and happy printing! Oh, and here’s the link by the way: http://haveblue.org/?p=1041