Disturbing Uses of a 3D Printer


So while I was reading the news today, I came across this-


I found it disturbing that people would want to print out a gun and even share the files online, so that others can print their own gun. In my opinion I’m glad the printing company stopped them, however there’s also the chance of someone already done this without them knowing.

I can understand the good of the technology and that it is leading to every home having a 3D printer one day, but don’t people think that there needs to be a limit for public use until a system is in place before people can manufacture anything from a gun to a nike trainer?


I imagine actually firing that weapon would be more dangerous to the operator than the target. I doubt current materials could withstand the combustion. Besides, you can already (legally) make your own firearms, you just can’t sell/distribute them. This only, theoretically, makes it easier to do so. Without a working model, it’s just a hypothetical. But this does bring up the interesting question - how long until we start pirating physical objects? Replacement parts for your car, computer parts, toys, etc.


I think there is going to be a day, in the not too distant future, where every apartment building has a high-fidelity multi-material 3D Printer sitting in the downstairs lobby.

You’ll go through physical products in an online store and - let’s say - choose an X2A model Smartphone to print.

You’ll then click “Purchase & Send to 3D Printer”.

10 minutes later you X2A Smartphone will be ready to pick up and use in the building lobby.

Of course it will cost you:

  1. License to print an X2A Phone - Money that goes to the designer/manufacturer
  2. Sales Tax (or maybe “3D Printing Tax”) - Money that goes to the Government
  3. Materials cost of 3D Printing - Money that goes to whoever operates the 3D Printer

Buy yes, you’ll get your X2A Smartphone in 10 minutes, 3D printed right in the lobby of the apartment building you live in. :cool:

I think that this will start to happen in the 2020s, when 3D Printers will be capable of not just printing single “physical parts”, but entire working products, including ones that use contain electric circuitry or elements like a Lithium-Ion battery…


Which materials do you exactly mean? You should be able to create reinforced plastics that withstand such a combustion. I am speaking of carbon fibre for example. But there are also metals that can be 3d printed, for example via lasersintern (sorry I don’t know the english expression).

In any case, I am all against giving out fire arm printing licenses to private persons…


I think it is “Laser Sintering” in English:


And yes, you can create metal parts using 3D Printers.

You can print a 3D part in Wax and use it to create a mold that metal can then be poured into (this is used for making Jewelry for example).

There are also 3D printers that can print a 3D mould you can directly cast metal into.

Exciting stuff…


The bad thing about what this idiot is doing, is that it may lead to “surveillance” of all future 3D Printers.

In other words, every time you print a 3D part, a digital file would be sent to the government so a human supervisor - or an automated algorithm - can check whether you are printing weapons parts.

This would mean that there would be no privacy/confidentially to 3D parts you print, as each time you do, a digital copy of the 3D part would be sent to a government data center.


We where creating prototype weapons 10 years ago at my old job for defense contractors using 3D printers this is nothing new or unexpected…

A 3D printer is just a tool…


I am not a fun of guns but isn’t there a slight bit of fear mongering in that article. Guns are pretty easy to get already in most countries. Printing them out in 3d is probably far more complicated than walking into a gun shop and buying a gun.

Even if this possible it could likely just be a niche.


A gun is a gun, it can kill people. The problem is that there would be no record of such a gun. If you go shoot somebody, no one could track that gun ever coz no one even knows it exists! It is frightening.

At least in Germany, it is very hard to get a gun (I am not sure which countries you are talking about…well, in the US it is not that hard indeed). But well, it’s the german way…which is good! We have so few killings that happen with a gun…for example in 2006 we had about 200 in the whole country, talking homicide & murder, while in countries where you can get guns easily this could be a statistic…per city district!

And our stats were decreasing afaik.


That’s not possible, but I’m sure they would consider the banning of 3D printers because of it. And I only mean considering, they couldn’t actually do it.

There’s tons of stuff out there that allows you to create illegal things, the government can’t do anything about them.


It’s a bit naive to think that someone who wants to anonymously acquire a gun is going to go through this much trouble.

That said, there certainly is some concern for idiots causing themselves serious injury.


I was recently contacted by someone wanting me to 3d scan a “key” for purposes of 3d printing/manufacture. I didn’t feel comfortable with the request and passed on the job.

Something just didn’t feel right.




I imagine actually firing that weapon would be more dangerous to the operator than the target. I doubt current materials could withstand the combustion.

One of my first jobs out of college involved rapid prototyping for … guns. Yes, current material CAN withstand the compression. At the time you would not have wanted to fire too many rounds, but that was ten or twelve years ago. That being said, you’re right, you can already make your own guns without the expense and complication of a 3D printer so I’m not sure what the fuss is here. I definitely respect the printer for deciding there was something “off” about the request and not just blindly following through with the order, but really, you can get actual blue prints for gun making on the net just as easily as you can get a 3d model. I don’t think we need to worry about 3D printers making things any more dangerous out there than they already are.

As others have mentioned, I think the true danger is in IP theft and piracy more than anything else.

EDIT FOR POTENTIALLY MISLEADING INFO:To clarify, I should add that the housing and only certain internal parts were made from the litho machines. These were then combined with “live parts”. I didn’t mean to imply that an entire gun “internals and all” was made.


I just wanted to point out that teenagers or young adults may want to use these self made weapons, as they can’t obtain through legal means and don’t know how to obtain one from illegal means, but can print one out with the press of a button.

Also criminals would want to print out more than just one weapon and the authorities won’t know that they have, and how many was produced. It saves them the trouble of trying to get them into the country too. The main problem is detection as no one will know if someone is making a gun(s).

Like some have pointed out already, the IP issue will become a big problem with current mindsets of “where’s the harm”, as people think this about downloads of music, movies and etc, but this time with manufactured products.


Check the link, you have always been able to make your own firearms for personal use in the US but they are subject to tax and approval by the ATF. So as long as you pay the piper there’s no problem. Having said that, I’m pretty sure I’d rather fire a professionally manufactured firearm than something I cobbled together myself. There are so many things that effect the accuracy of a gun especially a handgun.

I am aware of the cultural differences between the different members of this site but I personally don’t see a problem. I’m sure in Germany, where its very rare to own a gun, someone having one of these would be a big deal. However in the US, having one of these means you are facing the real deal with a knock-off. Not exactly intimidating.

The above comments are addressing legal use. Illegal use is another matter.


I like this vision of the future. Food replicators are next right? :smiley:


Oh, please. What you are depicting here is some kind of fantasy-based, Dirty Harry scenario that likely will not happen. What could happen is that some kid downloads some plans and cobbles together a weapon (gun or otherwise) and gets his buddy whose dad has a printer in his machine shop to print one, or some similar scenario.

No, they won’t be practical for rampant illegal use for some time, but kids will always experiment. Jeez, just watch what idiots do on youtube, then apply that to printing your own weapons. They may not be super-effective, and almost definitely not safe, but they will be made and they will eventually blow up in someone’s face. Or the face of a kid next to them in school. Or the neighbor kid’s face because the idiot kid who made it didn’t think it was a “real gun.”

I guarantee that the first time this happens, politicians will be climbing over each other to outlaw this “terrible new device that has fallen into the hands of our children!”


This whole issue has been blown out of proportion. As others have said, making your own gun is nothing new.
I, for one, am fascinated by the prospect and am disappointed that the research that Defense Distributed worked on has been halted.
I hope that they are able to to simply purchase another 3D printer outright.
Like it or not, weapons research has ALWAYS contributed to what we rely on every day in society.
Peace. :cool:


Lol, do you walk around all day with the notion that no one ever wishes to do you harm or are you relying on your Bruce Lee reflexes for survival? Why do you carry a gun, to protect yourself from the exact scenario you label as fantasy. Now to be fair, the scenario you describe is also just as likely. I’m sure we will hear about some dumb kid who blew his hand off and is partially blind because of a homemade gun exploding in his hand. I call that natural selection. I have a relative who teaches homebound kids and there were quite a few over the years who blew their hands off with homemade explosives. Why didn’t I or you do that, because we were taught better.

Most kids in this part of the country receive their first gun before the age of 10 as a gift from a parent or grandparent. You then teach them responsible ownership and use of a firearm, marksmanship. The gun is no longer this taboo object but a tool. It has a purpose and its not a toy.

I realize this is OT from the main conversation but I find it very important. Kids need to be taught about guns by a responsible adult before their bored minds get them in trouble and they do something stupid because well, teenagers are stupid.


Some people are going to be stupid - with or without a machine that can print components to assemble into potentially dangerous objects. I think there is indeed a likelihood that people will use a 3D printer for illegitimate reasons (like making guns that’ll blow up in their face or downloading bootleg designs), but the potential for benefit is so much greater. The fear is irrational. Someone would have to be knowledgeable and wealthy enough to iterate through countless modifications before they have a functional weapon. It’s not like a replicator in Star Trek. If they’re clever enough to produce a functional firearm, they’re clever enough to find several other ways to hurt people with easier, less-exhaustive means. This is sensational.

But let’s look at what this particular group was producing… They had to raise $20k just to make a “gun” with no moving parts. That likely means single shot, nothing as sophisticated as what you can buy much cheaper, legally or illegally. I just don’t foresee this being a substantial threat any time soon. We have more to fear from reactionary legislation over hysteria than we do masses of criminals printing off firearms.

Personally, if I had access to a machine like this as a teen, I would have produced ballistas. I’ve read those are quite dangerous in the wrong hands.