Defense Distributed, headed by Cody Wilson, is championing the Wiki Weapon project, the aim of which is to produce files for a 3D printable gun.
Unfortunately for them, when Stratasys found out what they were doing the 3D printer they had leased got repossessed. Stratasys said that a plastic gun runs afoul of the 1988 Undetectable Firearms Act which bans guns that can pass through a metal detector without setting it off (according to Wired Danger Room). WikiWep posted the letter from Stratasys on their blog…along with a weak attempt to spin the situation. This is also following the attempt to raise money on indiegogo, which was ended by indiegogo after they found out what Wilson was doing.
According to Wired…
Wilson visited the ATF field office in Austin…he added that the ATF believes he’s not broken any laws, and that the agency believes 3-D printed guns fall into a regulatory gray area…
Wilson says he’s consulted with a lawyer, and is considering acquiring a federal firearms manufacturing license, a process that could take at least two months at the earliest. He’s also thought it may be necessary to incorporate Defense Distributed, turning it into a company instead of a decentralized internet collective.
Wilson says. “It’s just disgusting. I hate that that’s the way it is, but that’s apparently the regulatory landscape.”
Wilson says his group is looking at building an electricity-fired 3D-printed test chamber that can be used to test pressure and the interaction between heat given off by bullets with thermoplastic, which could cause the gun to melt. The chamber wouldn’t have a trigger, Wilson says, who also plans to send the schematics to the ATF for approval while waiting for a manufacturing license.
Wired Danger Room also produced an interesting follow up to this story in which they dive into Stratasys’ relationship with existing weapons manufacturers. It turns out the company’s 3D printers are very popular with companies like Remington because, surprise surprise, they use them to rapidly prototype new guns. There is an exception in the Undetectable Firearms Act for plastic guns as long as they are prototypes made by licensed manufacturers.
I’ll wrap this up with the words of 3D Systems Corporations, CEO, Abe Reichental…
Keeping 3D printing positive, allowing it to continue to make good requires decisive action – industry wide action.
With that in mind, I call on our capable and responsible industry leaders to join me in making 3D printing good and the community safe. Without taking a position on gun control laws, our responsibility is to be lawful.
We should join together so parents don’t have to worry their child might print something illegally and communities don’t have to worry that someone irresponsible will open fire with a printed weapon and companies don’t have to worry about counterfeiting and piracy.
References and additional links
- Robert Beckhusen. 1OCT2012. 3D printer company seizes machine from desktop gunsmith. Wired Danger Room
- Robert Beckhusen. 3OCT2012. 3D printer company sells to gun companies, but not desktop weaponeers. Wire Danger Room
- Stephen Holmes. 3OCT2012. Wiki weapons shot down by Stratasys – but that’s not the end of the battle. Develop 3D
- Will Oremus. 2OCT2012. Designer of 3D printable gun has his 3D printer seized. Slate
- BBC. 3OCT2012. Plans to print a gun halted as 3D printer is seized. BBC News, Technology