Matt Fisher is as Senior Dev at Jam3 but he also has a real passion for DIY projects and UAV’s which is how he got interested in 3D printing. It allowed him to create custom parts for his UAV’s that he couldn’t do before. 3D printing has been around since the 1980’s for industry but only in the last few years has it started to make its way to the everyday consumers.
When MakerBot Industries started selling 3D printers in March 2009 they made the first crack at bringing 3D printing to the masses. Since then the technology has improved and the capabilities have increased.
In short order MakerBot and other 3D printers released to the public created a community of makers and they created a home for them in thingiverse where you could share, buy and sell the digital designs for physical things.
The ability to manufacture objects at home opens up a slew of legal and ethical dilemmas that society will have to confront. It allows people to create unique 3D objects or items that are already being made by companies like Legos which could have an impact on their business in the future.
The part of the semi-automatic rifle AR-15 that’s considered the gun is the lower receiver which is necessary for the weapon to be fired. Through 3D printing you can create the receiver and source everything else.
In effect Fisher said that “3D printing enables you to nullify gun laws as they are now.” The issue blew up when Cody Wilson a gun advocate and founder of Defense Distributed proved in a video that you could print out the lower receiver of an AR-15 and fire the weapon.
It resulted in thingiverse changing its term of service and removing all gun parts from the service. As a result Defense Distributed whose goal it is to “facilitating global access to, and the collaborative production of, information and knowledge related to the 3D printing of arms” created DEF CAD to give these gun designs a permanent online home.
Fisher said that although Cody seems like an anarchist, really he’s trying to raise awareness of the issue to update American gun laws to account for the 3D printing capability. The US government gave Defense Distributed a Firearms licence so they can produce and legally sell them. He says that Cody doesn’t want to manufacture guns he wants you to be able to do it, if you so choose.
Cody’s video lit a fire under politicians because it came in the wake of recent shootings and Obama’s push for greater gun laws. Fisher says that it is illegal to create a gun that can get through security but completely legal in most states to create the receiver and build a gun by sourcing the rest.
In Canada the legal climate is totally different with many weapons available in America being illegal here. Fisher brought half a lower to FITC and all the police would have to do is fire a bullet with the lower receiver and to prove in could he possessed an illegal weapon.
Issue of creating guns legally has been a grey area for some time, you can buy an incomplete lower register legally and then finish it yourself if you so choose. 3D printing takes the effort out of having to finish the lower register, making it easy for anyone to print one out.
The 2 things that Obama tasked Biden with in proposing gun legislation was to require everyone buying a gun to have a background check. Fisher says between “60-80% of guns are sold without background checks.”
The second is a ban on high capacity magazine clips which if ever passed could be meaning in the age of 3D printing. A clip is just a container for the bullets that’s spring loaded and 3D printing would allow anyone to create a clip of any doable size which would nullify it even if it was passed which didn’t happen when the gun legislation failed to override the republican filibuster in the Senate.
DEF CAD showed a video of a 3D printed 30 round clip for an AK-47 being used. Fisher says this is a big deal because it shows the ability to print more and more parts of weapons and because the AK-47 is one of the most widely used weapons across the globe.
Biden’s work to update gun laws wasn’t about 3D printing but their current gun issues which 3D printing just adds another layer on top of it. Fisher’s last video showed Cody with a brand and improved lower receiver capable of shooting more than 600 rounds.
This just shows the resourcefulness of people and how fast the technology is improving. Fisher showed a design for a completely plastic gun, with the only thing missing to make it work being the firing pin. It would be one time use only but that bears the question for how long.
Fisher’s talk was fascinating and scary at the same time, it sheds light on how easy it is to manufacture deadly objects and share the plans online. It kind of makes me glad I live in Canada and not in the USA where gun issues are so exacerbated.