Transformative Technologies

I was quite interested to see this article that British engineers want to try to print an entire aircraft wing, rather than fabricating it through traditional methods. This is a technology that should revolutionize industries where the products being made don’t need to be produced in huge quantities. Aircraft manufacturing could be among those industries. But another is firearms manufacturing. I’m particularly fascinated by selective laser sintering technology, which has the ability to lay down metal, ceramic and glass, in addition to plastics.

A friend of mine just got one of these 3D printers that lays down ABS plastic:

The cost of these printers is under $1000 bucks. If you’re looking for objects to print for your personal 3D printer you can go to the Thingiverse. Obviously home 3D printing is in its very infancy, but these products are bound to get cheaper and more sophisticated. Commercial printers can already lay down different types of material at the same time.

So why do I bring this up? Because to the extent that CNC technology has made gun control an unworkable pipe dream, 3D printing technology makes it laughable. When anyone with four to five figures worth of machinery can download plans for a gun and mill/print it, there is no controls you will create that’s going to stop determined people from getting their hands on firearms in a world where you can print them in your basement, unless the Brady Campaign wants to campaign for control of CNC milling machines and 3D printer. And yes, once you can print and mill guns, you can print and mill ammunition and magazines too. We already know we can have polymer ammo cases.

If Airbus can produce an aircraft wing using this technology, the Brady Campaign’s only “faster and cheaper” away from having their positions about banning this or banning that being a laughable mockery.

18 thoughts on “Transformative Technologies”

  1. Did you see the replica revolver at Thingiverse? There’s already a controversy with some of the people on that site claiming that even the plans for replicas of weapons should be banned.

    You should read the comments. Pretty interesting to see people telling the hoplophobes to get bent.

  2. The antis always scoff when we say that the 1st Amendment could be limited to a printing press – here’s printing in a whole new dimension!

  3. Wow remember the Clint Eastwood movie about the Secret Service agent and the composite gun?

  4. Gun control was made ineffective years ago by files and hacksaws. As for ammo resourceful reloaders have been converting commonly available cartridge cases into hard to get case for years. You can even make .223 jacketed bullets with lead wire and spent .22 rimfire cases as the jacket source.

  5. Rifle receivers handgun frames. But what happens if 3d printing comes mainstream and someone WILL eventually make say a model for an ar15 receiver as a lower or do something stupid like design an m16 type receiver and make it public record. You’d be amazed how many gun owners don’t know about the restrictions on automatics. Sure it would need an m16 trigger setup and BGC to work but still…

    I seriouisly doubt they can make moving parts of this stuff let alone a barrel. The most they could make are little to low stress parts.

  6. The technology featured in the video can only make plastic parts. But commercial technology can make metal parts. You could probably mill a reasonable enough barrel to make a firearm that will function for a few thousand rounds.

  7. The high-stress parts in a gun are pretty minimal.

    Even quicker than making a mockery or rarity and diffiiculty to obtain, this tech is going to make a mockery of AOW and SBS/SBR. I would LOVE to fish the AFT into trying on “constructive possession” against someone with one of these, a handgun, and a design for a stock…

  8. I first learned about CNC machining when I heard that guns are easy to make, and tried to google it. I stumbled onto CNC Gunsmithing ( and *that* sparked an interest in CNC machining!

    It’s really amazing: for around $5,000 I can set up a shop that could fit on my kitchen counter, consisting of a miniature lathe and mill; for around $20,000 I could set up an “industrial strength” shop. I haven’t set up such a shop yet, but I intend to someday.

    Indeed, someday I hope to buy a used car for $100, and then use the parts to make as many weapons–knives and guns–as I can from it!

    I also wanted to design a gun that would be as easy to make as an AK-47, but as accurate as an AR-15. I was surprised to see, on a Wikipedia article, the claim that the AR-15 *was* the design I was looking for: the AK-47 lends itself to metal-stamping, which requires heavy, expensive equipment that the Soviets favored for their big People’s factories, while the AR-15 can be mass-produced in little $20,000 shops, in the basements of homes, scattered across the landscape.

  9. As I am fond of telling my anti-gun friends, guns are a 600+ year-old technology that for the majority of its existence has been manufactured with tools and materials greatly inferior to what you can purchase at your local hardware store.

    The toothpaste is out of the tube. You can’t squish it back in.

  10. That CNCguns site is cool!

    @Ian, I wondered exactly the same thing about ‘constructive possession’. For example, are the CNC plans for a full-auto sear legal to possess in digital form?

  11. @Ash – as long as you don’t have access to a CNC machine, I suppose. Given the way they’ve defined “easily converted”, I think they could probably nail you for constructive possession if you have bar stock, a CNC machine, and plans for any kind of NFA weapon.

    Of course, you go down that route and you can’t possess both a hacksaw and a shotgun at the same time…

  12. But Ian according to the ATF if you have a semi-auto AK and a shoestring you have an illegal machine gun.

  13. there are already 3D models for AR-15 uppers and lowers available free online. you could print one out in ABS and it would probably work, but eventually break at the stock junction.

    We have an industrial model that prints ABS at work, and you can easily print magazines and stocks and grips and such, but they will not usually last beyond a few hundred rounds, and the barrel and firing-pin and hammer has to be out of steel for it to function anyway, so one of these machines alone would not be able to create a firearm.

    I have seen demo’s of the Select laser sintering, including full slides and barrels which could work, but these machines are $100K + right now. I’m sure you could also print a usable suppressor with such a machine, too.

    but, just like anything else, it is up to the user to be sure he does not break the law.

  14. DG13: Again, “faster and cheaper” away.

    We have machines and devices today that used to be only available to commercial enterprises and businesses that people hold in their own homes.

  15. The shoestring isn’t an MG until it’s actually used to make an AK full auto. I believe there was a clarifying ruling after the first one. Though, if you have one tied into a loop of the right size, maybe they could prosecute that. Who knows.

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