I’m Sick and Tired of 3D Printed Guns

For the last few months, every time someone hears that I work with 3D printers they bring up 3D printed guns. I can’t say how many times it has happened in this month alone. And I’m getting really really tired of it.

“They’re the killer app of 3D printers.” What a great pun. You don’t know how funny you are. “They’re the most important thing that will come out of 3D printing.” Everyone who is trying to do amazing things with 3D printers is thrilled to hear you say that.

The only thing that really matters about 3D printed guns is the hype.

You can make a gun with a lathe. You can make a gun with hand tools. And if you did that the gun might actually work.

To the extent guns are “censored” it only takes a tiny bit of effort to get around as it is. (And even if you don’t think the government should control who has guns, there being some barrier to entry for guns is likely still a good idea.)

Some day it will be easy to make guns with 3D printers. And they’ll be completely over shadowed by the massive explosion of innovation 3D printing will cause, as mechanical engineering becomes more like programming and custom objects from parametrized designs become common place. The impact isn’t a single shining glamorous 3D printed object.

But for now all that 3D printed guns and the media hype around them are causing is a bunch of ignoramuses clamouring for the regulation of 3D printers.

And, yes, they’ll fail. Regulating 3D printers is no more practical than, say, copyright.

But you know what? We still have stupid copyright laws that ruin random people’s lives and complicate everyone else’s.

And you know what else? The last time I crossed the US border with a 3D printer I was searched and interrogated for an hour because they were worried I’d print things, sell them, and disrupt the US economy. I’m just not going to find out what would happen if I did this now.

And you know what else? The last time the police decided to put intense scrutiny on my community, it really sucked.

People have the right to 3D print whatever they want. But 3D printing guns is a strategically bad idea that doesn’t really have much impact otherwise. And the hype over 3D printed guns is toxic.

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5 Responses to “I’m Sick and Tired of 3D Printed Guns”

  1. BMeph Says:

    “…as mechanical engineering becomes more like programming…”

    I weep that such a day may come, and more fondly hope for the day when programming becomes more like mech. eng.

  2. independentindustries Says:

    Word brotha’. I’m getting tired of this as well.

  3. doctorkiwano Says:

    From over on the gun end of things, rather than the 3D printing end of things, I’ve also got a pretty solid hate-on for 3D printed guns. Do you know how hard it is to try and find people interested in doing some real gunsmithing, now that there are legions of mouthbreathers who want nothing more than to run a print on the latest toy from defense distributed? I’m becoming convinced that “filter out the 3D printed gun enthusiasts” may actually be overtaking “meet regulatory requirements and file appropriate paperwork” as the most cumbersome step in trying to do some hobbyist gunsmithing.

    P.S. To make a decent gun barrel, a lathe is an inadequate tool, as it lacks the means to keep the tool and the barrel stable as the bore gets deeper. The machine tool needed to make long/deep, straight, smooth, and even holes (relative to the hole diameter) is actually called a gun drill, because gun barrels are basically what necessitated its invention. Most other parts of a gun are better off being fabricated on a milling machine.

  4. Greg Says:

    The fuss about 3d guns is overblown. Seems to me that if you have the skill and tools to finish, assemble and set up a “3d printed gun”, then you could make a gun of more or less the same quality from blocks of plastic and a few bits of metal.

    A more realistic concern is that of people seriously injuring themselves or others while trying out a 3d-printed gun. Also, the various items on thingiverse which *should* have the “bad idea” tag – there’s a printable version of a junction box cover; a real, approved, metal one costs under $1 at home depot – and a replacement cap for a gasoline container (um, is your plastic gasoline resistant? Do you maybe need an o-ring in that?). A brake lever for a bicycle. Any number of creative but possibly hazardous lampshade designs. At least for the lampshades they can argue that it’s a prototype, and a real one needs to be safety tested and probably made of something less melty.

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