3D printers are rapidly evolving into creation tools for anything from jewelry to blood cells.
Ever more affordable, 3D printers can now be found and purchased online for as little as $1000, meaning it won’t be long before many households have them as common appliances.
Meanwhile, designs for the printers are easily found online and can be manipulated to create anything a person could dream of, from spare parts to new shoes, with no specific knowledge of mechanics or engineering necessary. So far, so good, then, but can 3D printing go too far?
Take the case of the home-printed semi-automatic weapon, created by engineer Michael Guslick this week, just after the tragic Colorado shooting incident in Aurora which claimed 12 lives.
Guslick first announced his achievement on an Internet forum, and said in a later interview with the New York Daily News that the process of printing it “wasn’t that difficult.”
For anyone with any doubts, rest assured, it works. The firearm used a printed reinforced AR-15 lower receiver and successfully fired over 200 rounds.
“To the best of my knowledge, this is the world's first 3D printed firearm to actually be tested,” he wrote.
“It was extremely large and ungainly, but it worked,” he said, adding that the “barrier to entry is certainly being lowered.” Templates like the one Guslick used can be easily accessed online, and anyone with even just basic technological knowledge could probably do what Guslick did, which begs the question; never mind gun control, do we actually need 3-D printer control?
The destructive possibilities of 3D printers in the wrong hands are almost entirely overlooked by mainstream media, and that doesn’t just apply to 3D firearms. The reality is that, in the wrong hands, 3D devices are as capable of destroying things as they are at creating them.
Take another example of Glasgow University chemist Lee Cronin, who recently found a way “to turn a 3D printer into a universal chemistry set.” When built, Cronin’s “chemputer” will be able to produce illicit drugs.
When heroin and semi-automatic weapons can be produced at home with a tap of the print button, how can we ensure the safety of our communities? Will those with 3D printers be required to register like gun users? Should there be legislation barring or tracking the distribution of blueprints for potentially dangerous items?
Machines are as productive or destructive as the individual that interfaces with it. The majority of 3D printer owners will produce things that are completely innocuous and non-threatening, but like any other potentially lethal device, we must have a way of tracking what is being produced and by whom....don’t you think?