Wednesday, February 20, 2013

3-D Printers: A replicated gun in every household

This is the kind of thing that make the sci-fi nut in me get all geeky but scared at the same time. It's like Star Trek and Terminator mixed together. What am I talking about? The Washington Post recently posted an article about a 3-D printer that will create plastic guns -- right now. A 3-D printer? What is that you say? You tell the thing what you want and it creates it right before your eyes; layer by layer, like an inkjet printer. That's dope right? It's like living on board the Star Trek enterprise where you can just goto a food replicator kiosk and ask for whatever food you want and it just makes it right there for you. Well, we have that right now! The 3-D printer can be used to make almost anything. You want a certain type of shirt? Just add materials and feed the machine the pattern, and it will make it for you -- in your house! The implications on manufacturing alone are huge if you can make your disposable goods at home -- instantaneously. 

Here's the Terminator part -- someone is deciding to go around the proposed semi-automatic weapons ban and make a plastic gun that would be undetectable by modern equipment. This is in his house. He found the specs on, you guessed it, the internet.

Making guns for personal use has been legal for decades, but doing so has required machining know-how and a variety of parts. With 3-D printers, users download blueprints from the Internet, feed them into the machine, wait several hours and voila. 
"Restrictions are difficult to enforce in a world where anybody can make anything,” said Hod Lipson, a 3-D printing expert at Cornell University and co-author of the new book, “Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing.” 
“Talking about old-fashioned control will be very ineffective."... 
...working in his spare bedroom, is using a $1,300 machine called the Cube, which is made by a division of 3D Systems, a large publicly traded manufacturer of consumer and industrial 3-D printing machines. The cheaper, consumer versions of 3-D printers like the one Lerol uses are only capable of printing with plastics, while more expensive, industrial-scale machines can print sturdier materials such as high-grade polymers. 
Experts expect printer prices to fall as part of the normal technology curve. (Think about the price of flat screen TVs five years ago. Or a computer two decades ago.) 
And that makes Lipson, the Cornell expert, nervous because cheaper machines could help people make cheap guns for one-time use. 
“The threat is not of 3-D printing military-grade weapon components from standard blueprints on industrial 3-D printers,” Lipson said. “The challenge is that [do-it-yourself] 3D printers can be used by anyone to print rogue, disposable and shoddy guns that could be used to fire a few rounds, then be recycled into a flower vase.”

A flower vase!?!?! You can make a gun, shoot a person and then put said gun in the recycling bin to be made into vinyl flooring. And anyone -- anyone -- will be able to do this if you have enough money to buy an over the stove mounted microwave, because that probably how much it's going to cost. If you can buy the computer you are reading this blog on, you can buy a device that will make whatever you have specs to feed it. That, my friends, is Star Trek when the Borg come.  As that drone is coming to get you for not paying that parking ticket, you can just replicate a firearm to "protect yourself". Neat world, isn't it?

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