Update Sunday 27Oct13 The BBC headline screams: 3D printer 'gun parts' found in Manchester raid and we're off again with another security alert. This time it's on this side of the Atlantic. The cops in the UK crash into some chap's workshop and haul him off thinking he is making a plastic gun.
On the same day PC Pro magazine reports that 3D-printed "gun parts" are actually spare parts for the printer. Phew, that's all right then
I have made a note that if I purchase a 3D printer it will be paid for in cash and I will send one of my kids to collect it. Definitely not an item to be delivered from Amazon!
Update Post Friday 10 May 2013
"Feds Freak Over 3D Gun" says the Drudge Report. Well I guess we now know that Defense Distributed - the home of the Wiki Weapon Project is not a front for the CIA/FBI/NSA/DHS! The Guardian reports that the site has gone dark at the State Department's Request.
However the report also says:
"The action came too late to prevent widespread distribution of the files: Defense Distributed told Forbes that the files have already been downloaded more than 100,000 times in the two days since they were uploaded. The largest number of downloads initially were to addresses in Spain, followed by the US, Brazil, Germany and the UK."
If you are one of my readers please remember: Guns Don't Kill People, People Do!
Posted Tuesday 7 May 2013: Yesterday's news that an enterprising group had 'printed' a gun using 3D printing technology is not that surprising to anyone who has been following the development of this revolutionary technology.
It is not an exaggeration to say that for some of us it has been known for a while that 3D printing is likely to revolutionise manufacturing, have a major positive impact on the environment, create new business models and many new millionaires and potentially change the trading dynamics underpinning globalisation. A recent webcast by Motley Fool is a nice introduction to these themes.
However, when combined with open source data and social media, 3D printing can enable individuals and 'terror cells' with destructive ambitions and access to a PC to cause increased havoc anywhere.
I have posted below about 'ROI terrorism' - where inflicting a high economic price on the target community is the key objective of the 'attack'. Self evidently, an essential element of any return on investment (ROI) is the costs of deploying assets to meet a desired objective (i.e. capital expenditure). The falling retail price of 3D printers available on eBay which can 'print' to a wide variety of materials, means that even modestly educated terrorists can create weapons that can either defeat, or at least frustrate, modern security scanners and preventive measures.
While perhaps a laudable example of Americans promoting their 2nd Amendment rights and entrepreneurial zeal, it is likely that such activity will also spur less benevolent 'entrepreneurial' activity. By masking the location from which they download such plans ("Defense Distributed" may well be a front for the CIA/FBI/NSA/DHS for alI I know - if only I had confidence that they were so smart!) any potential terrorist is on their way to making a plastic weapon with the same lethality of any metal single shot pistol.
As you can see in the photo it seems that only two pieces of the 'printed' pistol are made of easily detected metal, a small (firing?) pin of some kind and the bullet and casing. Individually, these components are not easily identifiable to prevent them from being smuggled separately and put together later. Printing some sort of ammunition in a material other than metal may not be too difficult either when you see what is already being produced in materials ranging from ceramic to concrete.
So, even if we accept that this current model is only a simple single shot weapon, the die is cast. We are on our way to the sophisticated manufacture of home made weapons which may, in just a short time, replace the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) as a terrorist weapon of choice. Alternatively, the combination of 3D printing, open source data and social media may make the creation of IEDs even harder for the security services to detect by leading to an 'arms race' between innovative 3D printing weapons production and the security measures intended to combat their successful deployment. Banning backpacks at major events may already be a losing strategy to keep people safe when everyday smaller objects can be molded into weapons which are much more destructive. Anybody tried 3D printing in Semtex?
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