Michael from Public Knowledge sez, "Members of the New York City Council seem to have read a few articles about 3D printed guns and decided to hop on the bandwagon. Their new bill got them some attention because it has the words "3D printing" in it. But it also betrayed a near total ignorance of what 3D printing is, and fails to explain why it is regulating 3D printed guns specifically (besides the fact that it got them in the news). Lawmakers who introduce bills like this should be publicly shamed for rushing to regulate something before making any effort to understand it."
Why does this definition betray shameless headline chasing on behalf of Council Members Fidler, James, Chin, Recchia, Comrie, Weprin, Palma, Foster, Brewer, Del Carmen Arroyo, Dickens, Jackson, King, Koo, Koppell, Lander, Mendez, Rose, and Vann? A 3D printer is “a computer-driven machine capable of producing a three-dimensional object from a digital model,” isn’t it?
Sure. But so is every other modern manufacturing machine. A CNC mill fits that definition. As do laser cutters. So do industrial arms that build cars on assembly lines. And robots. And, for that matter, automated crochet knitting machines.
Which is fine. If these Council Members think that people using machines to make firearms is a problem, they should draft a bill that addresses that problem. Alternatively, if these Council Members think that people specifically using 3D printers to make firearms is a problem, they are free to draft a bill to address that too.
But that’s not what appears to have happened here. This bill reads like it was drafted after someone saw a bunch of stories about 3D printed guns, but before they took any time to think about 3D printed guns, let alone formulate a specific concern about 3D printed guns.
Spocko sez, "In this commercial for a cell phone screen protector product, a quadcopter flies up to some fruit, sodas and a cell phones and shoots them with a remote controlled handgun. The company, Clearplex, has many videos of it's screen protector products being shot at, so this one is a natural, although creepy, extension of that series. The video is edited so it's hard to know how accurate the quad-copter is, but consider how apparently easy creating this one was,what's the next step?"
Update on small children being mercilessly punished for, e.g., gnawing a pastry into a gun shape at school
Kevin at Lowering the Bar updates us on the Lego Gun Incident, wherein a six-year-old boy was punished for bringing a tiny, Lego-sized gun onto his Springfield, MA school-bus. The school initially demanded that the boy write a letter of apology and serve detention because the gun "caused quite a disturbance on the bus and that the children were traumatized." However, the same zero-tolerance-obssessed nutjobs at the school board also put CCTVs on their buses, and a review of the footage therefrom reveals that nothing bad actually happened. This has occasioned a small miracle in the form of the school board simply dropping the matter, rather than doubling down and, say, accusing the six-year-old of using a tiny, Lego-sized computer to hack into the CCTV and swap out the footage or similar.
However, Kevin goes on to note that a child in Baltimore continues to struggle with the permanent stain on his record caused by his taking bites out of a pastry until it was vaguely gun-shaped, thereby traumatising all the other students by exposing them to an approximate right-angle. This kid is having the book thrown at him:
"This is a student-specific matter," the spokesman said, in case anyone thought they had suspended every student in the district, "and our school system is not going to have any comment on it, except for this: This is a matter between the school, a student and his parents. It's not, and it should not be, fodder for a publicity stunt by an attorney who seems to believe that his young client's best interests are somehow served by trying this case in the media." News flash: this has been in the media since long before they ever had an attorney, and that is not their fault.
The next step was said to be an appeal to the superintendent of schools, so the battle continues.
As the 3D printed gun story unfolds, many (including me) have noted that you can't print ammo. However, you can print shotgun slugs on a 3D printer, but they suck:
Heeszel was surprised at the first two. “I didn’t think it would go through the first piece of wood at all, much less hit anything,” he says. But he also called them more of a novelty than a practical bullet. “I thought the thing was kinda lame, but I realize there’s a lot of novelty with the 3-D printed gun, and I thought it was kind of timely. But overall I think they’re kind of crappy little rounds,” he adds...
“I might be a redneck from Tennessee, but I love the technology,” Griffy says. Griffy, who runs a YouTube account ArtisanTony — where he also shows off a printable knife and buckshot rounds — tells Danger Room he printed the slugs more for their own enjoyment. “Because a real gun shooting plastic bullets is more fun than a plastic gun shooting real bullets,” he says. “You have to spend six hours printing a barrel that you’re going to use one time, and it’s not as much fun. It’s more about the enjoyment and the sport. And if you’re having to labor that much, then the enjoyment goes away.”
Griffy says he printed the slugs with a Solidoodle 3 3-D printer — which retails for $800 — using ABS thermoplastic using dimensions from one of Heeszel’s non-printed slugs. Griffy then created the computer-aided design files, converted them to a stereolithography format, and checked the files for inconsistencies with the 3-D printing software Netfabb. He also designed slugs in three sizes. The largest slug takes about an hour to print. The others take about 30 minutes. He also added a lead ball to each slug to give them more weight. The final step was mailing them to Heeszel, who fitted the slugs into hollowed-out — non-printed — shotgun cartridges.
Watch 3-D Printed Shotgun Slugs Blow Away Their Targets [Robert Beckhusen/Wired]
Joe, an engineer from Wisconsin, modified the (now censored) designs for Defense Distributed's 3D printed gun, the Liberator, and printed a working model on a Lulzbot A0-101, a $1,725 consumer printer that is much cheaper and more widely available than the Stratasys Dimension SST printer used by Defense Distributed.
The gun printed by Joe, which he’s nicknamed the “Lulz Liberator,” was printed over 48 hours with just $25 of plastic on a desktop machine affordable to many consumers, and was fired far more times. “People think this takes an $8,000 machine and that it blows up on the first shot. I want to dispel that,” says Joe. “This does work, and I want that to be known.”
Eight of Joe’s test-fires were performed using a single barrel before swapping it out for a new one on the ninth. After all those shots, the weapon’s main components remained intact–even the spiraled rifling inside of the barrel’s bore. “The only reason we stopped firing is because the sun went down,” he says....
...Still, Joe’s cheap homemade gun isn’t without its bugs. Over the course of its test firing, Joe and Guslick say it misfired several times, and some of its screws and its firing pin had to be replaced. After each firing, the ammo cartridges expanded enough that they had to be pounded out with a hammer. “Other than that, it’s pretty much confirming that yes, Defense Distributed is correct that this functions,” says Guslick. “And it’s possible to make one on a much lower cost printer.”
$25 Gun Created With Cheap 3D Printer Fires Nine Shots (Video) [Andy Greenberg/Forbes]
Caleb sez, "The Department of Defense ordered that 3d printed gun removed from the Internet. That didn't work out. You can still download it and print it. I did, and found that the files are a mess and not really functional. I also took a cool timelapse video of the printing."
1. the scale on the individual files was way off.
I suspect this has something to do with the printer it was designed for. It seemed very close to being 1 inch = 1 mm. Not a completely uncommon problem. Manually resizing got some files to look right, but I found many simply wouldn’t resize.
2. Almost every single item had errors.
If you’ve done 3d printing, you’ve found that a model can have all kinds of issues that will stop it from printing correctly. I found every single item for the gun had errors. I actually learned a lot about how to repair non-manifold items from this exercise, so it was good in the end.
Some items, like the hammer and the hammer springs simply would not print. I ran them through systems to repair them and fix errors. It would say that everything was fixed, but when I tried to “slice” them for printing, the software would crash. This means that my gun is incomplete. It has no hammer. Not really that big of a deal to me.
3D printed guns and the law: will judges be able to think clearly about digital files when guns are involved?
My latest Guardian column is "3D printed guns are going to create big legal precedents," and it looks at an underappreciated risk from 3D printed guns: that courts will be so freaked out by the idea of 3D printed guns that they'll issue reactionary decisions that are bad for the health of the Internet and its users:
More interesting is the destiny of the files describing 3D printed guns. These model-files have been temporarily removed from the internet at the behest of the US State Department, which is investigating the possibility that they violate the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. Wilson says that he's on safe ground here, because the regulations do not cover material in a library, and he says the internet is like a library. As this is taking place in the US, there's also the First Amendment to be considered, which limits government regulation of speech.
Here's where things get scary for me. Defense Distributed is headed for some important, possibly precedent-setting legal battles with the US government, and I'm worried that the fact that we're talking about guns here will cloud judges' minds. Bad cases made bad law, and it's hard to think of a more emotionally overheated subject area. So while I'd love to see a court evaluate whether the internet should be treated as a library in law, I'm worried that when it comes to guns, the judge may find himself framing the question in terms of whether a gun foundry should be treated as a library.
The US State Department has ordered Defense Distributed to take down the designs for a working 3D printed gun, citing export control rules set out in the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. Defense Distributed's Cody Wilson is appealing, and says that ITAR does not apply to "non-profit public domain releases of technical files designed to create a safe harbor for research and other public interest activities" -- though this carve out is for works stored in a library. Wilson's appeal may turn, then, on whether the Internet is a library for the purposes of this regulation. In the meantime, the designs are still up on The Pirate Bay, and are for sale in printed form in an Austin bookseller. More than 100,000 copies of the designs were downloaded from Defense Distributed's servers in the brief time that they were online.
“Until the Department provides Defense Distributed with final [commodity jurisdiction] determinations, Defense Distributed should treat the above technical data as ITAR-controlled,” reads the letter, referring to a list of ten CAD files hosted on Defcad that include the 3D-printable gun, silencers, sights and other pieces. “This means that all data should be removed from public acces immediately. Defense Distributed should review the remainder of the data made public on its website to determine whether any other data may be similarly controlled and proceed according to ITAR requirements.”
Wilson, a law student at the University of Texas in Austin, says that Defense Distributed will in fact take down its files until the State Department has completed its review. “We have to comply,” he says. “All such data should be removed from public access, the letter says. That might be an impossible standard. But we’ll do our part to remove it from our servers.”
Wilson's project is raising some important legal questions, such as whether design files can be considered expressive speech under the First Amendment, and whether the Internet is a library. The question of code-as-speech was famously considered in the Bernstein case, where strong crypto was legalized. However, as we discovered in the 2600 case, judges are less charitably inclined to code-as-speech arguments when they're advanced by non-academics, especially those with counter-culture stances.
Impact litigation -- where good precedents overturn bad rules -- is greatly assisted by good facts and good defendants. I would much rather the Internet-as-library question be ruled on in a less emotionally overheated realm than DIY guns.
(Thanks to everyone who sent this in!)
Yesterday, I wrote about Defense Distributed's 3D printed handgun, and asked whether it would fire, and how many rounds it could fire before experiencing stress fractures, melting, etc. Now, Forbes's Andy Greenberg follows up with a report of the successful firing of the gun -- though not its longevity -- and says that Defense Distributed will publish the CAD files for printing your own gun on its site today, along with videos of the gun in action.
Unlike the original, steel Liberator, though, Wilson’s weapon is almost entirely plastic: Fifteen of its 16 pieces have been created inside an $8,000 second-hand Stratasys Dimension SST 3D printer, a machine that lays down threads of melted polymer that add up to precisely-shaped solid objects just as easily as a traditional printer lays ink on a page. The only non-printed piece is a common hardware store nail used as its firing pin...
Even Wilson himself says he’s not sure exactly how that’s possible. But one important trick may be the group’s added step of treating the gun’s barrel in a jar of acetone vaporized with a pan of water and a camp stove, a process that chemically melts its surface slightly and smooths the bore to avoid friction. The Dimension printer Defense Distributed used also keeps its print chamber heated to 167 degrees Fahrenheit, a method patented by Stratasys that improves the parts’ resiliency.
Meet The 'Liberator': Test-Firing The World's First Fully 3D-Printed Gun [Andy Greenberg/Forbes]
Defense Distributed's Cody Wilson claims he has attained his stated goal of 3D printing a working handgun. There's no footage of it firing yet, nor details on how many rounds it fires before the plastic is worn out. And although this is a fascinating provocation, it is not (yet) a game-changer, especially in America where traditional guns (capable of firing thousands of rounds without melting down) are cheap and easy to get. You can even "3D print" a gun by asking different CNC shops to cut and overnight you all the parts to make up a working gun, breaking the job down into small pieces that are unlikely to arouse suspicion.
All sixteen pieces of the Liberator prototype were printed in ABS plastic with a Dimension SST printer from 3D printing company Stratasys, with the exception of a single nail that’s used as a firing pin. The gun is designed to fire standard handgun rounds, using interchangeable barrels for different calibers of ammunition.
Technically, Defense Distributed’s gun has one other non-printed component: the group added a six ounce chunk of steel into the body to make it detectable by metal detectors in order to comply with the Undetectable Firearms Act. In March, the group also obtained a federal firearms license, making it a legal gun manufacturer.
This Is The World's First Entirely 3D-Printed Gun (Photos) [Andy Greenberg/Forbes]
Ruben "Tom the Dancing Bug" Bolling sez, "I organized this video, getting cartoonists as diverse as Trudeau (Doonesbury), Spiegelman (Maus, etc), Keane (Family Circus), Mazzucchelli (Batman etc), Mo Willems (Pigeon, Knuffle Bunny) and others to illustrate a script advocating gun law reform narrated by Julianne Moore (!) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (!!)."