Brave New World

by wjw on July 29, 2012

What you’re looking at here is apparently the world’s first printed firearm.  It may look a little odd, but that’s because it’s the receiver for an AR15 semiautomatic assault weapon with a pistol barrel attached.

The receiver and its various components were created on a 3D printer.  The barrel is actual metal: you still needs mills and lathes for those. At least this week.

It’s been test-fired.  Nothing blew up.

Have Blue details the creation of this prototype in a couple of posts.

In Conventions of War, I had Caroline Sula begin an insurrection by distributing electronic blueprints for firearms, suitable for creation in a home workshop, over the local version of the Internet.  And now . . . voila!

Along with other massive paradigm shifts that will be brought to our world by this new technology— imagine a kiosk in every village in the developing world that can create any tool— we’ll also have machines that will print our drugs for us, and lots of cheap firearms for anyone who wants them.

Printing drugs will allow local hobbyists to create the stuff that will get us high, and put both the cartels and the DEA out of business.  Will printed firearms result in more tyrants being overthrown, or more massacres like Aurora?  My guess is the answer Yes to both.

I’m hoping someone’s working on printed body armor . . .

Not Todd July 29, 2012 at 6:46 am

I can see in the short-term future 3D printers being treated by governments like typewriters were behind the Iron Curtain.

TJIC July 29, 2012 at 12:22 pm

I believe that you also had this technological detail in Hard Wired.

FYI, I became interested in metalworking because of Hard Wired and the HEAP project in Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, which led me to start a company

I’m now in the process of launching a new company using CNC woodworking…similar ideas.

The future is sneaking up on us, day by day.

(Btw, see also this post on CNC gun making from last October )

DensityDuck July 30, 2012 at 7:16 am

There were (and, maybe, still are) photocopiers that could recognize images of currency and refuse to photocopy them.

It’s possible that someone could build similar restrictions into 3D printers.

Of course, a “gun” in its most fundamental form is a length of pipe with a gunpowder charge, an igniting mechanism, and a projectile. All the rest of the stuff just makes it more accurate, more reliable, lighter, and have more shots before you reload it.

wjw July 31, 2012 at 10:46 pm

There have always been people who built their own guns. In the past it took a fair amount of technical skill— and in fact if you read Have Blue’s account, it =still= takes a lot of work even with a 3D printer.

Basically, it requires intelligence and a degree of coherent thought.

When it becomes possible for any nitwit to procure himself a firearm in this fashion, then we’ll be seeing changes.

TRX August 2, 2012 at 4:47 pm

I don’t think you’ll have to worry too much about the nitwits. None of the additive manyfacturing processes are anywhere close to printing an entire gun, much less its ammunition. Since you’re talking about printing precise alloys heat treated to particular crystalline structures, plus high-energy nitrogen compounds, I’d put out my hand and wish for nanotech; it’d be more likely.

That AR-15 receiver is a low stress, low precision bracket that holds various bits in alignment. 99% of the precision, expense, and complexity is in the purchased parts pinned to the top, which the article dismisses casually. From a practical standpoint, it’s similar to printing a new case for your computer, then claiming you’d made a computer with a 3-D printer. All those electronic bits inside, they’re just trivial stuff.

If there are one or more major breakthroughs that result in consumer-level printing (or nanotech) down at the molecular level, printing a gun would be akin to printing a stick to hit someone with. There would be much more interesting things to print – by the time the technology got to the point where you could print a working firearm, it would have already been able to print almost anything your nitwit would want the firearm *for*. Food, shelter, clothing, recreational drugs, US currency, rare comic books… or spears, knives, poisons, deadly flying drones, or even a handy brick if all you need is to kill someone.

Snobby Yet Correct September 13, 2012 at 7:26 pm

“3D printing” is merely the latest of a long line of overhyped, gimmicky gadgets. Remember how nuclear power was going to be too cheap to meter and AI laptops on the market by 2010?

There are multiple thousands of workshops producing cheap AK-47 in villages all around the third world right now.

I concede that those boxes may simplify the process even further by delivering cheap plastic casings, but metalworking is an impossibility for those laughable gizmos.

I know, as a genre writer you have to drill yourself into thinking in superlatives, but one should never lose sight of common sense.

Modern medicine needs up to hundreds of chemical intermediate steps for synthesis and can only be produced in special plants with special machines. If you try the DIY route, it often ends in the explosion of your meth lab. This “chemputer” is ridiculous bullshitting meant to attract investors…

Lastly, it goes without saying that “3D printing” will not ever create a magic “post-scarcity” utopia, no matter how many Kurzweil fanboys disenchanted by the persistent absence of nano-djinns want to believe so.

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