Machine Shop

Is 3D Printing Dangerous?

When a certain type of person– teen to mid-20’s guys — find out that I am a machinist, often the first thing they ask is, “Can you make me a silencer?” Yes, and no I am not breaking Federal law so you can pretend you are James Bond. But no one really questions if mills and lathes are going to make the world less safe through the spread of guns and backpack nuclear bombs. Can 3D printing be used to make dangerous plastic guns that can escape metal detectors? Will we all be able to be John Malkovich in ‘In The Line of Fire’, ready and willing assassins with undetectable guns? Do you have any idea what I have done for God and Country, Frank?
Most likely, no. First off, running a 3D printer will probably never be as easy as a photocopier. There will always be some skill and art involved in making things, even with 3D printing. Well, at least until they perfect the Star Trek replicator. But I digress. Adrian Bowyer makes an excellent point in the video– ANY manufacturing technology can be used for making dangerous objects. Any gunsmith has a lathe and mill, and could conceivably make a complete gun from raw stock. On the whole, we try to see the potential benefit from advanced manufacturing, because that will be by far the end result, not a massive spread of Jello Biafra’s “harmful matter.”
Check out Mr. Bowyer’s RepRap project, while we are on the subject– a 3D printer that can replicate itself.