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Australian Authorities Seize 3D Printed Weapons Stash

As reported by News.com.au, “a 3D printer allegedly used to print guns was seized in police raids on a Melbourne [Australia] organized crime syndicate.  Seven men and two women were arrested, while 14 guns, two stolen vehicles, cash, and drugs were [seized as well.]”

These arrests came mere weeks after a separate police raid in Queensland “charged five people after finding homemade machine guns and what police described as a weapons factory in a property on the Gold Coast.”

It would appear criminals are forcing authorities to become tech savvy.  In fact, a year ago, “NSW passed Australian-first legislation which included a ban on possessing files used to 3D print guns, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.”  Specifically, this law states: “a person must not possess a digital blueprint for the manufacture of a firearm on a 3D printer or an electronic milling machine.”

Thomas Birtchnell, a senior lecturer at the University of Wollongong who specializes in 3D printing and manufacturing does not believe this Melbourne crime syndicate could currently fire any of their 3D printed weapons: “Most likely they were attempting to manufacture plastic handguns by using a [desktop FDM 3D printer].”  However, Birtchnell is wary of a time when metal 3D printing allows easy access to this sort of production:

“it’s been proven that you can manufacture on a 3D printer a workable metal firearm of professional quality.  The problem there is…the cost of those printers is $500,000 to $1 million so they are out of…league [for] most criminal gangs and organizations [for now]…We will see a step change if metal 3D printing becomes consumer level.”

Indeed, Aurora Labs, also based in Australia, is just one example of a company “pioneering cost-effective metal 3D printing.”  In fact, Aurora Labs has been “in talks with NASA about using its tech.  In the past, it has had a crowdfunding campaign to sell a $100,000 metal 3D printer.”

As Mr. Birtchnell concludes, “I mean $100,000 is probably accessible for a well-funded criminal gang…so you are starting to see that kind of activity going on.  Metal 3D printing really is the Holy Grail for the industry, so on the back of that it would be really beneficial for criminal gangs as well.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of News.com.au

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