Paste your Google Webmaster Tools verification code here

The Double Edged Sword of 3D Printing

As with last month, the world of 3D printing has been embroiled in the American debate about guns.  Without further ado, let’s get right into it…

Popular Mechanics reports on social media giant Facebook, which has recently “blocked sites hosting digital blueprints to make guns on 3D printers from using their platform.”

This is as a result of the State Department’s “recent decision to drop charges against the group Defense Distributed’s website DEFCAD.”  As Replicator World has reported previously: “DEFCAD, one of the world’s most prominent distributors of 3D printed gun files, had been facing charges that it had been allowing the transfer of weapons of war overseas. While the State Department has dropped the matter, eight states have raised it, and a judge agreed to temporarily shut down the site, noting that ‘the balance of hardships and the public interest tip sharply’ towards having the sites inoperable.”

Of course, DEFCAD is far from the only website distributing 3D printed gun blueprints.  “CodeIsFreeSpeech is another website which distributes blueprints for guns like Berettas, AR-15s, AR-10s, Rugers, and the gun made entirely from 3D printing, the Liberator.”  Facebook’s ban targets this site as well.

The Firearms Policy Coalition, the “pro-Second Amendment nonprofit” which runs CodeIsFreeSpeech complained about Facebook’s new policy: “what we are experiencing is a complete ban on CodeIsFreeSpeech – not a ‘shadow ban,’ not a reduced newsfeed presence, but a complete and total ban.  Welcome to Facebook North Korea…”  [Emphasis theirs]

For its part, Facebook explained their reasoning upon the announcement of the ban: “sharing instructions on how to print firearms using 3D printers in not allowed under our Community Standards.  In line with our policies, we are removing this content from Facebook.”

Additionally, Facebook claims “it is currently working on strengthening its stance against 3D printed guns, although it has not provided any additional examples.”

Elsewhere, NPR has recently waded in on the 3D printed gun question.  The radio juggernaut interviewed several 3D printing companies [and their owners/operators] concerning their thoughts and policies concerning 3D printed gun blueprints.

Indeed, “some companies are using gun-blocking software to deter people from printing functional guns…major 3D printing company Sculpteo has banned firearm printing, saying it doesn’t want to be associated with weapon manufacturing.  And Materialise, a publicly traded 3D printing manufacturer and software developer, has launched a feature to block the production of guns.”

This is all because, as Law Professor Tom Baker at the University of Pennsylvania explains, “the idea of a plastic gun slipping through a metal detector is a real fear.  And if a 3D printed gun got in the wrong and someone used it to carry out violence, there could be an avalanche of lawsuits brought against the makers of 3D printing machines.”

Now, however, even “lawmakers” in Washington are pretending to do something about this: “two bills have been introduced in the Senate ‘hoping’ to make it harder for people to use printers to create fully functional guns.”

However, there are some who were interviewed by NPR who describe the entire situation as, to quote the Bard: “a whole bunch of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  Walt Barger, who is Manager of Printing Operations at high-tech makerspace company NextFab in Philadelphia, explains: “the threat is being overblown.  Printing out a fully functional 3D printed gun isn’t a cakewalk.  You might have to spend $10,000 on a printer.  You need technical chops and hours and hours of trial and error.”

Max Lobovsky, who is CEO of Formlabs, “a billion-dollar 3D printing company out of Massachusetts” adds: “the day when making a homemade gun takes hitting the play button on a desktop 3D printer is far away from now.  I don’t think anyone is particularly close [to producing a fully functional 3D printed firearm.]  I mean, I think at least 10 to 15 years.”

Still, worry looms over the question…

For the last few Replicator World issues, we have been forced to tackle and wrestle with such complicated and nuanced discussions revolving around digital designs for 3D printed firearms – and what this means for the future of 3D printing, policy, and open source culture.  We’ve seen arguments from both sides rear their heads in the wake of the U.S. State Department’s decision to reach an agreement with Defense Distributed.

These arguments and discussions are important to have – and this is why we have chosen to focus on them during these past few issues.  However, every once in a while, (or, more often, as the case usually is) – it is vital to also focus on the fun aspects of 3D printing.  The potential for 3D printing in other arenas: such as art and sculpture.

This is where Australian YouTuber Jazza (Josiah Brooks) comes in.  Jazza is an artist and YouTuber who makes content online focused around making art in a creative, entertaining, and informative way.  Jazza focuses on the ways technology (VR, 3D printing, etc…) can bring this all to pass.  As of this article, his ‘Draw with Jazza’ YouTube channel has 3 million subscribers and he has become one of the leaders of the art community there.

Over the last few months, Jazza has taken a deep (and often amusing) dive into 3D printing – where he learned about the medium (primarily from his local Australian 3D Printer Superstore), bought supplies (such as filament) and began making experiments with this technology.  In his two videos (so far) on the subject (which you can find just below) – he has 3D printed two hulk models – one bite size – and one a little bigger.  In Jazza’s first 3D printing video, he actually completes the 3D prints (after much trial and error), while in the second video he paints his 3D printed figurines.

We here at Replicator World are very excited to see what Jazza does with this boundless artistic medium (for that is just one aspect of 3D printing) next!

And finally, let us leave you with even more joy:

Late in July, at the famous San Diego Comic Con, thirteen-year old Star Wars fan Vedant Singhania got to pilot an X-Wing – of sorts – courtesy of Massivit 3D, Magic Wheelchair, Pixologic Inc., Monster City Studios, and Dangling Carrot Creative.

Massivit 3D, “the leading provider of large format 3D printing solutions for visual communication [with the help of Singhania] unveiled the ‘world’s first’ 3D printed Poe Dameron X-Wing Fighter charity wheelchair costume.”

Singhania’s costume was the result of a vision by non-profit Magic Wheelchair, which “provides bespoke costumes to kids with wheelchairs at no cost to their families.”  Pixologic Inc. was responsible for the X-Wing’s design and modelling while Dangling Carrot Creative 3D printed the costume using a Massivit 1800 3D Printer.  As for Monster City Studios, they completed the assembly and finish.

“Utilizing the high print speeds and dual print heads of its Massivit 1800 3D Printer, Dangling Carrot Creative produced 50 individual costume pieces in just over two weeks.  The 2.44m-high and 3m-long (8’ x 10’) [starfighter] provides [Singhania] with his very own Star Wars X-Wing fighter jet, crafted by some of the original Lucasfilm prop fabricators.”  This way, the entire project was able to eliminate the need for molds or casting, which saved both time and money.

Massivit 3D’s CEO Avner Israeli explains: “this project has been an extraordinary opportunity to test the true value of our technology and to put young [Singhania] in the spotlight for the right reasons.  There’s nothing quite so wonderful as bringing joy to a child.”

Singhania said it best himself: “it’s mind-blowing.  I didn’t expect the costume to be so big and I’m thrilled it’s an X-Wing Fighter because I love Star Wars.  I was really excited during the parade.  I was so happy because all the people were taking pictures of me.  It made me feel like a celebrity.”

That’s the greatness of 3D printing.  Even if some aspects of the industry can (and often do) stray into potentially worrying territory: the joy and possibility of the industry can always remind you of why the technology can be so wonderful.

Image Courtesy of Massivit 3D

Quotes Courtesy of Popular Mechanics, NPR, and Massivit 3D

Videos Courtesy of Draw with Jazza

Share Button