3D Printing a Better Future

3D printers are moving towards a world where goods can be readily manufactured at home instead of relying on centralized supply chains. A lot of people in the first world don’t understand the ramifications of this technology but in the third world the advantages of 3D printers are becoming quite obvious:

A growing number of people are bringing the maker spirit to off-the-grid and underdeveloped regions across the globe. It’s part of an effort to create technologically self-sufficient communities, while bringing a little economic uplift in the process.

Nonprofit organizations like Field Ready and for-profit businesses such as re3D have already brought 3D printers to underdeveloped economies. In Haiti, Field Ready’s Eric James and Dara Dotz are working on 3D printing on-demand birthing kits, including umbilical clamps. As Dotz told me, Field Ready is also encouraging small scale manufacturing of agricultural tools via 3D printing.

“We’re working on printing simple things like oxygen splitters for oxygen tanks, which link the tank to the patient,” Dotz said. “Small clinics just can’t get [these] medical products and equipment, which bigger hospitals can buy in bulk at a discount. You can also wait six months to three years to get your equipment, and then there can be a lot of corruption with that as well.”

3D printers have two advantages that I really cherish. First they decentralize manufacturing, which makes controlling can and can’t be manufactured difficult for the state. Second they allow people to store raw resources and use them to make needed tools when (or near when) they’re needed. Keeping a stock of every tool you may need is generally more difficult than keeping stock of spools of plastic wire.

The first world probably won’t see these advantages in action for some time but the third world, as is often the case, is seeing the effects of innovation in the present.

Not a Better 3D Printed Gun But a Better Bullet

The thing I like most about the 3D printed firearms community is their creativity. Developing a firearm that functions at all out of plastic is no small task. Developing one that can be fired multiple times without exploding is downright impressive. But a firearm that can only be fired a few times safely is still of limited use. Fortunately somebody is looking at improving 3D printed firearms by redesigning the ammunition instead of the gun:

Michael Crumling, a 25-year-old machinist from York, Pennsylvania, has developed a round designed specifically to be fired from 3-D printed guns. His ammunition uses a thicker steel shell with a lead bullet inserted an inch inside, deep enough that the shell can contain the explosion of the round’s gunpowder instead of transferring that force to the plastic body or barrel of the gun. Crumling says that allows a home-printed firearm made from even the cheapest materials to be fired again and again without cracking or deformation. And while his design isn’t easily replicated because the rounds must be individually machined for now, it may represent another step towards durable, practical, printed guns—even semi-automatic ones.

While it’s not a perfect solution it is promising. If the reloading community invested in this I’m sure it wouldn’t be long before somebody would begin mass producing the necessary steel shells. Another option may be to find an already actively produced steel sleeve that is close the to correct size and develop 3D printed barrels and bullets around that.

I’m Sure They’ll Listen to Reason

A little under one year ago Solid Concepts brought us a 3D printed 1911. What made Solid Concept’s 3D printed handgun different from previous 3D printed handguns was that it was made of metal instead of plastic. The 3D printed 1911 fired 5,000 shots without a problem and was retired. Now Solid Concepts is upping the ante with a 3D printed 10mm handgun that they’re calling Reason:

Here we are, almost one year later, and Eric Mutchler, Project Engineer at Solid Concepts, who was the developer of the first 1911 pistol, has produced a new 1911, this time a bit fancier. Although the gun likely will not appeal to everyone, the detail and lettering on the firearm show just how incredibly accurate the direct metal laser sintering machine used to create it must have been. Using a high powered laser to directly melt metal powder, layer-by-layer, this weapon was produced.

The gun, with the word ‘Reason” printed onto its barrel, is chambered in 10mm auto. This new firearm is much more stylish than its predecessor, with a wave-like design printed into the grip, and a gradient of parallel lines throughout the barrel. What will make this 1911 pistol stand out the most, however, is the preamble of the Declaration of Independence printed onto the front of the grip, making a statement obvious to anyone who sees the weapon.

Although this is a far cry from the Reason weapon system from Snow Crash it’s still a pretty sweet technology demonstration. Combine this design, which looks very functional, with the fact that 3D printers capable of working with metal are going to become cheaper you can see how gun control will soon be as irrelevant as laws against pirating music, movies, and e-books.

We are entering the era where technology makes the state’s authority meaningless. When individuals are capable of manufacturing regulated goods in their home regulations have no teeth.

If You’re Doing Something Illegal Don’t Brag About It

I feel that this is something that shouldn’t need to be said but if you’re doing something illegal don’t go around bragging about it. Bragging is how people get caught:

YOKOHAMA – A 27-year-old man who allegedly made handguns with a 3-D printer was arrested Thursday on suspicion of illegal weapons possession, the first time Japan’s firearms control law has been applied to the possession of guns made by this method.

The suspect, Yoshitomo Imura, an employee of Shonan Institute of Technology in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, had the plastic guns at his home in Kawasaki in mid-April, the police said. No bullets have been found.

The police launched an investigation earlier this year after Imura posted video footage online of the guns, which he claimed to have produced himself, along with blueprints for them, according to investigative sources.

Emphasis mine. I completely support what Imura did. He lives in a country with very strict gun control laws. By manufacturing firearms he was able to bypass those laws and demonstrate how ineffective gun control laws really are. But he also screwed up by posting video of is escapades in a manner that didn’t preserve his anonymity.

If you’re going to break the law, something that I believe is moral so long as you’re not hurting anybody, either keep your mouth shut or brag about your caper anonymously (the latter being more risky than the former mind you). The desire to received credit is the biggest downfall of law breakers. Breaking the law is an act that will enter you into a conflict with the state. When you’re involved in a conflict, whether it be physical or just verbal, the first thing you should do is put your ego aside.

Test Firing of Liberator in Japan

I that 3D printable firearms will destroy gun control. Once individuals are able to easily manufacture firearms from their homes it will be impossible for any government to restrict ownership. But beliefs and demonstrations are two different things. Today I have a demonstration of 3D printable firearms apparently skirting gun control laws. Japan isn’t know for being a weapon friendly island. Throughout Japanese history rulers have disarmed segments of the population. Disarming people took the form of sword hunts, which eventually concluded in the disarmament of the samurai in 1876. Today acquiring a firearm in Japan is extremely difficult [PDF]. Even possessing parts of a handgun can get you into legal trouble. So seeing a Liberator pistol being fired in Japan is pretty exciting:

My understanding of Japanese weapons laws leads me to believe that the video is showing an illegal act but I’m not entirely sure as the demonstrator was willing to show his face. Either way I think this thoroughly demonstrates the viability of producing 3D printable firearms in localities with strict gun control laws. Gun control advocates will be quick to point out that 3D printable firearms aren’t yet viable, which is true today. Tomorrow will be a different story. 3D printer technology is advancing rapidly and we will see affordable printers capable of manufacturing reliable firearms in the near future. After we reach that technological achievement gun control laws will be unenforceable and thus gun control will be dead.

Poll Reveals 60 Percent of Americans Want Unicorns

Reason did a poll asking Americans whether or not they should be allowed to manufacture firearms on 3D printers:

3D printers can create a variety of items from plastic, including working guns. However, the new Reason-Rupe poll finds six in 10 Americans say Americans should not be allowed to print 3D guns. Thirty percent of Americans believe people should be allowed to print 3D guns at home.

Majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents agree that printing 3D guns should be prohibited. However, Democrats are more unified in their opposition with 67 percent who favor prohibiting 3D printed guns compared to 52 percent of non-partisan independents and 55 percent of Republicans. Twenty-five percent of Democrats and a third of non-partisan independents and Republicans think people should be allowed to print their own functioning 3D guns.

One cannot stop the march of advancing technology, which renders the opinions of those 60 percent irrelevant. The beauty of 3D printers is that they are devices that can be kept entirely within a home. There is no need for a separate shop that could raise the suspicion of local law enforcement. That makes enforce any laws that prohibit manufacturing a good on a 3D printer impossible to enforce. By favoring laws against manufacturing firearms on 3D printers the respondents might as well have asked for unicorns.

I’m a strong advocate of 3D printers because they enable individuals to manufacture goods from easily copied rendering files. Just as the Internet rendered censorship irrelevant 3D printers will render regulations against physical objects irrelevant.

Affordable 3D Printers Capable of Working with Metal on the Horizon

The march of technology cannot be stopped. When Solid Concepts unveiled their metal 3D printed guns people on both sides of the aisle agreed that the technology to print those firearms was cost prohibitive. As it turns out technology marches very quickly and we’re on the horizon of affordable 3D printers capable of working with metals:

So far affordable 3D printing has been more about using polymers. Yet we all know that the ‘real thing’ must be made of metal. But the price of 3D metal printers has been the major stumbling block towards making the use of this truly 21st century technology an everyday routine. That is why only wealthy scientific organizations, such as NASA, or the military can afford metal 3D printers that cost well over $500,000.

Now Professor Joshua Pearce and his team of 3D apostles from Michigan Technological University are proclaiming the era of Open Access 3D Printing, having published their “A Low-Cost, Open-Source Metal 3-D Printer,” article in the journal, IEEE Access. Practically anyone who is interested is now free to print objects and make a 3D metal printer of their own.

The team admits that this is only a beginning. The printer is quite basic, but it does print complex geometric objects, putting down thin layers of steel with its kit worth $1,500. The most important components are a small commercial MIG welder and an open-source microcontroller.

At this rate we’ll probably see a firearm printed with metal on an affordable 3D printer sometime next year. After that we can put the entire gun control debate to bed. Controlling easily reproducible goods is possible no matter how large or powerful the state is.

Philadelphia Attempting to Ban the Impossible

You have to hand it to politicians, they always try to accomplish the impossible. Shall Not Be Questioned has a post discussing Philadelphia’s status as the first state to ban 3D printed firearms:

Today, the Philadelphia City Council voted unanimously to ban the manufacturing of guns by 3-D printers, making Philly the first city to do so. Which is interesting, because the author of the bill, Kenyatta Johnson, isn’t aware of of any local gun-printing 3-D printers. ”It’s all pre-emptive,” says Johnson’s director of legislation Steve Cobb. “It’s just based upon internet stuff out there.”

As I discussed last year, decentralized manufacturing of firearms is impossible for the state to shut down. The only way Philadelphia could begin to enforce this law is if police officers made daily searches of every building within city limits. Even then very clever people could find ways of hiding their setup.

Banning 3D printed firearms is the last gasp of desperate control freaks. In the hopes of maintaining some semblance of control they pass their ineffective laws. These laws only serve those of us who oppose those in power. When these laws are passed and continuously violated we can point it out and demonstrate that, in effect, the emperor wears no clothes.

3D Printed Firearms and the Undetectable Firearms Act

Talk about a panty wadding combination of events. Firearms that can be printed on 3D printers are becoming more advanced and the Undetectable Firearms Act is set to expire on December 9th of this year. That can only mean one thing. Chuck Schumer is going to step up to the plate and attempt to perform the impossible act of prohibiting the advancement of technology:

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — As the technology to print 3-D firearms advances, a federal law that banned the undetectable guns is about to expire.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer says he’s seeking an extension of the law before it expires Dec. 9.

He said the technology of so-called 3-D printing has advanced to the point anyone with $1,000 and an Internet connection can access the plastic parts that can be fitted into a gun. Those firearms can’t be detected by metal detectors or X-ray machines.

I don’t think Schumer realizes how incredibly stupid he sounds at the moment. He states, truthfully, that firearms that are undetectable by metal detectors and X-ray machines can be created on 3D printers. Then he claims that the Undetectable Firearms Act must be renewed to prevent these firearms from becoming available. Of course the law hasn’t expired yet and the plastic firearms are already being created. In other words, the Undetectable Firearms Act is pointless. People are already creating firearms that cannot be detected by metal detectors or X-ray machines even though the law hasn’t expired yet. Renewing the law is a moot point.

To borrow a famous Taoist saying, no one rules if no one obeys. The advancement of technology is leaving the old hierarchy in the dust. We are outpacing their ability to control us. While people like Schumer are arguing for a need to extend the Undetectable Firearms Act people are already creating firearms that violate that act. To make matters better, the people creating the blueprints for these unlawful firearms can remain anonymous. Creating one of these firearms carries little risk since it can be done by a single individual from the comfort of his or her own home. Without a target to attack the state cannot enforce its decrees. Since the threat of state violence is beginning to become less of an issue fewer people are seeing a need to obey, which means the state’s power is slowly crumbling.

Second 3D Printed Metal Gun Unveiled

Solid Concepts, the company that brought us the first 3D printed firearm made out of metal, have unveiled their second 3D printed metal gun:

Solid Concepts announces the successful creation of the world’s second 3D printed metal gun. Our second iteration is composed entirely of Inconel 625, a material that is stronger than Stainless Steel (and a bit heavier) save for the springs which were not 3D Printed. The gun is once again composed of thirty-four 3D Printed components. Our second gun will be stress relieved and post processing will be by hand once again.

Inconel 625 is a harder, stronger alloy than 17-4 Stainless Steel. We modified the geometry for this second iteration to incorporate different tolerances in order to make hand finishing sufficiently easier. With our first prototype, we had to hand sand to perfect a few tolerances, but our tweaks to the design should remove the need for such sanding. Our first gun is now up to 700+ rounds.

Once again I feel that it’s necessary to stress two facts. First, 3D printers capable of working with metal are extremely expensive. Second, as the technology of printing with metals advances it will also become cheaper. It is only a matter of time until 3D printers capable of working with metals become affordable to small groups of individuals. Gun control, never an attainable goal anyways, is now all be entirely dead. Once small groups of people can afford 3D printers capable of working with metals gun control will be entirely dead.

As the technology of 3D printers advance gun control advocates will almost certainly resort to attempted censorship. But that battle is already lost. The Internet was designed as a mechanism to share information. It’s very good at that task. What it isn’t good at is restricting the flow of information. Any attempt to censor information on the Internet is a lost cause from the word go. In other words, gun control cannot succeed because in this day and age the only tool in its arsenal, controlling access to firearms, is a pipe dream.