The Beginning of the End for Pharmaceutical Monopolies

My love of 3D printer technology expands far beyond the firearms field. Being able to build complex things in the comfort of our own homes stands to upset the balance of power in many markets. One of the most valuable aspects of 3D printers is their ability to put an end to many monopolistic practices. If you’re able to download designs for an item and print it in your own home then patents become irrelevant, which is why this story about 3D printers capable of making drugs interests me:

He shows me the printer, a nondescript version of the £1,200 3D printer used in the Fab@Home project, which aims to bring self-fabrication to the masses. After a bit of trial and error, Cronin’s team discovered that it could use a bathroom sealant as a material to print reaction chambers of precisely specified dimensions, connected with tubes of different lengths and diameters. After the bespoke miniature lab had set hard, the printer could then inject the system reactants, or “chemical inks”, to create sequenced reactions.

The “inks” would be simple reagents, from which more complex molecules are formed. “If I was being facetious I would say that to find your inks you would go to the periodic table: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and so on,” Cronin says, “but obviously you can’t handle all those substances very well, so it would have to be a bit more complex than that. If you were looking to make a sugar, for example, you would start with your set of base sugars and mix them together. When we make complex molecules in the traditional way with test tubes and flasks, we start with a smaller number of simpler molecules.” As he points out, nearly all drugs are made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, as well as readily available agents such as vegetable oils and paraffin. “With a printer it should be possible that with a relatively small number of inks you can make any organic molecule,” he says.

The real beauty of Cronin’s prototype system, however, is that it allows the printer not only to control the sequences and exact calibration of inks, but also to shape, from a tested blueprint, the environment in which those reactions take place. The scale and architecture of the miniature printed “lab” could be pre-programmed into software and downloaded for use with a standard set of inks. In this way, not only the combinations of reactants but also the ratios and speed at which they combine could be ingrained into the system, simply by changing the size of reaction chambers and their relation with one another; Cronin calls this “reactionware” or, because it depends on a conceptualised sequence of flow and reorientation in a 3D space, “Rubik’s Cube chemistry”.

Large pharmaceutical companies enjoy an advantage in the medical field. They can patent chemical compounds and effectively enjoy a monopoly on producing that compound for two decades. During that two decade period the consequences of monopolies afflict everybody who wants or needs that drug. Namely the pharmaceutical company enjoys the ability to jack the price up to whatever it desires since no competition is allowed to enter the market until the patent expires. 3D printers capable of producing drugs could overcome this issue. Suddenly people capable of reverse engineering the drug (say, by looking up the patent and going from there) could post blueprints online for all to download.

Another potential for these printers is the ability to drastically lower the cost of developing new drugs. Individuals with the proper background could develop new drugs on their person computers and perform tests by printing the new drugs. The overall costs would likely drop considerably, which would almost certainly cause a major leap in innovation.

3D Printed Metal Gun

Once again zerg539 was kind enough to forward some excellent information to me. Most of are aware of efforts to produce firearms using 3D printers. The biggest limitation so far has been materials. Plastic isn’t the best material to build an entire firearm out of. Nobody has reported printing a firearm with one of those fancy, and every expensive, metal printers until today:

Austin, TX – Solid Concepts, one of the world leaders in 3D Printing services, has manufactured the world’s first 3D Printed Metal Gun using a laser sintering process and powdered metals. The gun, a 1911 classic design, functions beautifully and has already handled 50 rounds of successful firing. It is composed of 33 17-4 Stainless Steel and Inconel 625 components, and decked with a Selective Laser Sintered (SLS) carbon-fiber filled nylon hand grip. The successful production and functionality of the 1911 3D Printed metal gun proves the viability of 3D Printing for commercial applications.

And it works quite well:

As you can guess, some people are unhappy about this. I think advocates of gun control realize their movement’s days are numbered. 3D printers are only going to become more affordable and widespread. It’s possible, and I would argue likely, that a majority of homes in this country (and others) will eventually have some kind of fabrication unit. These fabrication units will start off as simple 3D printers capable of working with plastics but will eventually become sophisticated units capable of working with various materials, including metals. Once that happens the entire concept of gun control will be dead. Just as the Internet has effectively killed censorship, 3D printers will eventually kill prohibitions of physical objects. Heck, as the prices of 3D printers capable of working with metals come down they will eventually reach a point where a handful of individuals will be able to pool their resources and buy them.

Decentralized systems are notoriously hard to shutdown, which is why I advocate setting up decentralized firearm manufacturing groups. Having the ability to manufacture firearms outside of the state’s control would do a lot to tip the balance of power from the state back to the people.

The War on 3D Printers Has Begun

The United Kingdom has begun its war on 3D printers. Police in Manchester reported seizing parts for a 3D printable firearm:

British police have seized a 3D printer and components “suspected to be a 3D plastic magazine and trigger.” Police made what they’re calling a “milestone” discovery when executing a number of warrants in the Manchester suburb of Baguley late last night. The Greater Manchester Police Department says it’s the first seizure of this kind in the UK, where personal firearms are illegal without a hard-to-obtain permit. The parts have been sent for forensic analysis to establish if they could be used to construct a genuine firearm, and a man has been arrested “on suspicion of making gunpowder.”

In a prepared statement, Detective Inspector Chris Mossop called the discovery “really significant.” Mossop says that, if the components are genuine, “then it demonstrates that organized crime groups are acquiring technology that can be bought on the high street to produce the next generation of weapons.” He goes on to note that, as the components are plastic, they are easy to conceal and smuggle past current detection methods. “A lot more work needs to be done to understand the technology and the scale of the problem.”

I was fortune enough to attend a Sky Talk about the Liberator, the famous 3D printable handgun. The first thing anybody interested in 3D printable firearms should know is that the current technology is in the very early prototype stages. Plastic, as it turns out, isn’t the most sturdy material and firearms, being little more than controlled explosions inside of pipes, require a fairly sturdy material. Even if the Manchester police captured parts for a 3D printable firearm the bust wouldn’t have been significant. But they didn’t seize parts for a 3D printable firearm, which brings us to another issue police departments trying to enforce gun control laws are going to run into:

In what could turn out to be a major embarrassment for the Greater Manchester Police Department, the “3D-printed gun parts” could well be spare parts for a printer. Verge user Theobald02 points out that the parts look like upgrades to the Replicator 2 (the printer pictured above, which was also seized by the police). The “trigger” is part of an extruder, while the “magazine” is a holder for non-Makerbot filament spools.

3D printers allow for the rapid creation of new parts. This makes enforcing laws against manufacturing impossible to enforce. Police departments may seize 3D printed parts but will have no way to know exactly what those parts are meant for. Laws against thought are impossible to enforce and 3D printers are devices that effectively allow one to translate his or her thoughts into physical objects.

Make no mistake, the state is going to do its damnedest to crush 3D printers. The technology’s potential is too disruptive. If 3D printers became widely available they could destroy centralized manufacturing. Most centralized manufacturers are joined at the hip with the state. Those manufacturers provide the state whatever it needs and the state will protect those manufacturers from possible competition. This raid by the Manchester police is only the beginning. Thankfully, in the end, the state will lose. Suppressing a technology has never worked in the long run and it’s not going to work this time.

3D Printing with Metal

In the pursuit of manufacturing everything with 3D printers, a material limitation has continuously been encountered. Unless you’re willing to purchase a very expensive machines. Research is beginning to take off in this area though, which means more affordable 3D printers capable of working with metals are on the horizon. One organization that is beginning to look into 3D printing with metals is the European Space Agency (ESA):

The European Space Agency has unveiled plans to “take 3D printing into the metal age” by building parts for jets, spacecraft and fusion projects.

The Amaze project brings together 28 institutions to develop new metal components which are lighter, stronger and cheaper than conventional parts.

What’s interesting about the ESA’s pursuit is that it intends to manufacture parts capable of surviving high stress environments such as jet engines. One of the limitations of 3D printing with metal currently is the fact that printed metal parts tend to be weaker than mental parts created through other manufacturing techniques. If the ESA can create printed metal parts that are nearly as strong as metal parts created through other means we could be on the verge of something wonderful.

Obviously my interest is partially focused on firearms technology. I would love to live in a world where any state law against firearm ownership could be bypassed by the press of a button on a 3D printer. We’re at the early stages of such a world but the material limitations of current consumer 3D printers is providing some difficulties. Once that limitation is overcome we can print reliable firearms without the state having any knowledge.

Semiautomatic 3D Printed Handgun

I guess my prediction came true. The year hasn’t even closed yet and we now have designs for a semiautomatic 3D printed handgun. As with most 3D printed firearms so far it’s an ugly thing but one that uses several easily acquired firearm components:

***UPDATE: Files available on and Fosscad Twitter!***
I have designed a .22 LR Semiautomatic firearm. Unlike former designs such as the Shuty, this design uses almost all plastic parts (All non-plastic parts currently except the FCG cannot physically be plastic or a semiautomatic will not function) and uses weights to bring the bolt to a correct weight. You will need the following parts:
*3D Printer with ABS capability
*AR-15 FCG
*AR-15 Buffer Spring
*Ruger 10/22 Mag Spring
*AR-15 Firing Pin
*1x8mm metal insert (Case extraction)
*.44 bullets to weigh down bolt (More info in the .readme)

It’s very interesting to see how quickly 3D printed firearms are advancing. The rate of advancement really shows how powerful cooperation between a group of people from around the world can be. Thanks to 3D printer technology we are beginning to see a world where prohibitions on physical goods are infeasible. I believe it’s also important to note that these prohibitions aren’t being killed by political activism but by direct action. People from around the world who believe in freedom of information created designs for physical objects that can be replicated by anybody with a 3D printer, which are becoming cheaper and more capable every day.

3D Printed Pepperbox Handgun

3D printed guns are all the rage today. Those of us who believe in the free flow of information, advancing technology is beneficial, and gun rights are cheering the continuous advancement of these infinitely replicable pistols. The other side of the table, the Luddites who believe modern technology must be wiped from the face of the planet, are being hysterical. I’m happy to say that my side is winning. What’s interesting is that the advancement of 3D printed handguns is starting to take a similar path as the original advancement of handguns. The currently limitation, besides the ones caused by the nature of the materials being used, has been an inability for 3D printed firearms to fire more than one round at a time. That problem has been solved with the introduction of a 3D printed pepperbox handgun:

Consider, for example, the Hexen pepperbox, which has stainless steel liners for its six barrels and is undergoing constant strengthening and improvement as discussed over in the DefCad forum. The video below shows the Hexen successfully fired (actually, it appears to be a related five-shot model), using 6mm Flobert (low-powered .22) ammunition.

The designer, Franco, even printed ammunition holders for the pepperbox, along with a tool for ejecting expended cases (both pictured above).

At this rate I’m beginning to think we’ll see functional 3D printed semi-automatic pistols later this year or early next year. Reality isn’t kind to those who try to suppress the advancement of technology. Every law put into place to stop people from acquiring guns will be rendered meaningless once 3D printers become more widespread and 3D printable firearms become reliable. Technology has a way of overcoming state barriers. Anybody who thinks they can use the state to stop technology is a deluded fool.