Most 3D printed guns, to this point, have been little more than proof of the concept; they have this annoying tendency to melt and/or explode while firing rounds. But the first gun printed in metal has shown a bit more endurance. So everyone should freak out, right? Not so much.
The Gun Itself
The gun was created not by a Second Amendment fan or by somebody looking to start massive arguments on Facebook, but by high-end 3D printing company Solid Concepts. Solid Concepts wanted to demonstrate the power of 3D printing, especially when it comes to the frontier of printing metal parts in three dimensions. To give you an idea of the difference in quality here, this is a genuine, fully-functioning firearm like those you can buy at a gun shop. Most of the plastic guns you see are essentially something you can make in a hardware store for a lot cheaper.
Why You Shouldn’t Be Worried
Plastic 3D printers are widely available; in fact, they may be getting a lot cheaper in the near future. Metal 3D printers are not; these are mostly designed for heavy industrial use, such as printing out better parts for modern airplanes. Solid Concepts also used a technique called “laser sintering”, which is essentially using a laser to fuse molecules into the shape you want. As you might guess, that’s not really available to the general public either; in fact, it’s decades away.
So Why Do It?
To make a gun that can consistently deal with the stresses of firing is no mean feat; essentially, a gun is a device designed to contain and direct the force of a small explosion. So for Solid Concepts, engineering this and having it work is a feather in their cap and a chance to draw the attention of big-name defense companies and others who may see value in 3D printing. But in terms of this being something you can actually do, that’s a long, long way away.
Dan Seitz is an obsessive nerd living in New England. He lives in the Boston area with a fiancee, a dog, a cat, and far too many objects with processors.