Skip to comments.3D printing may spell the beginning of the end for gun control
Posted on 08/06/2012 7:03:09 PM PDT by JohnPierce
The lower receiver of the gun pictured at the top of this article was not purchased from a licensed dealer, nor was it purchased from an individual.
This lower was printed using a 3D printer and it may spell the beginning of the end for the gun control movement.
3D printing is an emerging technology that has been commercially available for some time but is only now achieving inroads into the consumer market. 3D printers are in fact computer controlled material handling systems that lay down successive layers of polymer or other material based upon a computer model to make a 3D object; in this case, a lower for an AR.
Once costing tens of thousands of dollars, advanced 3D printers such as the MakerBot Replicator are available today for under $2,000 and the price is expected to keep dropping as consumer damage increases.
And thanks to engineer Michael Guslick, who printed the lower pictured above from a design of his own creation, 3D printing of functional firearms has moved beyond the realm of the possible into the actual; and things will never be the same again.
Michael first posted details of his creation on AR15.com but the story quickly spread across the internet where numerous commentators, myself included, have discussed the legal and public policy ramifications of this inevitable step forward.
One of the comments on the AR15.com thread summed up my feelings quite nicely; If we can spread this core technology to every kitchen tabletop, there will no longer be a meaningful way to restrict and infringe on the private civilian ownership of modern firearms.
Even Mark Gibbs of Forbes magazine couldnt help himself from noting that, from this day forward if guns are outlawed, outlaws will have 3D printers.
I remember spending about that amount in today’s dollars just for a minimally useable used b/w laser printer.
I’d hate to think what the polymer refills cost!
I have drawn some parts with Solidworks that were made this way. It is a very cool process, but I could make something just as functional with an antique Bridgeport.
On one of the videos I watched, they stated that the polymer refill kits are about $150 which isn’t bad at all. :)
All it needs is the capability of molding hardened steel rather than plastic, and there ya go.
But it’s printing a polymer, right? So would you use the plastic piece as a pattern to cast a final steel lower?
The prices are on the Internet. For example:
The UP! personal 3D printer from China, is designed and marketed to be an affordable and portable 3D printer for home use. It costs around $1500 for the fully assembled printer, with refill plastic costing around $50 per kg. It has a resolution of 0.3mm.
It's not dirt cheap, but it's cheap enough even if you want to make a garden gnome, let alone a firearm.
You can buy polymer lowers for $99
There are companies that will print steel, ceramic, glass, rubber and other items if you email them a SolidWorks file and money. So the lower or revolver frame or whatever does not need to be polymer.
Power To The People through 3D printing
This was beat into the ground a few weeks ago. While 3D printing (aka stereolithograpy as we called it 25 years ago when I first used it) is very cool and now very affordable, it’s a bit step from printing a lower receiver on a professional grade SLA to millions of home 3D gunsmiths. Especially since a lower does not a rifle make. And let’s not forget that skilled tradesmen have always been able to make everything, including the lower, with conventional machine tools, and always will.
Next step is an open source 3D printer
I agree. But I see this as a turning point from a public policy perspective as much as from a technology perspective.
“...the price is expected to keep dropping as consumer damage increases...”
What does that mean, “consumer damage?” Is this a new phrase for an old idea. I Googled it and got a lot of stuff about insects that consume and damage plants....
You can print with metal as well.....
I’m not an expert, but doesn’t the lower contain the components necessary for an AR15 to be converted to full-auto? Seems to me that would make for a sizable black market for just lowers.
I’d imagine that one could just as easily create an AR15 ‘lower receiver’ using a CNC machine. There isn’t much to an AR receiver. I’d imagine someone with a CNC and the right type of metal could make the things all day long. As with the rest of the parts of the rifle(except for maybe the barrels).
I’d imagine an AK47 would be even easier to make, because their tolerances are so much more relaxed.
Still a bit pricey but that will come down as everybody makes 8-shot stainless .357 cylinders with aluminum frames.
I wondered that as well. I think it’s “damage” to the price caused by the ramp-up of production you get when a line of products move into the consumer market. Like computers and printers that were 10’s of thousands of dollars in the early 80’s.
But I suppose it could be some kind of typo....
My guess is he meant “demand” ...Author probably typed this on iPad/iphone and got autocorrected. The autocorrect wouldn’t show up in spellcheck and alas, there is no “auto proofread”
But it is uniquely the lower that is the serialized part and must be purchased from an FFL (face to face sales aside.)
Full uppers with bolt carriers and barrels, handguards, pistol grips, buffers and buffer tubes, buttstocks, lower parts kits, and magazines can all be purchased online and mailed directly to your home. But you need to purchase a lower through an FFL dealer.
Not the types you or I would purchase from the local gun shop. You are correct that the components for 'full auto' go into the lower receiver, but those parts aren't in civilian versions of the rifle. I've heard of a part known as the "drop in auto sear" which is supposed to be something that one can easily 'drop' into the lower to achieve that functionality. I believe one can even locate the plans for one out on the internet(Google can help there if one is so interested). I don't know if such a thing is for real or a myth.
If we can spread this core technology to every kitchen tabletop, there will no longer be a meaningful way to restrict and infringe on the private civilian ownership of modern firearms.
Don’t test them. They will simply force the transfer of ANY gun part through an FFL dealer.
That means that I did a poor job of proof-reading my writing. :) It should have said consumer demand.
So if I mail them a couple pounds of uranium, I can have a Fatman?
Does anyone get Metallurgy, Forging, Heat Treating, Normalizing etc etc and Metal Certs? What are these magic printers gonna give me for a barrel or receiver and how am I gonna have any faith in it when it is esentially a printed casting in terms of porosity?
Freeper Engineering Geeks tell me where I am wrong here....Ditto That suspension arm on a race car or wing spar, I am not gonna trust it out of a printer..
Thanks for that! So cool!
price is expected to keep dropping as consumer damage increases.
***Interesting choice of words.
Does this mean that a person with a 3D printer can basically print out a zip gun?
According to Cronin, the 3D printer used for the work cost US$2,000, and the bathroom sealant is available at hardware stores. He and his colleagues designed the vessels and controlled the printer using free, open-source software. Cronin says that the system will allow scientists to test chemical processes in ways that might not have been economical before, such as producing just a few tablets of a particular drug.
Thin man would be easier with a printer, less need for crystal phase control.
Watch out, powdered U is pyrophoric!
> All it needs is the capability of molding hardened steel rather than plastic, and there ya go.
They already do sintered stainless steel. I’ve had parts made at work already.
True, and I don’t mean to sound like I disagree with the theme of this post, only that I think it’s a stretch to claim that it’s the end of gun-grabbing. Because all they’d have to do is make uppers illegal to close that loophole, and I wouldn’t put it past some to think of doing that.
But the bottom line is, this technology increase liberty and limits the ability of big brother to control what people do, and that’s all good.
You are right, my point was that making something on your own is nothing new and does not require ultra modern methods.
I also forgot to mention that I lost my Bridgeport in a tragic boating accident.
The coppers smashed my father's printer when I was eight. I remember the hot, cling-film-in-a-microwave smell of it, and Da's look of ferocious concentration as he filled it with fresh goop, and the warm, fresh-baked feel of the objects that came out of it. The coppers came through the door with truncheons swinging, one of them reciting the terms of the warrant through a bullhorn. One of Da's customers had shopped him.
The ipolice paid in high-grade pharmaceuticals -- performance enhancers, memory supplements, metabolic boosters. The kind of things that cost a fortune over the counter; the kind of things you could print at home, if you didn't mind the risk of having your kitchen filled with a sudden crush of big, beefy bodies, hard truncheons whistling through the air, smashing anyone and anything that got in the way.
................"Lanie, I'm going to print more printers. Lots more printers. One for everyone. That's worth going to jail for. That's worth anything."
I couldn’t have summed it up better myself. That was really the point I was trying to get across. :)
Right now, the existing tech can turn out something on a par with or a bit better tan the Liberator .45 pistol (think I have the name right) that was airdropped behind Nazi lines.
In a few years a tough receiver will be possible. Barrels, I think, will be heat-treated steel for the foreseeable future, possibly machines out of car parts. Metal-lined ceramic barrels are a possibility.
Sorry to hear about your Bridgeport. :) That seems to be a common hazard. Lol
Good enough. Wasn’t trying to be snotty, you just threw me for a loop :-)
>>Does this mean that a person with a 3D printer can basically print out a zip gun?
An open bolt design like an Uzi is pretty easy to make - the barrel would be the toughest part. 3D printing would make it easier yet.
It won’t work.
OK, let’s say that they do this. This means that the amount of data required to be entered into the FFL’s book to transfer a rifle will explode upwards... with no benefit to anyone, least of all the BATF.
Further, the issue here is that anyone can make a lower with a 3D printer. Well, anyone can (and do) make lowers right now from castings. All you really need is a good drill press and some skill with a hand file. There are places you can get raw forgings or castings of a lower (or upper) for $30. Because these castings or forgings have no features necessary to the function of a gun (yet), they’re not serialized or controlled by the BATF.
You can then get a fixture to hold them in a vise on the drill press or mill and commence to removing the aluminum you don’t need.
They were available through the mail until the early 80’s. Then BATF said they were machine guns and required a 200 tax on them.
But one still had to have a lower that was machine for full auto. The early Colts had the same receiver as the m-16.
Receivers now days are made not to take the full auto parts and take machining to make them full auto.
Somebody needs to come up with a modern day Liberty gun design, a design using all of the above equipment to build basically a modern day Liberty gun, capable of firing either single or double shot such as a derringer.
I have no idea what that is, but I just finished watching an older episode of American Guns. What a great show! They built a .45 Long Colt SAA out of a steel ingot, so I guess they could do a Liberty gun for you, might cost $10-$15,000 though!
I can build a zip gun out of anything, the meaning behind my post was that anyone with this type of a printer can make a Liberty gun, and that includes the barrel.
With a disposable untraceable gun its posible to use that to move on up gathering weapons from the enemy.
Its a WW2 gun air dropped to the French Resistance. many made by Guide Lamp USA.
Now you have a idea and the simple prototype will usually cost you between 5 and 10 thousand to make and you end up with a 1000 part run. And you have to have a prototype to pitch your idea.
With this you just rent time on one of these printers and pop out the one you need. If there is a oppsee just refine the design and reprint.
Thanks for the info. Not sure why anyone would want a full auto AR15 anyway. Folks would just burn through their ammo, probably not hit what they are shooting at, and end up with near red hot barrels. IMO, the three round burst is what really rocks!
In all honesty should America be at war in any fashion I would look at what the Afghanistan rebels did and what weapons they used successfully against the Russians.
First off the simple RPG comes to mind, granted it requires specific materials but push comes to shove a red neck version could be designed.
And the their is the strategy of using dummies with a thermal heat source and fake guns to lead in an opposing force into a kill zone comes to mind.
Endless possibilities to use in a strategic fashion.
The 'Good Old Days' when Shotgun News was really really fun....;)