Do 3D Printers Make Prohibitions Impossible?


3D printed firearm

The Web thingies are buzzing with news that a 3D printer — sort of a first-generation Star Trek replicator — was used to make a gun that actually goes bang when you pull the trigger. Aside from the sheer cool factor, the development makes it clear that a wide range of bans, restrictions and prohibitions are becoming increasingly unenforcable.

From ExtremeTech:

An American gunsmith has become the first person to construct and shoot a pistol partly made out of plastic, 3D-printed parts. The creator, user HaveBlue from the AR-15 forum, has reportedly fired 200 rounds with his part-plastic pistol without any sign of wear and tear.

HaveBlue's custom creation is a .22-caliber pistol, formed from a 3D-printed AR-15 (M16) lower receiver, and a normal, commercial upper. In other words, the main body of the gun is plastic, while the chamber — where the bullets are actually struck — is solid metal.

The lower receiver was created using a fairly old school Stratasys 3D printer, using a normal plastic resin. HaveBlue estimates that it cost around $30 of resin to create the lower receiver, but "Makerbots and the other low cost printers exploding onto the market would bring the cost down to perhaps $10." Commercial, off-the-shelf assault rifle lower receivers are a lot more expensive. …

HaveBlue apparently tried, unsuccessfully, to make a more powerful receiver chambered in .223, but it didn't work. "Funnily enough, he thinks the off-the-shelf parts are causing issues, rather than the 3D-printed part."

HaveBlue's schematic, which he used on what's considered a relatively low-tech StrataSys 3D printer in these fast-moving times, are available at Thingiverse.

Scientists at the University of Glasgow have used a relatively low-cost system to synthesize chemical compounds, with the intention of developing the means to create custom drugs. That may well mean the end of the orphan drug problem around the word, and very real price drops on pharmaceuticals. From the BBC:

Researchers have used a £1,250 system to create a range of organic compounds and inorganic clusters—some of which are used to create cancer treatments. Longer term, the scientists say the process could be used to make customised medicines.

They predict the technique will be used by pharmaceutical firms within five years, and by the public within 20.

"We are showing that you can take chemical constituents, pass them through a printer and create what is effectively a chemical synthesiser in which the reaction occurs allowing you to get out something different at the end," researcher Mark Symes told the BBC.

"We're extrapolating from that to say that in the future you could buy common chemicals, slot them into something that 3D prints, just press a button to mix the ingredients and filter them through the architecture and at the bottom you would get out your prescription drug."

It also holds out potential for evading yet another class of legal prohibitions on recreational drugs.

Think of it — a world of plenty, with easy localized manufacture of almost anything you might need. It's a world in which "that should be illegal" becomes a punch line.

The next time your control freak friends start in on their latest litany of should-be-banneds, tell them that their arguments are now irrelevant. Tell them why. And savor their sweet tears of despair.