3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is an extremely interesting processing. Compared to the traditional machining techniques like drilling and cutting, 3D printing will blow your mind. I personally feel like the “3D printing” label can be particularly misleading, but since the technology actually creates 3-dimensional solid objects from digital models it does seem to fit what we have grown accustomed to call ‘printing.’
The 3D printer functions similarly to your inkjet printer at home: it lays down layers of “ink” (which may be liquid, powder, polymer) in order to build up the model incrementally, from very small cross-sections. There is a possibility that you are already completely mind-blown by the technological capacity of 3D printing without even mentioning any potential uses for the technology. Recent efforts have been made by Cody Wilson, a University of Texas Law student, to design, test, and publicly available the blueprints of a fully functional 3D-printed firearm.
The Federal government has been tough on guns for quite some time (i.e. Undetectable Gun Act of 1988, Brady Act). While difficult and requiring some skill and/or knowledge, it has been legal to manufacture guns for personal use. However, if 3D printers (which are beginning to drastically fall in price – as inexpensive as $500) are capable of ‘printing’ a fully functional firearm, does that change the perspective and direction of federal gun control initiatives?
In reality 3D printers provide one more possible way for felons, teenagers, or others to access deadly firearms. What is the best way for the legislature to prepare for the unintended use of powerful technology?