As you will most likely of heard, a Mr. Cody Wilson of Austin Texas has designed, 3d printed and fired a “gun.” He has now made the design files for this project freely available on-line.
The media frenzy surrounding this event was understandably very intense, with the world being led to believe that it is now possible for anyone with access to a 3d printer to make their own weapon.
This dramatic interest and concern led to Digits2Widgets’ Design Director Jonathan Rowley being invited on to a panel by the BBC World Service’s “World Have Your Say” to discuss this development with Cody Wilson himself.
You can listen to a recording of the BBC World Service programme here:
Inevitably, since the release of this news and the gun files, we have already received requests from two UK national newspapers to print a gun for them. The journalists are clearly intelligent people and the fact that they are attempting to produce one of these objects for themselves, has revealed a gaping hole in the whole premise that anyone can produce a functioning firearm.
There is currently a proliferation of “Home 3d Printers” coming on to the market. The level of precision detail that they can achieve and the poor engineering quality of their own plastic materials would make it suicidal to attempt to print and fire the gun made from any of these machines. Therefore:
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO LOAD AND FIRE A 3D PRINTED GUN IN WHICH ANY ELEMENT HAS BEEN PRINTED ON A HOME 3D PRINTER.
Cody Wilson’s gun was printed on an industrial grade 3D printer.
Industrial grade 3D printers are currently at a price well beyond domestic access level. Therefore and as Cody states, access to parts made on this grade of machine will be via Service Bureaus
There are a multitude of types of industrial 3d printers in use, using different building methods and different materials. Cody Wilson’s gun parts were built in a specific machine (bought on Ebay), running a specific material. All that he has proved is that his designed parts when printed in this specific machine, using this specific material, can then be assembled in conjunction with a metal firing pin to form a “gun.” If this is then loaded with ammunition and fired, it goes bang.
Setting all moral issues aside, Digits2Widgets could have easily accepted these orders from the journalists and printed the gun files in any of our industrial 3D printers.
None of our industrial 3D printers are the same make and model as the one used by Cody Wilson. None of our industrial 3D printers run the same type of plastic as used by Cody Wilson. Therefore gun parts that we might print for journalists or any other misguided individuals, might look similar to Wilson’s finished gun, however the way that they would perform under firing would be totally unknown and without doubt would be extremely dangerous. Therefore:
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO LOAD AND FIRE A 3D PRINTED GUN THAT HAS BEEN PRODUCED ON ANYTHING OTHER THAN PRECISELY THE SAME 3D PRINTER MODEL AND IN PRECISELY THE SAME MATERIAL, AS THE ONE DEMONSTRATED BY CODY WILSON
Even if the precise machine and material specifications are followed, the consistency of manufacture of industrial 3D printed parts is of a different order to those of traditional manufacturing. Therefore, even if your gun is printed to precisely the same specifications as the one demonstrated by Wilson, it may still not be entirely safe.
Therefore our responsible advice to anyone who is contemplating printing, assembling a 3D printed gun is: PLEASE DON’T
Cody Wilson has a political agenda driving his project and an abstract libertarian philosophy that proposes that anyone has the right to own anything. We don’t believe that he’s especially interested in the potential proliferation of 3D printed guns, this project is just a demonstration of his theory. He may not be interested, but he also doesn’t appear to care.
As Jonathan mentions in the panel discussion, Cody had an industrial 3D printer that he was leasing confiscated by the manufacturer when they discovered the nature of his project. We were proud to hear that a large and influential corporation who has been at the heart of the development of 3D printing, instantly withdrew their machinery from any association with such things.
Jonathan categorically stated during the discussion that D2W would not touch such files. This was not said for dramatic effect and is absolutely not because we are frightened of any liability with regard to the warnings above. This is purely a position of principle, that we want nothing to do with the production of objects that have either an accidental or deliberate capacity to harm.
Jonathan also made a slightly rash statement the he knew of no other 3D printing service in the UK that would print gun files. At the time, this was based on instinct only. In the few days since the radio broadcast, he has spoken with some colleagues in the bureau business and found that his instinct was correct.
Therefore we are in the process of establishing a code of practice that states that we will not print gun files. We hope that other bureaus will be keen to sign up to the same statement in an effort to at least stem whatever urge there might be to experiment with these objects. It’s not just a question of the morality of unfettered gun ownership; with the current state of the technology it’s also about public safety.
If you would like to be kept in touch with the development of our code of practice or would be interested in signing up to it, then please comment below.
Cody Wilson’s project undoubtedly caused a big media splash last weekend. We fear that the next story will be about a child blowing their hand off while experimenting with a 3D printed gun …. or even worse. This type of accident is the immediate danger of this project and will happen long before anyone is deliberately killed by one of these tools. This may sit well with some people’s consciences, but not ours.