In late October, Manchester was in the news because 3D printed gun parts were found in the northern UK city. Now, four months later, researchers at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) claim to have created a prototype of a scanner, which is able to detect plastic 3D printed guns, bombs and knifes on people. It could be used at security gates in order to improve security.
The machine, which is a big, black machine – uses radar waves and complex computer programs and it results in the ability to accurately and rapidly scan large groups of people. This technique could also be very useful at crowded areas such as shopping malls and football stadiums. If a thread is detected, authorities can be alarmed directly. The in-built computer enables the machine to work at a distance of 25 meters.
The machine uses artificial intelligence (AI) and analyses radio waves in real time. Whenever a thread will be detected, the machine will send the information to a computer, which looks at the pattern of the information and checks whether there is a possibility of someone carrying a weapon or bomb. The guards can then see on the display where the suspected area is.
Although the system uses a giant machine, there is also the possibility for security people to use the system in the street, using a handheld mobile system. Just like the bigger scanner, this is a portable and battery powered system, which detects a thread from distances up to 25 meters away. Because the power that is used is thousands of times lower than a mobile phone the scanner is completely harmless, say the researchers. At the same time, privacy is not violated because the scanner will not produce images of the people, but it only uses analyzed radar signals.
If this technique works as good as the researchers from Manchester say, it could be of a great value to the world’s security system. Given the fact that 3D printed guns could potentially be very dangerous at checkpoints and gates as they aren’t scannable, the new technique could help the world out.
The hysteria among 3D printed guns started last year’s May, when Cody Wilson created his first-ever 3D printed plastic gun. In November, the first 3D printed metallic gun followed, which was designed by Solid Concepts. As it’s hard for detection ports to detect plastics, the plastic gun in particular has become an international point of discussion.
In the US, the gun has led to legal problems with the Undetectable Firearms Act. The act was extended during last year’s December, but the law has not been sufficient yet. Since it was an 1988 act, 3D printing developments weren’t in the minds of the makers. The law therefore does not require 3D printed guns to have permanent metal inserts in order to prevent them from passing a metal detector. 3D printed guns, such as the popular Liberator, often include a metal block to make sure it can’t pass through such detectors. However, such a metallic part is easily removable and some American lawmakers believe this could lead to dangerous situations.
Philadelphia and the UK have set a new standard towards 3D printed guns. In the US city as well as Great Britain it is now completely illegal to 3D print any kind of a gun. While the US still has some gaps in its law, Great Britain entirely forbids any kind of printed gun. Violators of this law could end up being held in prison for up to 10 years. Even though the 1968 Firearms Act already banned weapons in the UK made by printing their components, such as the Liberator, this 2013 update has been a groundbreaking renewal of the UK’s law. The law was sharpened after many experts had expressed their concerns about 3D printed guns, especially the plastic versions of the guns.