We’re yet another step closer to a less welcome development within 3D printing. A member of the AR15 gun forum started a thread where he posted photos of his project to create the “lower” (the one part of a firearm in ABS plastic). The AR15 member had access to an old Stratasys 3D printer from the mid-90’s. This picture shows the 3D printed lower, assembled with other parts, to create a .22 caliber pistol (and it works!).
After succeeding in the manufacturing of the lower, he went to the next level and printed the “upper” part. Along with the other manufactured parts he was now able to assemble a .223 rifle. This gun also proved to be successful.
Ofcourse he suggests that only gunsmith experts try this at home. One little mistake in production could cause the firearm to explode in your hands when you pull the trigger.
What does this mean for the future?
Given that each of these lower receivers apparently costs around $35 to manufacture (excluding the cost of electricity and the printer rental / purchase), this could lead to a very profitable industry, with big organised crime groups moving in to take over from these “hobbyists”.
Is there a solution to this problem? The easiest way to control it is to stop plans like these from being posted on public forums. But is that really a solution? Anyone who wants to circumvent these laws could go learn machining and mill their own AR receiver, and the same thing goes for learning CAD software and running a 3D printer. Does that mean that machinists classes and forums should be regulated. Certainly not. There’s nothing that anyone can nor should do. Maybe ammunition control is the only defence. Only then a big change is needed given nearly anyone can purchase ammunition online in the USA.
Feel free to share your opinion on this topic.