3D printed gun could explode in your hand, warns expert

A 3D printing expert warns that anyone printing their own gun could kill themselves instead.

3D printed guns can kill -- and not just the people you're aiming at. A 3D printing expert warns that anyone following instructions to make their own firearm could kill themselves instead.

3D printing, which piles up layers of plastic to create specific shapes and objects, was used by a group called Defense Distributed this week to make and fire a 'wiki weapon' in Texas -- before releasing the instructions onto the Internet.

But anyone attempting to follow suit could do themselves some serious damage, as the gun could explode in their hand. That kind of accident will "happen long before anyone is deliberately killed by one of these tools," says a British 3D printing expert.

"Do not attempt to load and fire a 3D printed gun in which any element has been printed on a home 3D printer", warns Digits2Widgets boss Jonathan Rowley. "Please don't," he adds. In capitals. In big red letters.

Rowley highlights the fact that the first working 3D printed gun was made using an industrial printer, giving it a level of precision a home printer can't match.

And even if you do have a spare industrial printer kicking around, there's another good reason not to follow Wilson's plans: they work on his specific machine using specific material and may not be safe if assembled using a different machine.

Not to mention the fact that no-one knows if 3D printing materials can withstand the heat and pressure created in the barrel of a firearm when fired. Only around a third of the energy generated by a gunshot fires the bullet, while roughly a third is transferred to the barrel as heat: over 200 degrees centigrade of heat. There's a good reason guns are made from metal.

Firearms experts estimate a plastic gun could fire 10 to 20 shots before simply falling apart.

Digits2Widgets has refused requests from newspapers to follow the plans and build a 3D-printed gun, with other industrial 3D printing companies doing the same. Industrial 3D printers are now planning a code of conduct to refuse requests to fabricate such harmful objects.

Whatever your stance on guns, it seems there's no good reason to print one this way. For some uses of 3D printing that don't boggle your mind at the depths of human stupidity, including Iron Man's outfit and a home created by computer, press play on our video below.

Play

Should we be worried? Is 3D printing an opportunity for anyone to make anything they want, or is printing a gun as morally reprehensible as it is dangerous? Fire your thoughts into the comments or aim for the centre mass of our Facebook page.

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About the author

Rich Trenholm is a senior editor at CNET where he covers everything from phones to bionic implants. Based in London since 2007, he has travelled the world seeking out the latest and best consumer technology for your enjoyment.

 

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