Report: 3D-printed handgun project faces setback with revoked printer lease

Wired reports 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys has nullified a lease agreement with Defense Distributed.

The Stratasys uPrint SE 3D printer briefly rented by Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed.
Cody Wilson

When I last spoke with Cody Wilson, Defense Distributed had just met its $20,000 funding goal, and he had taken delivery of his Stratasys uPrint SE 3D printer. Fast forward nine days and the outlook for his 3D printed firearm project looks less positive.

As reported here in September, Defense Distributed, a group headed by University of Texas graduate student Wilson, began navigating the uncharted material and regulatory waters around designing a gun to be printed from common plastic on a relatively low-cost 3D printer like the MakerBot Replicator.

Now, Wired's Robert Beckhusen reports that Stratasys has voided the lease for the printer Defense Distributed had rented, and sent representatives to physically reclaim it last week.

The Stratasys uPrint SE 3D printer rented by Wilson and Defense Distributed.
The Stratasys uPrint SE 3D printer rented by Wilson and Defense Distributed. Cody Wilson

Further, Beckhusen reports that a visit to the Austin, TX branch of the ATF turned into an unexpected questioning session for Wilson when he went down to investigate the legal requirements of the Defense Distributed project.

Beckhusen also writes that, according to Wilson, "the ATF believes he's not broken any laws, and that the agency believes 3-D printed guns fall into a regulatory gray area, but that he still needs to get licensed if he's to manufacture a weapon.

That runs contrary to the advice I received from ATF's national branch last month, when a spokesperson told me that you don't need to register as a firearms manufacturer if, like Wilson, you have no intent to sell.

"I was annoyed at first," Wilson told me over email, "but this has only excited our network and contacts. Two steps forward. Getting another printer will be easy. Incorporating and filling out a bunch of federal paperwork is what's regrettable."