3D Printer Manufacturer Makerbot Deletes Gun Blueprint Database From Thingiverse, Bans Gun Designs

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News Posted: Thu, Dec 20 2012 2:16 PM
As guns and their associated violence dominate the current headlines in the wake of the unimaginable tragedy in Connecticut, the focus on and debate over the ability to print gun parts using 3D printing technology has intensified.

Though not explicitly motivated by current events, 3D printing company MakerBot has deleted schematics for gun parts from its Thingiverse website. According to Forbes, weapons and weapon component designs had never been allowed on the site, but lax policing allowed them to remain posted, until the last days that is.

AR-15 part
Lower receiver of an AR-15 (Image from Thingiverse via Forbes)

Aside from the obvious danger--that you can print some gun parts at home and buy others, allowing anyone with the right tools and know-how to make a gun while circumventing weapons laws--preventing people from doing so is also protecting people from themselves. Amateur gunsmithing and homemade plastic parts do not mix especially well. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: You have to be slightly insane or really stupid to fire a homemade plastic gun.

Not that the inherent danger or murky legality will stop anyone from trying. Reportedly, Defense Distributed, a small group that clashed with 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys earlier this year over the former’s attempt to create a 3D printable gun, will try to create a repository for the blueprints that MakerBot took down.

Thingiverse toy
A more adorable 3D-printable product

There’s something deeply fascinating percolating behind this issue, and MakerBot’s Jenifer Howard inadvertently nailed it when she told Forbes, “MakerBot’s focus is to empower the creative process and make things for good”. While we commend MakerBot for that disposition (and we feel the same way), the very fact of creating a technology that allows people to be endlessly creative causes you to lose control over what people do with it, and manufacturers would be naive to think otherwise.

Whether you think it’s part of one’s freedom to make weapons with 3D printing or it should be illegal, it’s only a matter of time before the courts intervene.

To learn more about 3D printers and what they can do, have a look at our roundup of some of the most popular 3D printers currently on the market.
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lipe123 replied on Thu, Dec 20 2012 2:41 PM

I'm sorry but the whole thing is still kind of stupid, any idiot can goto the hardware store and buy a metal pipe and make a homemade gun thats much safer and cheaper than a plastic printout.

This also does not stop those designs from being shared "under the table". If anything at least having these designs on the database you'd be able to check who downloads them!

Now no one knows who has them and who's printing them, but they are still being printed.

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OSunday replied on Thu, Dec 20 2012 4:03 PM

I don't really think that's necessary to take down the database for printable guns designs. Although one might think it removes the ability for anyone anywhere to create a deadly weapon, not only are the means to doing that for a normal person, expensive and hard to come by, for a petty criminal to take the time to invest in a 3D printer, CAD software and a little bit of engineering for assembly is probably more uncommon.

"Petty criminals" aren't exactly the smartest people on the planet, and it would take more time and money to try and print and build a gun that it would be to steal one or try and buy one illegally.

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Dorkstar replied on Thu, Dec 20 2012 4:14 PM

I see this more beneficial than harmful really. I would love to make some plastic replica's of my firearms. Not only would they be great training tools, they'd be excellent practice on assembling and dissembling firearms. The current dummy rifles used by the Army are just one complete block of plastic, they're kind of pointless.

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OSunday replied on Thu, Dec 20 2012 5:03 PM

Haha, I wonder how complex air soft or bb gun's are when it comes to 3D printing or if they're considered as potential fire arms as well?
Just a thought that popped into my head.

And tell me about it, during my BCT this past summer we got our "rubber ducky" M16's, the good for nothing 15-20 lbs of plastic molded into the shape of a rifle lol 

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