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

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.