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The ATF Not Concerned About 3D Printed Guns... Yet 344

derekmead writes "3D-printing gun parts has taken off, thanks to the likes of Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed. While the technology adds a rather interesting wrinkle to the gun control debate, the ATF currently is pretty hands-off, ... 'We are aware of all the 3D printing of firearms and have been tracking it for quite a while,' Earl Woodham, spokesperson for the ATF field office in Charlotte, said. 'Our firearms technology people have looked at it, and we have not yet seen a consistently reliable firearm made with 3D printing.' A reporter called the ATF's Washington headquarters to get a better idea of what it took to make a gun 'consistently reliable,' and program manager George Semonick said the guns should be 'made to last years or generations.' In other words, because 3D-printed guns aren't yet as durable as their metal counterparts, the ATF doesn't yet consider them as much of a concern."
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The ATF Not Concerned About 3D Printed Guns... Yet

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  • not surprising (Score:5, Informative)

    by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Monday March 25, 2013 @07:58PM (#43277319)

    There is no actual 3d-printing of guns, yet. What people are doing is 3d-printing one part of the gun (the receiver) whose serial number is tracked for gun-registration purposes. For the purposes of those laws, the receiver "is" the gun: ordering a receiver is controlled, but ordering any combination of parts without a receiver is not. But that is pretty obviously a legal fiction (perhaps an unwise legal fiction): it is, by far, not the hardest part of the gun to manufacture. In fact, 3d printing hasn't really changed the game here, because CNC machines have been able to fabricate that part for years already. Sure, now it can also be done on a 3d printer, which just adds one more way to manufacture it.

    From a technological perspective, what would be impressive is if a complete gun could be 3d printed, including the critical parts involved in actual firing. Then you could legitimately say you have "3d printed a gun".

  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @08:02PM (#43277359)
    And one could also make an argument that a 3D printer can not produce anything that I cant already make with tools ranging from a micro CNC to a nail file. There is nothing about 3D printing that makes it any different then any other form of fabrication. It's not even cheaper really.
  • No not at all (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @09:07PM (#43277765)

    You still have to:

    1) Own a 3D printer of sufficient quality to make a workable part.

    2) Buy all the business parts of the gun. The barrel, bolt, bolt carrier, firing pin, buffer, gas tube, trigger and assembly, fire selector, hammer, etc, etc,.

    3) Assemble said gun from scratch.

    You CANNOT print a whole gun and will NEVER be able to unless we get metal 3D printers that can make high strength parts. An AR-15 barrel and chamber must survive peak forces of 63,000 PSI. 3D printers can't extrude materials that can take anything near that.

    All people are printing now is the lower receiver, and maybe some of the ergonomics stuff like grips and hand guards. This shit is not intensive, nor expensive, to make.

    The only notable thing about the lower for an AR-15 variant is that it is the serialized part and this legally the firearm. However that law could be changed, if needed, and then you'd be SOL.

    This is in no way, shape, or form a script kidde operation. It is just making AR-15 lowers, something people have done forever. The only reason some geeks are obsessed with it is because they don't understand materials science and think that this means you can print a whole gun.

  • Process limitation (Score:4, Informative)

    by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:01AM (#43278539)
    If it's laser sintering of metal powder alone it's going to be full of holes like swiss cheese (even 98% density is hard to get) which I'd say is what the above poster meant about it blowing up in your face. There are turbines made from powdered metal but it's not a single sintering step, forging (ie. hitting or squeezing soft hot metal really hard) is done as well to get rid of all those holes.
    So if you want a gun barrel from a 3D printer that works at least once you'll need a bit more gear than a laser sintering 3D printer.

All seems condemned in the long run to approximate a state akin to Gaussian noise. -- James Martin