We can all agree that 3D printing is an amazing technology, and one which has the ability to constantly surprise and delight us. Whether it’s new ways to print prosthetics, or just create 3D printed flowers for your home, it seems like 3D printing is starting to have an impact on every aspect of our lives. For most of us this is incredibly exciting, but it has started to worry others.
In particular some people are worried about the advent of 3D printed guns. Stories about 3D printed weapons, including the often talked about Liberator, have helped to create an impressive media storm. From the amount of attention they have got in the media, you would think that 3D printed guns are on street corners everywhere – and one of the biggest menaces to the future of society.
Indeed, the State Department has now announced its intention to try and ban the distribution of 3D gun designs online. It’s unlikely that they will succeed in this mission. After all, it’s notoriously difficult to get rid of information on the internet once it’s ‘out there’. In all likelihood, the State Department wants to be seen as proactive in responding to something which is causing citizens concern.
However, the prospect of being held up at 3D printed gunpoint should not keep you up at night. Anyone who has looked into 3D gun designs will see that they simply do not work. Most 3D guns are more of a danger to their operators than anyone in front of them, with a bad habit of exploding in their users’ hands. This surely can’t come as a surprise – after all there’s a reason why people typically only make toy guns out of plastic.
So, what should we, in the 3D printing industry, do about the very real fear the general public has when it comes to 3D printed guns? The first is not to shy away from the topic. Myths should be confronted head on and the true nature of 3D printed guns currently available explained. We need to make it clear that 3D printed guns which endanger the public won’t be ‘hitting the streets’ any time soon. Instead, we should be promoting all the amazing possibilities that could come with the mass adoption of 3D printing.
The potential negatives of widespread 3D printer use are mostly imagined, while the potential positives are overwhelming and immediate. User-friendly 3D printing in education is helping thousands of children around the world to learn design and become empowered with new skills as makers. Affordable 3D printing is helping small businesses anywhere to prototype, innovate, and challenge existing big players. Easy-to-use 3D printing is breaking down the barriers to entry and allowing everyone from the experienced digital designer to the enthusiastic amateur bring their own unique creations to life.
We should not allow unfounded fears around 3D printed guns to tarnish a technology which is a force for good. Thousands of people around the world have already fallen in love with 3D printing and brought the technology into their homes and schools. It’s now our responsibility in the 3D printing industry to promote the huge benefits of 3D printing to thousands more.