I should probably declare at the outset that my opinions on the Wiki Weapons Project are quite strong and that this post is unlikely to be objective.
I resent the fear-mongering, negativity and controversy around 3D printing that this project generates but I kind of get the (sinking) feeling that that is one of the very reasons that it has been set up. The project is all about testing the limits of current 3D printing parameters to see if it is possible to produce an entire gun with the technology. It’s been getting a great deal of press, which I have deliberately avoided contributing to. So I was delighted to see yesterday that Wired reported a story detailing how the 3D printer supplier — Stratasys — has confiscated the rented 3D printer that was to be used for the project. While it is not immediately clear if the Wiki Weapons Project breaks any laws within the United States — current gun laws declare it a ‘grey area’ — it is obvious from this move that Stratasys is unwilling to take any risks. They are likely to garner supporters as a result. Similarly, Indiegogo, the funding platform where the Wiki Weapons Project attempted to raise funds for the project, shut down the campaign back in August.
While it is gratifying to seeing such organizations placing ethics ahead of financial reward, the Wiki project leaders are adamant that they will find alternative solutions in each case. And it doesn’t appear to be that hard – the project team raised $20,000 of funding on BitCoin. Similarly, now that the uPrint 3D printer has been removed from the home of Project Leader Cody Wilson, he is stubbornly searching for a replacement.
And that’s the problem – these guys are stubborn and sticking to their guns (pun intended). Quite why they feel the urge to do so is beyond me. Even if the aim is to prove the engineering capabilities of 3D printing for this project, however you look at it, the end result is a gun. Guns are destructive — they are about power and pain. We don’t need any more of either in this world!
There are so many inspirational, positive and quite remarkable things going on with 3D printing at the moment and these bright sparks — which they undoubtedly are — insist on going down this road to prove a point rather than finding a project that could make a positive difference in the world. Personally, I think it comes down to ego, and the fact that, as I mentioned before, they know it generates controversy and widespread coverage.
It’s been pointed out by many that open source gun designs are two a penny and that laser cutting and other manufacturing techniques are much more suited to this type of application — but they are boring and proven. 3D printing is an emerging tech, it’s a hot topic, and, combined with guns, it seems to be getting even hotter.
I find it a truly sad state of affairs, but I applaud the stance taken by Stratasys.