During our visit to New York City this week we heard directly from Cody Wilson, founder of Defense Distributed on the latest progress they've had developing 3D models of functioning firearms.
During his talk at Inside 3D Printing, Wilson described some significant breakthroughs:
- Defense Distributed has been able to produce an ABS barrel able to withstand up to eleven rounds of live fire. Evidently an Acetone treatment increases the barrel's strength.
- Other previously metal parts, such as springs, have 3D printed equivalents under development.
- Large capacity magazine designs have been developed. Wilson says, "Magazines are easy to do".
- The team has been focusing on a design for a handgun in the past few months.
- Wilson has obtained a license to manufacture ammunition, and presumably will pursue this in the future. He's already obtained a license to manufacture firearms.
- Future plans include experimenting with more commonly available plastics that might be compatible with RepRap 3D printers.
During his talk, Wilson related a couple of rather interesting pieces to the backstory:
- When Stratasys revoked the lease on Wilson's uPrint, they apparently also referred his activities to the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Wilson recalled spending several unpleasant hours explaining his project to them.
- The most frequent visitors to Defense Distributed's sites are the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Department of Justice.
Regardless of your opinion of this project, it has to be done. Why? Because if Wilson isn't doing it, another surely will. Someone will do this work sooner or later, and, as Wilson puts it, the politicians will have to catch up to the technology.
Play this out in your mind five or ten years out. Will the legal frameworks be the same as today? We don't think so either.