3D printing has in many ways showcased its unprecedented abilities in Fabricating Magnificent Prototypes and final objects used in different fields.
But as much as the technology has had a reputation of producing products that have left people stunned, not many people foresaw 3D printing as a way to create a gun that is totally made from plastic.
The Liberator, as it is commonly known, is the first ever 3D printed gun. Cody Wilson, a law student at the University of Texas, is the one who came up with the idea of making a plastic gun that could work more or less the same as any normal gun. He founded a group by the name of Defense Distributed, which has for the past 8 months been working on the design and mechanics surrounding the invention of the Liberator.
At face value, the liberator looks no different from a toy gun. However, less than a week ago, the gun was tested with real ammunition and it fired well thus is just as dangerous as the conventional steel guns.
How Can I Obtain the Liberator?
If you are a true gun enthusiast, you are probably wondering how you can get your hands on the liberator. Albeit a great invention, it is actually much easier to get the liberator than the orthodox guns we are accustomed to. This has been made possible by the fact that Defense Distributed had earlier posted all the blueprints of the liberator online through their now famous site Defcad.org.
The blueprints were in the form of CAD files so all one needs to do is download the files and send them to a 3D printer. The gun can be made from common ABS plastic that most 3D printers use. It’s really that easy to have your own Liberator 3D printed gun.
Be forewarned though that not all 3D printers may be able to perfectly print the gun. Currently the gun can only be fabricated by high end 3D printers. Defense Distributed has nevertheless expressed its intentions to enable all 3D printers to print the gun. The group has emphasised the need to make cheap and affordable printers such as the Marketbot 3D printer, able to print the Liberator.
Plans are also underway to enable home-made printers assembled through the RepRap project to print the Liberator. Since these are printers that go for around £600 or slightly more, their ability to print the liberator will increase the number of people who can easily access the printers and make their own 3D printed guns.
There is only one sole difference that the Liberator has compared to a real gun. The liberator can only fire .380 ammunition caliber unlike the range of real guns out there which clearly have fewer limitations when it comes to the type of ammunition used. It is nonetheless designed to use removable and replaceable barrels to increase the range of ammunition that it can fire.
While the fabrication of a 3D printed gun is certainly a cool thing, not everyone has embraced the concept of the Liberator with open arms, so to speak. There have been many controversies that have marred its public image.
The Liberator has been viewed by various politicians and a good percentage of the public as a great security threat. First of all, because it is mainly made from plastic, the greatest concern is that it is not possible for the gun to be detected by metal detectors. This typically means that it will be virtually impossible for security officers to know who is carrying the gun using ethical means, which can heighten crime rates in countries all over the world.
Defense Distributed has made an effort to reduce this risk and comply with the Undetectable Firearms Act by including a 6 ounce piece of metal in all the guns they fabricate. But the thing is the metal does not have any vital use in the functioning of the gun. Therefore the gun can be printed by anyone and because there is no imperative need to include the Piece of Metal, it can still go undetected and be used to commit crime.
It is for this reason that a number of political leaders and concerned parties have alleged that Cody Wilson wants to increase political debate and general insecurity in the country. Mr. Wilson has received many other rather harsh remarks for being the brain behind the Liberator.
Wilson however has had a very different view of his creation. In his defense, he has claimed that all Defense Distributed wants to show is how technology can go against government systems and laws. He also argues that people have a right to this information and by posting the blueprints of the Liberator online, he is ensuring that people are informed on the ability of 3D printing to print an almost real and usable gun.
Is It Legal to Own the Liberator?
Just a few days after Cody Wilson had released the blueprints of the Liberator online, the Department of State instructed him to remove the blueprints from the internet. According to the state, he was violating the export regulation laws. The case is still ongoing and a ruling is yet to be fully made on whether or not it is legal to print plastic guns using 3D printing technology.
Even then it has been reported that before the blueprints were completely removed online, close to 100,000 downloads had already been made. Essentially, this is to say there are already people out there who have the CAD files for printing the gun in their hands.
Consequently printing the gun is possible despite the current ban on the posting of the blueprints from the web. However in order to have your name in good legal books, printing the Wiki Weapon (as it has been dabbed) now might not be the smartest choice. You may want to wait until it is officially proclaimed legal before you start fabricating your own.
The big question at the moment remains, will the Liberator bring more harm than good to society? With the current state of affairs, only time can tell, but one thing is for sure, the Liberator will always be one of the most amazing creations of the 3D printing technology. Read more about 3D Printing and Crime.
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