3D printed gun partsAny time I show my 3D-printed sculptures or jewelry or have a 3D printer running at an event, I inevitably get asked about 3D-printed guns.

It’s exasperating, because the fear of these guns – which is currently unfounded – taints 3D printing.

This topic has come up before, but it’s back in the news as the people who want to put plans for 3D-printed guns online are back at it.

I cannot explain or understand why they think this is a good idea, and I’m someone who has owned and used guns, so I’m not a gun-hater by any means.

There is just a time and a place for everything, and this issue is frustrating on many levels, not the least of which has to do with 3D printing itself.

As I explain to people who ask – so we can get back to discussing all of the wonderful things 3D printing can do – most mere mortals, like me, cannot afford a 3D printer that can print in metal….

Yes, I can print in 80% bronze – 20% PLA, but that isn’t metal, it’s basically specialty PLA resin. The 3D printers that print in metal are owned by huge corporations like Honeywell, which prints aircraft parts in titanium.

3D-printed gun and bulletYes, someday 3D printers that can output 100% metal may be more affordable, but right now they aren’t.

So why can’t someone just print a gun from the downloadable instructions now being fought over?

Well, take a metal bullet and put it into a “plastic” (resin) gun and try to shoot it. It will blow up in your hand. I will leave it up to you to decide whether that’s a good idea.

So while yes, someday 3D-printed weapons might be an issue, right now, their greatest harm is engendering fear. And that I am clearly against.

For a longer and interesting explanation about 3D-printed guns, check out this article from All 3DP.