This morning I was called by Nicole Dyer from ABC Radio’s Mornings program to comment on a story about the arrest of a man on the Gold Coast for allegedly owning 3D printed plastic parts to guns and knuckle dusters. You can read the full ABC story by clicking here, along with photos of the weapons. The sound-clip above is from the discussion on air, including some of my thoughts (at about the 2 minute mark). Update: this story has since gone on to make international news through the 3D Printing Industry website.
I guess it was only a matter of time before an arrest like this close to home, and certainly raises some valid issues around access to 3D printing and whether there should be any restrictions on what gets printed. In my mind it’s a little like the music industry when it first went digital and everyone was using Napster and similar sites to illegally download music. It took a while for the laws around downloading music to catch up, and then big players like iTunes to then make legally owning digital files affordable and ‘cool.’ We’re just in that same early stage of rapid growth, and unfortunately the dominating media hype around 3D printing weapons is taking much of the focus away from all the amazing positives coming out of 3D printing every day: affordable custom prosthetics to improve amputee quality of life, advancements to space travel and the potential to land humans on Mars, lighter weight parts for aircraft that significantly reduce carbon emissions, the potential to print human organs using a patients own cells… The list is endless, and it’s important to remember that there are always those few who will find a darker side to any technology that we develop.
There is much more that could be said around this issue, but if you’re interested a quick search online will present thousands of articles examining both sides of the story. In short – you couldn’t pay me enough to fire a 3D printed plastic gun!
– Posted by James Novak