3D Printing Controversy Continues: TechCrunch Stirs the Pot

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3D Printing Controversy Panic

TechCrunch published an article about the controversial side of 3D printing: how the technology can be used for dangerous goods or piracy. Here is an excerpt:

3D printers can also print guns and synthetic chemical compounds (aka drugs). In July, user HaveBlue reported on the AR15 forum that he had used a mid-1990s. 3D printer to create a fully functional .22 caliber gun. He wrote: “It’s had over 200 rounds of .22 [caliber rounds] through it so far and runs great!” The 3D printed portion of the gun was printed in plastic with a reported material cost of about $100.

The potential policy implications are obvious. If high-quality weapons can be printed by anyone with a 3D printer, and 3D printers are widely available, then law enforcement agencies will be forced to monitor what you’re printing in order to maintain current gun control laws. Otherwise, guns could become more widely available and firearms permits won’t matter to someone like James Holmes or Jeffrey Johnson. They can circumvent firearms laws by simply printing their weapons from a 3D printer for under $100.

That is, unless federal agencies monitor every CAD file sent to a printer, whether or not it is harmless. Monitoring of every file sent to a printer means that federal agencies would need access to every home and office network.

It is likely impossible that the government will be able to successfully prevent every illicit item from being printed, chiefly because a 3D printer would not have to be connected to the internet to print from a local computer. However, you can expect that a time will come when perhaps well-meaning politicians will attempt to prevent guns and synthetic drugs from being created using 3D printers. If passed, the resulting laws would be draconian in their invasion of privacy while simultaneously ineffectual in preventing the creation of the products they seek to prohibit.

Either we allow for the ambiguity that freedom and unregulated 3D printing will bring, or we enforce far-reaching laws that may decrease liberty without changing results.  For those who appreciate the internet because of its democratizing effects and freedom, I believe the choice is clear. We should decide now that we will oppose any law that attempts to undermine freedom on the internet, no matter the consequences.

This controversy will only grow as 3D printing progresses along the Hype Cycle.

Here is our view: 3D printing will disrupt the global supply chain and create a market for producing goods locally. It will revolutionize medical procedures and enable innovation in product design. Bad people will do bad things, but overall this technology will bring about positive change in the world.


Panic button photo by ilovememphis used under Creative Commons license.

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