While this story does nicely highlight the big strength of 3D printing (the ability

While this story does nicely highlight the big strength of 3D printing (the ability to rapidly improve a design by being able to quickly print, test to failure, then redesign the failed aspect of the part) I can’t see it doing good things for the burgeoning world of home 3D printing.

Leaving aside the ethics and wisdom of printing guns, it can’t be denied that things like this could potentially reshape the makeup of the burgeoning home-3D-printing community and lead to unfortunate attempts at regulation of an innocuous industry by people who don’t really understand it.

The movie industry tried to control VCRs back in the day. The music industry and government tried to control the spread of cassette tape recorders and CD burners too. That worked out about as well as prohibition.

I’m guessing the same thing will happen here if someone is foolish enough to try to control the 3d printing industry. How do you control an industry that has the ability to “self replicate” their own printers? Good luck with that.

The difficulty, or futility, of banning something has never seemed to stopped legislators who are dead set on doing so. The end result is nothing but a giant mess that eventually gets repealed, but that’s cold comfort when you’re in the midst of that mess.

Guns will be the excuse - the real reason will be the threat of production-supply models being turned upside down. The great promise (for us) of 3D printing is truly democratised manufacture, a golden age of design and development, of wealth without money.
That’s absolutely terrifying to the those in charge. I really, really don’t want them to cock this up with FUD and confidence tricks.

Ehh… I’m always somewhat suspicious of the claim that 3D printing will change the world to the point where mass manufacturing goes away.

The amount of time, effort, and skill required to design parts for 3D printing means it will never reach the point of everyone designing their own one-off parts for their situation.

It may be true, some day, that 3D manufacturing gets good enough and affordable enough that every house has some sort of manufacturing solution and people produce (and possibly recycle) the goods they want as they want them by buying or downloading the design files… but that’s very far away. Like speculative sci-fi far away.

I don’t think we’re anywhere near the point where “those in charge” (whoever that is) view 3D printing as a threat to manufacturing.

I think any governmental response to printed guns will be based, for better or worse, on the new difficulties such a thing creates in terms of tracking guns and controlling their sales.

Well, not yet - I’m not stupid. I know a computer controlled glue gun isn’t going to replace every single manufacturing technology yet devised. It does allow you to print out a lot of the components of devices that might, however.
When I was a kid, I learned to program on a 3 mhz computer with 1k of RAM. Now I have a 1.4 ghz quad core phone in my pocket than can render a fairly good imitation of reality in realtime.
People said they were toys, incapable of doing any real work. They were right about those computers but myopic and unimaginative. They totally failed to see how quickly things can improve.
In a few years, I don’t doubt that we’ll have printers at home that can not only print a range of different materials but also print out functioning electronic circuits.

I still think you’re expecting these results far faster than they (may) materialize. We’re not dealing with simply shrinking the size of transistors and the resulting Moore’s Law.

While some sort of home manufactory may someday be able to replace a large segment of what’s currently done in mass-manufacturing that day is many decades away, not just a few years. And even then I wouldn’t expect it to be able, all on its own, to produce electronics of any reasonable complexity.

That’s a Diamond Age style dream, and something that is still very far away.

Maybe you’re right but printed circuits are a reality now - not on the level of 10nm ICs but still functional and more than adequate for many tasks. Techniques exist for printing solar cells. What could we do with an ink-jet printer that wasn’t hobbled and used only as a means of peddling overpriced ink cartridges?
This, for example: http://www.sijtechnology.com/en/technology/index.html
Ok, that’s hardly in the home but they’re printing at the resolution that the first ICs were fabricated at.

Man, I wish we could get an FAQ with information about DD on the community. These posts come up a lot.

I thought this guy on reddit was succinct about it:

TL;DR: This is hardly 3D printing a gun. It’s not particularly impressive, and it isn’t going to change anything about gun control. Defense Distributed really distracts from the real value of 3D printing.

In a legal sense it is printing a gun, the lower receiver is a gun under the law.

That said, I don’t think 3D printing a gun is ever going to be a big thing, but the appearance even as it stands now is enough for a politician to try to use it for their own ends. And I thought the article was interesting as an update on their progress, because the last I had heard they got six shots out of their lower before it broke.

You can’t regulate 3D printing, though. It’s fundamentally such a simple technology. What are you going to do, make stepper motors and arduino’s illegal?

Even the powder systems or SLS machines can be made with off-the-shelf parts and patience.

The whole thing feels like a red herring to me. Just the DD guys getting the attention they crave.