Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Print A Plastic Gun on a 3D printer.

In the last few months much attention has been given by the media about the possibility of printing out a working firearm on a home 3D printer. Some say its the next big thing. Some say it cant be done. Well as with most things the truth in fact is some place in the middle.

In simple terms it is possible to print a complete and fully functional firearm on a home 3D printer. However it will not be a particularly effective or reliable weapon. The simple reason for this is the limitations of materials available for use in home 3D printers and the poor print quality of most of the printers.

In simple terms home 3D printers print in plastic and plastic is just not that great of a material for making firearms. Firearms generate a lot of pressure and a lot of heat. And plastic is just not that great at dealing with pressure and heat.

The first generation of 3D printed firearms will probably be simple single shot firearms firing low power ammunition. Most of us have seen the plastic flare guns people have on boats. Well that flare gun is a firearm. The second generation will probably be something like a simple single action revolver. This gun will also fire low powered ammunition. The first generations will also probably be smooth bore firearms. It would not be possible to make a rifled barrel out of the plastics we have now for home 3D printers. The heat and pressure would strip the rifling out with the first shot. But rifling is not that important in a hand gun as your target is probably only 5 or 10 feet away. I suspect we are 10 or 20 years from people being able to print off something much more sophisticated like a Glock or an UZI.  

A plastic Flare Gun like the one in this photo with a few design modifications would be capable of firing low power ammunition like .22 or perhaps .32 The heat would cause extensive barrel erosion but as its a single shot firearm you would probably only get to fire one or two shots before the fight was over anyway.

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