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HP says it will restrict its 3D printers ability to make ghost guns
Writer : upndown 3d public 2019-01-23 15:57:48Views : 20 Like : 0


Jan 22, 2019 | By Cameron

Some questions, once they’re asked, are forever debated with no discernible resolution: why did the chicken cross the road, what is the human condition, and what is the best way to prevent people from 3D printing guns? The matter of whether people should be allowed to 3D print guns is its own worthwhile question, especially in a country where the manufacturing and (some) sales of guns are strictly regulated while it also remains legal for someone to make their own gun as long as they don’t sell it.

Guns are a divisive issue in the US. Efforts of gun control are thwarted by the existence of 3D printing because it enables a scale of manufacturing too small to effectively regulate through traditional means. In the olden days before the RepRap 3D printing revolution, manufacturing equipment was very expensive and took up a lot of space; only a few companies could afford the machinery and factories necessary to handle metals well enough to make guns, so regulators could literally go examine manufacturing facilities if they thought someone was illegally making guns. With 3D printing, that could be anyone’s home.

To complicate matters, the firearms that come out of standard desktop 3D printers are made of plastics and thus undetectable by metal detectors, earning them the “ghost gun” designation that also references the lack of a traceable serial number. Hewlett Packard (HP) chief executive Dion Weisler recently stated in a letter: “HP is against ‘ghost guns’ being produced on our 3D printers.” He did not clarify how the company would stop clients from using HP 3D printers to fabricate guns, though there was mention of a “responsible use” policy that precludes its printers from being used to manufacture guns unless the proper licenses are in place and the guns have traceable markings and screener-detectable materials.

From that, it sounds like HP plans to enforce these limits with contracts, which doesn’t explicitly stop customers from 3D printing guns but it does provide HP a legal cushion separating them from the liability of damages that may be caused by one of its clients 3D printing a gun with one of its 3D printers. And it’s this author’s opinion that that’s what this is all about: liability. As previously mentioned, it’s legal to make your own gun in this country, and HP doesn’t necessarily want to infringe on that right, but they definitely don’t want to be associated with drug lords who are making their own guns either.

The conversation around making your own guns changed radically when 3D printing became accessible to anyone with $500, and it’s mostly related to quality repeatability. People aren’t scared of people making their own guns out of plumbing pipes because those homemade guns don’t function well enough to hurt more than a couple individuals at close range, and they require assembling by hand. Currently, that’s true of most 3D printed plastic guns as well, but designs and materials are improving and those limitations will soon be overcome. And that’s what people are afraid of: someone pushing a button and a high-quality gun coming out.

There’s a sense of security that comes with knowing that if someone wants to make their own gun, they have to look up designs, acquire the specific parts, and then teach themselves how to put it together. Even then, it won’t be a good gun. 3D printing takes away that security because even a child could 3D print a gun with the press of a button.

3D printers can be programmed not to print certain files, but Dogan Yirmibesoglu, an Oregon State University researcher studying 3D printers, points out the major flaw in that tactic. “With small changes you can probably trick it, and the printer will think, ‘Oh, then it’s OK,’” he said. Last summer, a federal judge banned the distribution of 3D gun design files online. Yirmibesoglu feels that it may stop some gun making, though not all. “It’s a problematic issue,” he said. “But if there’s no blueprints of the weapons online, out there for free, nobody can print those unless they’re gun specialists.”

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