August 21, 2012

I am fortunate to get to work with an awesome technology that makes good everything it touches. Yes, 3D printing makes good happen every day; whether its printing Bespoke prosthetics that restore functionality and symmetry or giving someone their hearing back with a custom fit hearing aid. We help racecar drivers break records, consumer brands create fun products and aerospace companies improve fuel efficiency. I am truly blessed to get to work with brilliant people and cutting edge technology that makes the world around us a better place.

Sadly, my expanding making good reality is becoming a corporate and political rarity. Just turn on the news at any given point during the day and experience how much bad is being made around us. Regrettably sometimes within our amazing 3D printing zone, someone pushes the limits to reveal that even this technology can be used for bad purposes. Case in point; Popular Science's John Robb reported recently on a person who claims that his 3D-printed pistol successfully fired live ammunition. The same person then went on to print a working AR-15 rifle automatic conversion kit to become the first person to construct and shoot a submachine gun partly made out of 3D-printed parts. The creator, who goes by the name HaveBlue, has reportedly fired 200 rounds with his part-plastic automatic weapon.

This isn’t a gun control tirade, as an ex-military man, I have been around guns all my life. While I’m grateful that HaveBlue responsibly showed us what could be done (before someone dangerous hijacked this capability to do evil), I am nonetheless deeply concerned about what it informs and conditions. Here we are spending our days (and nights) improving 3D printing by making it faster, precise, affordable, and easier to use, yet it has not been top of mind to prevent unintended uses – like unlawful printing of regulated gun parts.

But here is the rub; now that we understand the potential negative consequences; we can’t bury our heads in the sand! Keeping 3D printing positive, allowing it to continue to make good requires decisive action - industry wide action.

With that in mind, I call on our capable and responsible industry leaders to join me in making 3D printing good and the community safe. Without taking a position on gun control laws, our responsibility is to be lawful – to ensure that 3D printing remains an amazing tool and a transformative experience for everyone. We should join together so parents don’t have to worry their child might print something illegally and communities don’t have to worry that someone irresponsible will open fire with a printed weapon and companies don’t have to worry about counterfeiting and piracy. Let’s work together, to ensure, that our technology is tailored to make good educationally, commercially and experientially.


August 21, 2012

Comments (4)

Comment Feed

A personal response to Abe Reichental

Abe, as the person who printed the AR-15 lower receiver, I feel compelled to respond.

Though you say you have been around guns all your life, you either know little about them, or have been content to consume incorrect media hype as fact. I did not print an "automatic conversion kit", nor did I shoot a "submachine gun". My AR-15 rifle with its 3D printed receiver is absolutely not an "automatic weapon". I followed all applicable laws pertaining to home gunsmithing in the US, doubly so since I detailed the project on my blog. I felt that sharing such information with other hobbyists was a "good" thing, though your tone appears to indicate otherwise.

Furthermore, I'm surprised that you never considered the possibility that the technology might be used to do something that you find objectionable. Your own company proudly lists among its customers a number of major defense contractors - an industry that is not exactly a bastion of ethics and adherence to law. But when a hobbyist decides to experiment with the technology for his own interest, only then are you concerned with what could be done with 3D printing? Have you been assuming that corporations are incapable of using the technology to do something other than "good" with 3D printing?

I agree that the technology should be used to do "good" things. I myself have done research (at my own personal expense) on cheaper and better materials for 3D printing. I have helped other people by 3D printing product prototypes for them or helping them build their own printers. I have assisted a university medical research lab with repairing their printer and improving their techniques for printing implants. Hopefully you would consider these endeavors to be positive.

Undoubtedly someone out there is using (or planning to use) 3D printing for something that I myself find objectionable, but we should make sure not to limit or cripple the technology as a result of such fears. I worry that your call for "industry wide action" will result in restrictions on the technology, recalling the Soviet Union's control of 2D printing by limiting and licensing printing presses, copiers, and typewriters. That comparison may sound extreme, but I'm sure you agree that it is a very bad direction to follow for 3D printing.

Yes, we should do "good" with 3D printing. But let's make sure we don't restrict it. The technology will expand and flourish far more greatly if we allow people to do as they wish in a responsible fashion rather than attempting to control it from the outset. I think that may be the very greatest "good" of all.

Have Blue more than 1 years ago

Guns don't create evil; man does

Ah the classic arguement of gun control. Case in point guns don't kill people, people kill people. You are clearly stating that guns are bad and that simply isn't true.

jimmy more than 1 years ago

Not automatic

HaveBlue did not make anything "automatic" as you say. You state that he fired a printed submachine gun. His gun was not full auto. All he did was print a copy of a semi-automatic (one shot per trigger pull) AR-15 lower receiver and test it with a .22 caliber upper. Had he made an automatic version I'm guarantee you he would have been visited by the ATF long before now. Making your own firearm for your own personal use has been legal for a very long time. As long as the firearm is not being sold there is no requirement to seralize or register it with anybody. This is no different than milling your own receiver out of aluminum. Only the technology is different.

Gunowner more than 1 years ago

doing good with 3D Printing

@ Abe,

Wow, you must be feeling the pressure on your side of 'the pond'.

Any technology can be used to make anything bad.

Although I am not always a great fan of the way manufacturers tend to over state what 3d Print can do, I'm not sure that your blog adds anything to the debate about 3d Print.

FYI, we are using two types of your (3D Systems) technology to rapid manufacture soft and hard tissue prostheses. We're not far away from having a full commercial offer which will transform the lives of tens of thousands of people around the world...keep an eye on announcements from us at Fripp Design and Research in the UK.

steve roberts more than 1 years ago

Events Sprocket New Aug13
Upcoming exhibitions, conferences, fairs, markets and symposia for the Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing sector.
  • AMUG Logo

    AMUG Conference 2014 – April 6-10 2014

    AMUG is an independent, industry-wide users group that gives its members a forum for learning, information exchange and establishing professional connections. No matter what additive manufacturing technology you use, AMUG is here to assist you.

  • RAPID Logo Small

    Rapid — June 9-12 2014

    The Authority on 3D: Printing, Scanning and Additive Manufacturing

  • TCT Show 2014 Dates Logo

    TCT Show + Personalize — September 30–October 2 2014

    The UK’s definitive and leading Additive Manufacturing, 3D printing and product development technology show for every level of interest from hackerspace to aerospace.

  • None

    NPE & NPE3D 2015 — 23–27 March 2015

    In March 2015, more than 60,000 professionals from every spectrum of the plastics industry and its vertical markets will assemble in Orlando, Florida to discover the tools, and access the emerging technologies that are shaping the future of plastics.