07 October 2012

Barriers - Broken

One of the more interesting technologies to be developed in the past decade or so is Rapid Prototyping on 3D printers. The technology has evolved to the point where there are companies such as Shapeways that can mass produce objects using your CAD designs.

I've purchased railroad cars from them and so far they are pretty good, it seems to be the perfect way to economically produce items that would be prohibitively expensive using standard manufacturing techniques such as injection molding. If I only knew how to run a CAD program, or could find someone to create an Nn3 design for the East Broad Top M-1 that can be powered by a powered truck, I'd be in heaven. But I digress.

As the technology matures it will become less and less expensive and eventually will reach a point where 3D printers are cheap enough to be affordable by regular folks. When that happens all you will need is some proficiency with a CAD program and the items that can be created are virtually limitless.

Enter Texas law student Cody Wilson and his Wiki Weapon Project. Using a 3D printer he created an AR-15 lower and then built first a .22 pistol and then a .223 rifle out of it. And yes, it works; the AR-15 receiver carries a very little bit of stress, functioning mostly as a framework to hold all of the various parts in close proximity. The upper is the part that gets all the stress, but here's a bit of trivia...the lower is the part that has the serial number, and thus according to the BATFEIEIO it IS the firearm.

The owner of the leased printer has canceled its contract with him and repossessed the printer, saying that it was used for illegal purposes, but actually according to the law it is not illegal for someone to manufacture a firearm (as long as it is not fully automatic) for their own use as long as they are otherwise allowed to have them (we can discuss the whole "allowed" thing later) and they don't sell it. Regardless, this genie is now out of the bottle; it has been done once and can be done again.

The truth is the manufacture of firearms is not difficult, cave dwellers in Afghanistan are fashioning fully functional versions of the AK-47 even as we speak; it's receiver is bent sheet metal that can be built using common metal working tools (in fact you can purchase kits for this purpose). Those who wish for a gun-free world are whistling in the wind, if a cavewight in Trashcanistan can make them they can be made anywhere.

This technology will (eventually) put self-defense capabilities into everyone's reach, and as far as I'm concerned that is a good thing.


RabidAlien said...

Awesome! But I bet Micro$oft screws with the 3D printer drivers in Windows8...

Larry said...

I'm pretty sure it would have to have custom made printer drivers, no telling how they would change them.
Thanks for dropping by RA!

U.S. Common Sense said...

After all this time, I never knew you were into model railroading. Me too! Here's my most recent creation: http://mylifestime.com/2012/09/24/ack-where-have-i-been/

As far as the 3-D Printers go, that would be awesome, especially if you want to create a series of buildings that are period-specific. One of the problems I had with the layout above was that it needed a station and a church building that looked similar to my church. Unfortunately, there weren't any models out there that I thought were "good enough", so I ended up leaving the flat area bare instead.

Larry said...

Oh yes, N scale and narrow gauge if that isn't bad enough. I even have another site for it, although I don't update it (or model) as much as I want to.


You might check out Shapeways and see what they have, lots of model railroaders are using them to make all sorts of things.

Thanks for dropping by!