Less than thirty years ago, the first high speed inkjet printer became available to the general public. With technological advancements, it is now possible to obtain a three dimensional printer with the capacity to print anything from a coffee mug to a firearm, and close to anything in between. Although three dimensional printing has been in the works for over two decades, it is only recently exploring its near limitless potential. With the rise in exposure, three dimensional printing is also building a formidable base of inquiry.
This technology has been utilized on a commercial level to “print” prosthetic limbs, organs, and may eventually find itself in space supplying NASA with otherwise inaccessible tools. On a residential level, three dimensional printing may be implemented to provide the average consumer with household items, tools, and even weapons. So how might three dimensional printings rise in availability impact future economic standing when it becomes possible to print commodities as opposed to buying them? Will weapons control laws be able to regulate the printing of armaments? And what will three dimensional printing do for creating more affordable medical and scientific research?
Among the more pressing controversies regarding 3D printing is gun control. Most notably, a young man and self proclaimed crypto-anarchist named Cody Wilson has developed a site aimed at delivering free blueprints for firearm parts and has even developed a functioning, fully printable hand gun called the Liberator. While winning praise from the National Rifle Association (NRA) whose members advocate a citizen’s right to bear arms, regulation officials were not as impressed. In May of this year Cody Wilson’s website DEFCAD was forced by the State Department to remove all firearms related instructions, but only after the “Liberator” blueprints were downloaded over 400,000 times. Even though the government is working hard to shut down the distribution of these files under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations and the Undetectable Firearms Act, which outlaws the manufacture, import, selling, shipment, delivery, possession, transfer, or reception of any firearm that is not detectable by walk-through metal detectors, they cannot work fast enough to eliminate their spread. Archive.com not only has a link to DEFCAD’s file, but also lists multiple sites to seek out if their download is compromised in any way. Although 3D printing is being utilized as a tool for what some would call anarchy, it is also being used in monumental medical innovations.
The first 3D bio-printer was developed by Organovo, a San Diego based cooperation which is partnered with large pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer, and even research institutions such as Harvard University. The bio-printer uses the patient’s own tissue to build a replica of the original organ, which allows for not only a fast solution to what could be a fatal wait on an organ transplant list, but also a...