Plans to print a gun halted as 3D printer is seized

Image caption,
The Wiki Weapon blog shows pictures of the printer being collected

A US project to create a printable gun has been derailed after the company supplying the 3D printer withdrew it.

In a letter published on the Wiki Weapon website, Stratasys said that it did not allow its printers "to be used for illegal purposes".

Defense Distributed, the group behind the project, had planned to share 3D weapon blueprints online.

Currently it is legal in the US to manufacture a gun at home without a licence.

Defense Distributed raised $20,000 (£12,400) online to get the Wiki Weapon project started.

It planned to develop a fully printable 3D gun, initially with no moving parts.

"This project could very well change the way we think about gun control and consumption," it said on its site.

"How do governments behave if they must one day operate on the assumption that any and every citizen has near instant access to a firearm through the internet?"

But the project hit a snag when the firm supplying the 3D printer got wind of what they were planning.

In a letter to Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson, Stratasys said that it had taken the decision to withdraw the printer "based on your lack of a [firearms] licence and your public statements regarding your intentions in using our printer".

"It is the policy of Stratasys not to knowingly allow its printers to be used for illegal purposes. Therefore please be advised that your lease of the Stratasys uPrint SE is cancelled at this time."

The firm collected the machine several days later.

Printing trainers

Government laws on the manufacture of guns will need quick revision to catch up with the age of 3D printing, thinks Marc Goodman, head of the Future Crimes Institute.

"This appears to be a grey area under US law and the laws of other countries. The question is: how do you control technology that can do illegal things?" he said.

"In this case, this was being done very overtly and trying to prove a point. I am far more concerned about the people who aren't publicising it."

Mr Goodman predicts that 3D printing could be the next battleground in the fight against organised crime and terrorism. And it won't just be weapons that will be printed online.

"It will be the next frontier in IP [Intellectual Property] theft when you are able to manufacture a Rolex watch, Gucci handbags, Nike sneakers," he said.

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