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First 3D-printed gun successfully fired in US

© Screengrab of promotional video for 'The Liberator'.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-05-06

A Texan student has built and successfully fired a gun built entirely on a 3D printer, in what technological experts say could spell the future of product purchasing. The development has sparked concerns among firearm control activists and lawmakers.

A gun built entirely on a 3D printer has been successfully fired in the US.

Named “The Liberator,” the 16-piece handgun was fired in Texas on Sunday by its designer, 25-year-old law student Cody Wilson. Save for a single nail, the gun is produced entirely with the use of a 3D printer, making it the first “print your own” firearm, requiring no serial number, background check or other regulatory hurdle for prospective users.

Wilson and his non-profit company Defense Distributed plan to release the blueprints for the device later this week.

The move has sparked concern among left-leaning lawmakers, who have been trying in recent months to tighten controls on the sale of firearms.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer called for legislation on Sunday to outlaw the technology for making such weapons, describing the development as “stomach churning”.

"We’re facing a situation where anyone, a felon, a terrorist, can open a gun factory in their garage, and the weapons they make will be undetectable,” he said at a press conference.

‘Available to everyone’

3D printers have existed for almost ten years, but have yet to take off commercially. The machines work with the use of digital design either from scratch on a computer or by scanning a real object.

In order to build a product the printer gradually deposits fine layers of material, such as plastic, carbon or metal. The product can be as hard or as flexible as it is programmed to be, and can even include moving parts.

The printer Wilson used to produce his firearm cost more than 6,000 euros and was bought on online trading website, eBay. Technology experts believe that once 3D printers become more common and less costly, they could transform the way we purchase products.

“In theory, anything that we have today can be produced through 3D printing,” technology expert of DLA Piper, Simon Jones, told AFP. “It may just alter manufacturing as we know it.”

"There are still limits imposed by the technology available today," said Olivier Olmo, operational director of Switzerland's EPFL research institution, “but I'm certain that within 10 or 20 years, we'll have a kind of revolution in terms of the technology being available to everyone."

Wilson, who began building “The Liberator” around eight months ago, told the BBC that while he recognised the danger of his product, he felt that it should be “put out there”.

"I'm seeing a world where technology says you can pretty much be able to have whatever you want," he said. "It's not up to the political players any more."

Date created : 2013-05-06

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