Row by row, an object is taking shape and becoming a physical version of what can be seen on the computer screen while its future owner and user looks on.
Each plastic part printed by the 3D printer will eventually come together to form something that until now, was very difficult to get and you absolutely needed a background check to obtain.
We are talking about 3D printed guns.
Instead of running a background check and going about it the legal way, all you needed to get a gun was a 3D printer and some downloadable blueprints from the internet.
This was the case back in 2013 when for only two short days, the blueprints for the 3D printable handgun were available on the internet. These plans were downloaded 100,000 times before the United States Department of State ordered the blueprints to be removed.
This is terrifying news because literally anyone can download a 3D printable file and off you go. Controlling and restricting access to guns and weapons is difficult, but controlling the access to data and everything that is needed to print your own weapon, maybe impossible.
3D Printed Handguns are Only the Tip of The Iceberg
When you think about how easy it is to download a file and print a handgun, you can begin to realize that 3d printed handguns are only the tip of the iceberg. Give people enough spare time and they can print out a weapon of mass destruction.
This is the threat outlined by a report released earlier this month “ WMD Capabilities Enabled by Additive Manufacturing”
As with the blueprints for the Liberator handgun, it can be very difficult to stop the flow of data. This report warns that with the proper blueprints and instructions; a 3D printer and printer stock, weapons of mass destruction could be printed by literally anyone. It could be rogue states, terrorists, or even those that have never had the ability or the know-how to access powerful weapons before.
Hell, even a child that is tech-savvy could produce a deadly weapon.
Now, that’s scary.
Before now, certain limitations made it unrealistic to print weapons of mass destruction. Only one material at a time could be printed, and the final components were volume-limited. However, with quickly developing technology, these challenges will be voided because some printers can already print more than one material at once.
On a Military Level
The design and development of missile systems or other delivery systems used by the military might be the most impacted by 3D printing. There might be other applications in chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. 3D printing is being used currently for printing parts for fuel assemblies in nuclear reactors, parts for missiles, warheads, and explosives.
The WMD report also warns us that 3D printing technology can become more powerful and dangerous when paired with artificial intelligence technology or AI for short. A conjunction of these technologies may create complex, unforeseeable threats which can be very dangerous if the blueprints fall into the wrong hands. The report also warns “ the potential for a ‘black swan’-type event involving an AM-centered military program to acquire truly novel unconventional/asymmetric military capabilities cannot be ruled out.”
So what’s to be done? This is definitely a case where knowledge is power. It only takes one smart person, a 3d printer and a whole lot of time on their hands to produce an insanely deadly weapon. The report suggests that working together internationally, keeping abreast of 3D printing technology, and coming up with “outside-the-box” scenarios will help stop the threat before it begins.
What are your thoughts on 3D printers and their potential to harvest weapons of mass destruction? Let us know in the comment section below!