What does Bitcoin have in common with 3D printing, besides both being technologies loved by geeks? On the face of it, not much: one is a digital currency and the other allows you to reproduce almost any small, solid object in the world.
But as lawmakers are starting to realise, there is a key similarity: both Bitcoin and 3D printing have the potential to reduce the power of the state and put it into the hands of individuals.
In the past week, Cody Wilson, a libertarian law student at the University of Texas, made the world’s first 3D-printed handgun. He printed 15 plastic parts using an $8,000 second-hand Stratasys Dimension SST 3D printer, and then used the assembled gun to fire a standard .380 handgun round.
On Tuesday he released the blueprints on his website defcad.org, meaning that anyone in the world with access to a 3D printer can replicate the gun anonymously and without the need for background checks.
As Forbes has reported, New York Senator Charles Schumer on Sunday called for new legislation to ban 3D-printable guns:
“A terrorist, someone who’s mentally ill, a spousal abuser, a felon can essentially open a gun factory in their garage.”
Cody Wilson sees it a little differently. From Forbes:
“This is about enabling individuals to create their own sovereign space… The government will increasingly be on the sidelines, saying ‘hey, wait.’ It’s about creating the new order in the crumbling shell of the old order.”
With 3D printers getting cheaper and cheaper and a growing number of blueprints for guns freely available online, it is hard to see how regulators would be able to enforce any bans on printing weapons – just as they already struggle to enforce bans on creating home-made bombs and growing cannabis.
It is an anarchist’s dream and a bureaucrat’s nightmare.
Meanwhile, Bitcoin is also coming under regulatory scrutiny. The currency is not controlled by any company or central bank and can therefore be used to make anonymous payments for any purpose, legal or illegal.
As with physical cash, Bitcoins cannot easily be traced by law enforcement agencies. But unlike banknotes, the peer-to-peer currency can be sent around the world instantly and without the need for a physical exchange.
In March, The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network issued new guidelines on virtual currencies such as Bitcoin, seeking to regulate their exchange for dollars. As the FT reported on Tuesday, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission is “seriously” examining the currency.
The trouble for governments, however, is that regulating these new technologies will be difficult, if not impossible.
The European Central Bank published a report on virtual currencies last year that went as far as saying that Bitcoin could pose a challenge to the central bank’s control of the financial system. It added that there was no obvious way of extending its oversight to the virtual currency:
“Governments and central banks would face serious difficulties if they tried to control or ban any virtual currency scheme, and it is not even clear to what extent they are permitted to obtain information from them.
In the particular case of Bitcoin, which is a decentralised peer-to-peer virtual currency scheme, there is not even a central point of access, i.e. there is no server that could be shut down if the authorities deemed it necessary.”
We now live in a world where individuals can do things that were once impossible without the blessing of the state. The idea of printing a gun and selling it for an untraceable digital currency is no longer the stuff of science fiction. Much less clear is what, if anything, could or should be done about it.
The potential for 3D-printed guns has (unsurprisingly) generated a great deal of controversy, and the Liberator is no exception. Named after the WWII single shot pistol, this 3D-printed .380 caliber pistol is made almost entirely of plastic and looks more like a nozzle for a water hose than a gun. The weapon has survived multiple firings with very little damage, inspiring enough confidence that designer Cody Wilson has now tested the gun by hand. –source
The Liberator has 16 parts, 15 of which are 3D printed in ABS plastic by a Stratasys Dimension SST printer. (Stratasys took the step of seizing a printer leased to Wilson’s group last year when it was made aware of what the printer was being used for, stating in a letter, “it is the policy of Stratasys not to knowingly allow its printer to be used for illegal purposes.”) The 16th part is a nail, which serves as a firing pin. At present, only a precision 3D printer can form parts with the tolerances and precise temperature control needed to produce a gun that can survive multiple firings.
The design requires that the parts be printed in various orientations to take advantage of the directional strength of 3D-printed plastic. This means, for example, that a barrel is printed with the bore pointing along the growth direction, while an assembly pin is printed on its side, so it has maximum strength along its length.
The bore of the Liberator is treated with acetone vapor, which softens the surface enough to smooth the bore. Another important process condition is that the print chamber is heated to improve resiliency.
There are, of course, limits to material strength when one is restricted to ABS plastic without fiber reinforcement. The Liberator functions well with the .380 barrel, but an attempt to substitute a 5.7 x 28 rifle cartridge caused the gun to explode – perhaps not a surprising result considering the 5.7 x 28 round has 2.5 times the chamber pressure of the .380 cartridge.
Adding to concerns over what are effectively undetectable and untraceable guns, Wilson’s Defense Distributed group is now trying to adapt the Liberator design to entry-level 3D printers. The editors at Wired take the potential disruption of these so called “Wiki weapons” seriously enough to name Wilson among the 15 most dangerous people in the world.
The gun can be seen in use in the video below.
Gun lovers download printable gun 50,000 times on its first day — and NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly is alarmed
Untraceable gun alarms lawmakers and law enforcers. ‘The Liberator’ can be sneaked onto planes.
By Christina Boyle AND Bill Hutchinson
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 2:31 AM
The first downloadable gun has gone viral.
The plastic firearm that can be churned out on a 3-D printer and easily assembled was downloaded at least 50,000 times Monday, according to the self-described anarchist who made it available for free online.
Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed, a collective of gun advocates, said the most downloads were done in Spain followed by the United States.
MIRROR, Non-Flash Prompt, courtesy of Adam1MC:https://www.yousendit.com/download/UVJoK2VzNnk0b0ROTzhUQw
For more in-depth coverage & DP Thread:
FORBES: Cody Wilson keeps his Promise; The Liberator, the World’s 1st 100% 3D Printed FireArm!
Cody Wilson was on Lou Dobbs, May 7, 2013, and WH/Soros’ Media Matters in a full freak-out mode, vs. Cody & Co.:
Direct .mp4 download: http://cloudfront.mediamatters.org/static/clips/2013/05/07/3…
The GE WarMachine’s Propagandist-whore Rachel Maddow feigning indignance and pathetically smearing Cody & Co as “publicity stunt guys” as if her ACTING and working for GE…isn’t? Then again, there isn’t a single example of living hypocrisy that statists don’t love:
Andy Greenberg of FORBES mag who was there from prototype to first firing of the Liberator interviewed on PBS:
New Yorker, not exactly a hitpiece, not a praise, but sorta, kinda…just, blah:
May 7, 2013
Posted by Jacob Silverman
Last summer, Cody Wilson, a law student at the University of Texas at Austin, announced plans to design and print a working gun using a 3-D printer, a device that can quickly produce simple, solid objects out of melted plastic from digital schematics. Last weekend, Wilson accomplished his dream: he successfully fired his self-designed plastic handgun, called the Liberator, at a private gun range north of Austin. You can now download the design on the Web site of Defense Distributed, the nonprofit organization that Wilson established with some like-minded compatriots.
In a technology industry notorious for unearned epochal pronouncements, it’s tempting to say that this development doesn’t mean much. After all, the United States is already awash in firearms, and it’s relatively easy and affordable to procure a gun far more powerful than the one that Wilson demonstrated. But Wilson’s project is significant—and not only because 3-D printing hobbyists all over the world will now be able to modify and manufacture their own cheap, virtually untraceable guns. More important is what Wilson’s work and the “Wiki Weapon” community at large represent: the fusion of ultra-libertarian politics and a prophesied manufacturing revolution fuelled by 3-D printing.
On the Thusday, May 9 edition of the Alex Jones Show, 3D printing guru Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed announced that the US Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance, Enforcement Division (DTCC/END) has sent him a letter requesting the group remove all data from public access immediately.
The letter, issued by the US Department of State, says:
“DTCC/END is conducting a review of technical data made publicly available by Defense Distributed through its 3D printing website, DEFCAD.org, the majority of which appear to be related to items in Category I of the USML. Defense Distributed may have released ITAR-controlled technical data without required prior authorization from the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), a violation of the ITAR.”
USML stands for United States Munitions List, and ITAR stands for the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.
According to the letter, “Pursuant to § 127.1 of the ITAR it is unlawful to export any defense article or technical data for which a license or written approval is required without first obtaining the required authorization from the DTCC.
Further in the letter, it lists the 3D printable gun files available through DEFCAD.org that the DTCC says violate the ITAR.
“The Department believes Defense Distributed may not have established the proper jurisdiction of the subject technical data. To resolve this matter officially, we request that Defense Distributed submit Commodity Jurisdiction (CJ) determination requests for the following selection of data files available on DEFCAD.org, and any other technical data for which Defense Distributed is unable to determine proper jurisdiction:
1. Defense Distributed Liberator pistol
2. .22 el3ectric
3. 125mm BK-14M high-explosive anti-tank warhead
4. 5.56/.223 muzzle brake
5. Springfield XD-40 tactical slide assembly
6. Sound Moderator – slip on
7. “The Dirty Diane” ½-28 to 3/4-16 STP S3600 oil filter silencer adapter
8. 12 gauge .22 CB sub-caliber insert
9. Voltlock electronic black powder system
10. VZ-58 front sight”
The letter goes on, “Until the Department provides Defense Distributed with final CJ determinations, Defense Distributed should treat the above technical data as ITAR-controlled,” meaning the files must comply with the UN . “This means that all such data should be removed from public access immediately. Defense Distributed should also review the remainder of the data made public on its website to determine whether any additional data may be similarly controlled and proceed according to ITAR requirements.”
Defense Distributed recently garnered major attention after they were able to produce a complete firearm, titled the Liberator, solely using 3D printed parts. Data for the Liberator files have reportedly already been downloaded over 100,000 times.
It’s clear that it was this milestone that inspired the Department of State to pursue compliance orders.
The mandate is in line with the United Nations International Arms Control Treaty which has attempted to regulate firearms by exploiting import-export laws. According to Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, the UN’s Small Arms Treaty “is in fact a massive, GLOBAL gun control scheme.”
The following now appears at the top of defcad.org:
More on this story as it develops…