A Horror Story Waiting To Happen?


Here’s a tale from the New York Times that disturbed me.

I’ve always had a strong affinity with Americans, which is why I ended up living there for several years. But it’s said that in US politics, the hard left starts where the British hard right ends. In particular, the right to bear arms is so alien to my way of thinking that I cannot make any sense of it – nor, I suspect, can most Europeans. So, along comes this story.

3-D printers are becoming a consumer product. The printers cost less than a grand and can print objects by spraying thin layers of plastic or metal that are built up into shapes. They’ve been used for years to make prototypes and parts, but now they’re becoming faster and less expensive – and companies are setting up to sell them.

At home you could make fairly basic items from door hinges to luggage labels, or you could do what a young man called Cody Wilson is planning. He’s a Texan student, and he wants to make guns. A number of people have already made gun parts using 3-D printers, and the guns have successfully fired bullets. In theory, after committing a crime with a printed weapon, you can melt down the plastic and reprint it as something else. And guns made of plastic may not be spotted by metal detectors.

But the NYT article has flaws, probably propagated by Mr Wilson himself, who sounds like a character from a bad prison movie. The consensus is that personal 3-D printing is a nascent technology and is still a long way from being achievable, despite Mr Wilson’s claims. However, it should open an intriguing new avenue for horror stories.

16 comments on “A Horror Story Waiting To Happen?”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    Surely there must be a Federal law that controls the manufacture of operating weapons at home. You can not produce any alcohol other than beer and wine in the home in the States. If not, I’m sure there will have to be. The agency that enforces this includes firearms.
    Remember the old movie where the murderer kills his victum with a plastic knife? After the killing, he puts it in hot water and itreshapes itself as a comb, or such, and is so hidden until needed again.
    The NRA is the organization that has produced all of this on-going firearm frenzy. The majority of Americans are not “gun nuts”.
    ASIDE: do any of you have this problem? At certain times of day, posting on WordPress is extremely frustrating due to “key drag” or is it “key delay?” This happens – I assume during heavy posting times. For example, if you don’t type very slowly this is what happens: te bg cat wddled the bi brown rat. And you have to highlight and deleaetoerase. See? Dang! Sowly? That was to be Snowy?

  2. Dan Terrell says:

    NB: Victum above is a mistapped key, not a drag or smeared key.

  3. Mary says:

    That is truly amazing and very scary. Surely, such clever technology could be used for a less deadly and more beautiful use?

  4. Paco says:

    Hadn’t you heard? Every home on Bullshit Mountain has one of these……

  5. Alan G says:

    OOH! Does this mean I can use the Computer Club funds and make my own Kylie?

    Please, oh please…

  6. snowy says:

    America is a vast country, and in certain areas still has top predators capable of killing humans, while that remains true the gun situation is unlikely to change. And the vast majority of gun owners are perfectly normal people.

    Britain has only been comparatively gun free since 1936, before that it was fairly easy to legally purchase and keep a weapon.

    3D printers have been around for a number of years, and small ones are relatively inexpensive, about the price of two mid range laptops. But they are slow and inaccurate. The interesting point comes when a 3D printer can print a complete 3D printer, we are not their yet, but we are getting closer.

    He hasn’t printed a gun, he has printed a lower receiver, which is not technically difficult, it’s just a frame for all the other parts to attach to. The wrinkle is this, only the lower receiver has a serial number, and is the only part that is controlled. So if you can make that, all the other parts can be bought legally without a licence, and bingo, a gun with no paper trail. But no more untraceable than an imported weapon.

    One day it might be possible to print a complete gun, that works without exploding in your face, but it’s a long way off. And even if you did melt it down, the residue from the propellent will still be present. And you can’t print the propellent, slug and casing, perhaps, but not the powder.

    If anyone wants to know how to dispose of a weapon properly, have a look at ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ by Roald Dahl.

  7. snowy says:

    Dan, rather than explain what might be the possible problems, I’d suggest downloading another browser, like Firefox, Chrome, Seamonkey or Opera and try that first.

    Alan, I believe it is traditional to manufacture a Kelly LeBrock first, but it does require considerably more material. And I’ve never been much taken by the mandatory ‘headgear’.

  8. Helen Martin says:

    I first saw a 3D printer creating a model of a house for “This Old House” and was completely amazed by the process. I’m sure someone will solve the ‘how to print a gun’ problem but with any luck it *will* blow up in their faces.
    Interesting to see that some people read this blog starting with the newest entry. I always start with the oldest point at which someone is likely to have added something and then carry on to the newest.
    I use Firefox and don’t have a problem. Of course it could be that my typing isn’t fast enough to trigger the drag.

  9. Ken M says:

    The less scary and beautiful use already exists – jewellery companies use 3D printers to make lost wax prototypes of very complex shapes indeed.

  10. glasgow1975 says:

    ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ by Roald Dahl was my very first thought after reading this 🙂
    This 3d technology albeit in advanced form has been used in sci fi for a while now, Halting State by Charles Stross and his more ‘spacey’ sci fi make full use of 3d printing technology.

  11. glasgow1975 says:

    and further on down the line isn’t this a Star Trek replicator?

  12. Dan Terrell says:

    A nice pot of mint jelly to Snowy for the “Lamb to the Slaughter”. I’m working on the key drag issue, but it really appears to be a time of day issue. We’ll see.
    Kelly LeBrock, Alan G? My, my nice taste.
    Helen I, too, normally read from the past forward because the comments are generally of such interest. But I’ve found there can even be some new posts added weeks later and the time-thief syndrome sets in and suddenly it’s overtime on the day.

  13. Helen Martin says:

    Yes, I have just missed an interview with Arnold Swartzenegger on the CBC. I was fully intending… I’ll have to get it on the repeat tonight. Meanwhile, there are two more entries to go.

  14. snowy says:

    If it’s a time of day issue, is your anti-virus running a scan in the background? If so try shifting the scan time to a period when the PC is on but unattended ie. lunch or dinner time.

  15. Dan Terrell says:

    Snowy – thought of that, but it’s not a scan, not a virus, and not fun. Seems to be a what I’d guess is peak user time in Europe/Britian – if you add 6 or so.

  16. snowy says:

    Peak user time should only affect the time taken from pressing the ‘Submit’ button to the post appearing.

    Hard to say what it could be, usual problems are having lots of other tabs open in the browser, or lots of other applications running on the machine.

    I’ll say this only for the sake of completeness, as you most likely have already done it. Assuming a windows system and having done an AV scan, try a malware/spyware scan. Malwarebytes or SpybotS&D are two tools that spring to mind.

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