"You can't unring that bell" The internet is written in Ink.

My sister posted an article on my FB wall about how stratasys ended a lease and repossessed a machine when the owners wanted to 3d print a gun.  It actually has made me think a bit about it.  This is all editorial and just my opinions from experience. This in no way reflects employer.

A 15 year old high school girl takes a risque photo of herself on her cell phone and sends it to her boyfriend.  He then shows his friends and forwards it on to a friends phone.  It ends up on the internet all over the place.  Who’s fault is this?  Everyone involved.  

Tony Hawk and Matt Hoffman were innovators of the sports they were in during the eighties because they came up with new ideas.  They tried things they had never done.  Once others saw that it was possible, they were copied by future athletes.  Now a days, 8 year old kids are able to pull tricks that were considered revolutionary when first pulled.  It is not that the physics or equipment have changed that much, but that you begin a challenge knowing you CAN succeed.  If you start a challenge knowing you can succeed, you are more likely to.  The same is true for most anything if you know someone else has already completed the journey you want to take, it improves your odds.  

This is a super tough issue.  Currently for about 5k of investment and some skills, you can make a gun using a milling machine and lathe.  The difference is the skill required as well as the understanding of how a gun works to make it work.  

I have seen 3d printed guns that have had no problem firing off thousands of rounds.  The barrel was an off the shelf item to get a true bore.  Everything else was 3D printed.  The difference is the equipment used was called direct metal laser sintering.  It costs a million dollars and also requires skill to operate.  

Now we have a disruptive technology of sub $1,000 3d printers.  This is cheaper than a tv, laptop, or weekend in vegas.  This alone is not an issue.  In order to get anything out of them, you need to have 3d data to put into them.  With websites like thingaverse, and grabcad, more and more unearned content is available.  People without the ability to do any genesis of design can claim "I made this,"  when in fact, they have done nothing but hit print.  It is plagiarism which the physical products industry has not seen until now.  We have seen this issue with music, video, and software and the war on this is for the most part loosing.  If innovation can't be profitable to the innovators due to theft, they will find something else to do, and new ideas will not be cultivated.  To make a 3d part, you have a simple equation.  3Ddata+3D Printer=Object  

Most people in the maker community have a day job and understand the value of what they do.  They then understand why piracy is unfair as well as why companies need to protect IP.  A few, the loudest, most evangelical talk about how all hardware and software should be open.  They call EULA criminal and demand free access to information.  They then want to take this information and develop a for profit project and make a living off of stealing while preaching that they are robin hood.  These are the people that are a problem.  They want free use off others investments for nothing.  

At work, I deal with people undervaluing what we provide.  They expect something I do to only cost 100 dollars to reverse engineer something model it in Solidworks, and recreate it physically.  when I give them $1000+ dollar price tags, I have literally been called a criminal.  If you don’t understand what is involved for me to do my job, how can you say I am charging too much?  

The 3d printers exist now which is not going to change.  One thing that fuels innovation is the idea that something can be done better.  As non traditional engineers start to have powerful resources for little investment, we start to run into issues that professionals have run into for years.   “What if?”  That is the question that engineers and scientists are always pondering.  I have to think about what happens if someone gets hurt, if something fails, how will it fail?  I can go to jail if I do something negligent.

I don’t disagree with stratasys in this situation.  Some folks are giving them backlash for the way they took the machine back.  Those same people sided with the rental car company that banned Lindsay Lohan from driving her car for fear of her injuring someone.  What's the difference?

A technical side note:  The Uprint is not the machine to do this, the materials are not as strong and output resolution is poor with bad surface quality.  It is not even water tite, putting the explosive force of a bullet is greater than the surface tension of water by a few thousand PSI.  The Fortis Line is a much better choice

I am a firm believer in the right of a citizen to arm themselves.  Currently the nation is so fragmented on gun laws, it is tough to have a clear way to determine who is fit to own a weapon.  More folks are killed by family in a heterosexual marriage, than by home made guns. Lets ban Straight marriage!  (this is sarcasm just so you are all aware)  The Maker community has been debating this issue for a while now.  

None of these guns are new, they are just reverse engineered versions of already manufactured guns.  

Is Smith and Wesson at fault if someone copies the design and it fails and or hurts someone?  

Is the modeler who designed the gun from drawings, or reverse engineering data at fault?  

Is the content sharing site at fault for distributing the information?

Is the home brew 3d Printer designer at fault for an inherent flaw in the design that causes the gun to fail?

Is the guy who built his own printer at fault for making a machine that has non linear travel and inconsistent laminations?

Is the material manufacturer who undercuts Stratasys and makes lesser quality material at fault for shipping inconsistent material?
Finally they guy who we should blame, the guy who pulls the trigger.  

As cost goes down, adoption goes up.  
As ease of use gets better, adoption goes up.  
As reliability increases, adoption increases.  
As output quality increases, adoption increases.

This debate will continue by people much smarter than me.  The key things to keep in mind about it is in the end it is up to personal responsibility.  If you think every single gun manufacturer as well as the government hasn't tested alternative material weapons as well as rapid prototyped models, you're crazy.  They just don’t give away the data as well as ignore all personal responsibility.  If every person in the nation purchases a 3d printer and learns the skills necessary to engineer a weapon, I am just fine with that.  We will see innovation, as well as skills gained.  People will earn the safety and judgement needed to operate a weapon.  If one guy sends distributes his design and everyone just builds the same thing, what have we really improved?  No one has learned anything, and no innovation has happened.  

In closing, this is something that can’t be regulated.  If people that want to make guns, good for them.  Lets just make them earn it.  Instead of spending money and attention on this kid, spend it on making more engineers and you will have a better net sum gain for humanity.  If you watch the video it is just a cry for attention.  Instead of giving him all this attention (which will help him find resources to complete his project)  Ignore him and he will get no money.  if you plan to rant and publicize about owning things, you may not want to lease your equipment.  

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