August 18, 2013

3D home printers

I don't get the appeal of the idea of 3D home printers. Maybe if I was into, say, plastic Star Wars collectibles and thus could forge rare ones in my spare bedroom. But, I've already got enough plastic crud as it is. What I definitely don't want to do is print my own gun, then hold it up in front of my right eye and pull the trigger. Like everybody tells the kid in Christmas Story, you'll put your eye out.

81 comments:

Shawn said...

The home-use ones will mostly be used by solo engineers.

Anonymous said...

Dildos, bro. Dildos.

countenance said...

I understand Jay Leno uses 3D printing to print no longer made parts for his cars.

Then again, I only have a "classic car collection" if you consider a 13-year old Ford Focus to be a "classic."

Stilleto said...

Rubber women who look like anyone you want, and without the embarassment of ordering.

elvisd said...

Shawn said...

The home-use ones will mostly be used by libertarian fantasists .

Anonymous said...

Model railroad hobbyists could probably put 3D printers to good use.

Whiskey said...

Steve the Maker Revolution leverages a sub for a machine shop or casting shop for rapid prototyping or small runs.

Desktop printing allowed Joe Average to produce pro documents and desktop 3d printing allows professional prototyping.

Many guns use non critical parts that are made this way ala mim metal injection molding. Colt, Ruger, Smith and Wesson, Beretta, and Springfield all use it for things like extractors or safeties. Purists don't like it but it makes the guns cheaper. And since guns for civilians are small batch manufacturing cost is not trivial.

southcentralpa said...

If you are unaware of Make magazine, the readers of that publication make up the bulk of the home customers for a 3-d printer.

Also, even with the initial expense of the printer itself, it is frequently cheaper than hiring a patternmaker for rapid prototyping.

Thagomizer said...

Right now they're just a hobby device for engineers and artists.

But once they get done improving the technology and building up a public library of 3d models it'll be a very interesting technology.

Any time you need a small tool or replacement part you'll use the printer instead of heading to the store.

Anything with a cracked plastic case will be easy to fix.

Harry Baldwin said...

I don't get the excitement about making guns with 3D printers. The most challenging component of a home-made gun is the ammunition. If you have shotgun shells you could improvise a serviceable single-shot weapon with less than $20 worth of parts from Home Depot.

x said...

to make the action in a gun you need high quality steel (can be purchased, but not made at home), forging, and machining

it's technically possible but the barrier to entry is quite high and requires many tools and skills

to make a high capacity magazine all you really need is cheap sheet steel, a press break, a spring, and metal shears

Z said...

I think part of the novelty stems from the fact few people have the slightest idea how stuff gets made anymore. Go into a modern manufacturing facility and you will find loads of 3D printers. They are just called CNC machines and they have been around for years.

I suppose creating extremely cheap versions of CNC machines could have use for micro manufacturing. Specialists could make parts for their creations or maybe for the weird stuff they specialize in repairing.

Otherwise, it looks like a solution in search of a problem.

Zoink said...

I had the same thought: I have enough plastic crap, and if I need more I have Wal-Mart, Target, Amazon and eBay.

Even those who really want some very particular bit of plastic, the easier thing would be to take it to a plastic print shop than buy and figure out how to use this.

Steve Sailer said...

"Otherwise, it looks like a solution in search of a problem."

Right. For a few, skilled percent of the population, this will be somewhere between a small business and a high end hobby. But for inept doofuses like me, well, it's seldom that I say, when thinking about the present v. the past: these days, manufactured stuff costs too much and home delivery has gotten too slow.

Anonymous said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6U4QVCowisY&list=PLJPwwZWWTeLg7P2Mi8YCyhuyuuPEL_mcy


I can see all sorts of uses for all sorts of hobbies and huge potential later for at least temporary DIY repairs to just about anything.

Anonymous said...

You've put your finger on the main thing I don't understand about 3D printing. Sure, you can print an object in any shape you want... but not in any material you want, and the material an object is made of is every bit as important as its shape. For example, I think it's going to be quite some time before a 3D printer -- even the most advanced and expensive -- can fabricate the sort of high quality steel you need for a rifle barrel (or even a decent pocket knife, for that matter).

In fact just looking around my room I'm seeing all sorts of materials that I don't think 3D printers can reproduce (at least not well). Modern materials science has come up with all sort of high-tech materials that are heavily used in modern manufacturing. As long as 3D printers can't fabricate those materials, they won't be able to do any better than create second rate knockoffs of many of the commonplace consumer items we find in stores today.

Steve Sailer said...

Manufacturing guns has attracted superstar inventors like Eli Whitney for hundreds of years. It's a largely mature industry that relies on machining high quality steel.

Sam said...

Sailer hit right on the head in what I regard as the most obvious political implication of 3D printers, namely what it will do to gun ownership.

Gun controllers will be put in an awkward situation because while the proliferation of guns among criminals will increase to meet the high demand, gun controllers will remain steadfast. I'm thinking that it will be felt much more so in Europe among our gangs and it will certainly intensify some of the problems with immigrant gangs.
http://teapartyeconomist.com/2013/06/03/no-way-to-stop-3d-guns-says-homeland-security/

Anonymous said...

If you wanted to make a gun at home, I'd have thought a CNC metalworking machine would be better than a $30,000 3D printer. But they've been around a while and it doesn't sound nearly as cool.

If for some reason you wanted to make a plastic gun, wouldn't making metal molds for injection molding would give you a stronger plastic? I'm not a gunsmith so maybe I'm wrong

Anonymous said...

Model railroad hobbyists could probably put 3D printers to good use

Exactly why Im thinking about getting one!

I dont know that its a total game changer but its a useful tool to have around.

Spoke to the guy who runs this company recently.

He makes resin moulded models but he's running out of room for storing the original masters, I get the impression he's working out of his garage. By running off 3D printed masters he doesnt have to store so many, he just prints them out when needed.

So its not overturning his whole method of production, just cutting some costs.

Anonymous said...

1997 Barry Switzer sure could have used one.

Anonymous said...

If OJ had had one he wouldn't have needed to steal his heisman trophy back. Just crank out a new plastic one.

Anonymous said...

The attraction for guns is that, legally, the part that constitutes the "gun" in the case of an AR-15 is a non-stressed part that can safely be made of plastic.

The lower receiver is what the ATF considers the "gun"--it's got the serial number and it's the piece that has all the paperwork attached to it. The rest of the parts--the barrel, bolt, bolt carrier, trigger, and so on--are unregulated parts you can buy from Amazon. Once you have the lower receiver it can be assembled with some wrenches and punches.

So it's a intersection between the legal situation and technology. The 3D printer lets you get past the made regulatory roadblock.

Anonymous said...

It's a largely mature industry that relies on machining high quality steel.

There's a lot of steel in modern guns--some of it stamped rather than machined--but in the last 30 years there's been a lot of polymer and in the last 50 years a lot of aluminum. Glock made polymer pistol frames famous. The AR-15 has a lot of aluminum.

CNC machining and polymers revolutionized gun making. The CNC machines can crank out accurate, detailed parts by the pallet load for cheap. This made some old designs, like the 1911 .45 pistol, popular again. Suddenly you could have an excellent pistol for not much money.

Jim Bowery said...

Problem: Critical aerospace parts with requirements as demanding as rocket engines are already being printed in metal.

How, exactly, are you going to keep this kind of technology from getting into the home? I mean a lot of guys have their own shops where they have lathes and mills already. A shop with no more capital investments than that could handle the range of materials necessary for, say automobile maintenance. Guns? Well rockets are basically controlled continuous explosion.

Orthodox said...

The hype over home 3D printing is the nerds who imagine the Star Trek device that makes anything you want.

I'm guessing it's going to be like the PC. Who needs a home computer in 1982? Nerds and accountants. In 30 years, you will use the printer to form your Soylent Green into edible looking shapes and colors.

I suspect that eventually you'll first see successful artisan manufacturers specializing in things such as action figures. Maybe it never amounts to anything, but what it does is put a manufacturing process into the hands of individuals. That may not lead to everyone wanting one, but it may lead to revolutions in design.

Crawfurdmuir said...

Making highly functional firearms does not require high technology. There has been a cottage industry making them in the Indian subcontinent for more than a century. Close replicas of the British service weapons were made there by rebels during the Raj. Barrels and actions were fashioned from pieces of railroad track, and stocks were carved from wood of the native trees. U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan have encountered such weapons still in use during the past decade, and the local makers are now sophisticated enough to duplicate AK-47s.

Similarly, ammunition can easily be hand-loaded. The most difficult component to duplicate on a cottage industry basis is the primer, but even this can be and has been done in the most primitive parts of the world. The followers of Cochise and Geronimo re-primed rimfire cases in the last decades of the nineteenth century by using a paste made from the heads of common matches. Where there's a will, there's a way, and 3D printers are far from the best or the easiest way to produce usable weapons.

RonMexico said...

Here's an article from mlive about Sintercore, a startup that designs a high strength alloy muzzle brake. http://www.mlive.com/business/west-michigan/index.ssf/2013/08/sintercore_3d_printing_guns.html#incart_hbx#incart_best-of
The future is now.

Auntie Analogue said...


Who'da thunk! The amazing digital resurrection of the liberal-dreaded Saturday Night Special!

6 afraid of 7 said...

3D Printing Patents Expiring in 2014 will see Market Erupt

Also, re: "a solution looking for a problem" - that's what they said about the laser, too. Get ready!

Scipio Americanus said...

Haven't had time to read the whole thread, but as something of an expert on the topic here are some important pointers:

1) I saw someone mention them being no different from CNC machines but this is not the case; "3D printing" is the colloquial term for Additive Manufacturing. All prior manufacturing techniques (except casting/molding) are subtractive: you start with a big lump and carve bits off. In additive manufacturing you start with little bits (grains of the material, or a liquid in some cases) and build up what you're making bit by bit. This is (currently) slower but saves a lot of wastage. More importantly it lets you make something with many fewer parts, as few as half as many, because you can build integrally and even have the moving parts built up with the device. Fewer parts = lower cost and higher reliability.

3D printers have an edge over CNC machines for certain tasks because they don't have to switch tools; there's only one tool and it doesn't wear down anything like the expensive chisels, drills, and the like used in a subtractive CNC cell. Also, if the engineering office says there needs to be a change in the design you don't have to stop and retool the whole assembly line, just upload a new CAD file.

The big frontier that is being worked on in the field now is being able to print electronics directly into the material so you could have a machine that spits out, say, IPhones with the electronics built right into the plastic. It would make such devices much more rugged, not to mention cheaper. The main issue is speed, which is why they are mainly used for rapid prototyping now.

2) The 3d printers everyone is talking about for home use print in plastic using a process called Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). However, there are machines that print in any material up to titanium aerospace alloys. GE uses them to make turbine blades at a fraction the cost of normal methods, with cooling channels built right into the internal structure of each blade. These machines cost millions of dollars (though that will likely come down as they become more common) and use a laser or electron beam to fuse together particles of metal. The resulting parts are just as strong as forged components.

Such machines are unlikely to appear on the home scene, but their impact on industry will be (honestly already is) pretty big.

If you're interested in learning more about these 3d metal printers, take a quick look at this:

http://prokalkeo.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Prokalkeo_2013_3d_Metal_Manufacturing.pdf

Anonymous said...

"3D printing will explode in 2014, thanks to the expiration of key patents"

In a nutshell, you'll soon be able to inexpensively print high-quality, metal parts.

Clay said...

Tinkerers and hobbyists get excited about technology before clear practical value is established. In the late seventies, personal computers had no real practical value and were a hobbyist toy.

Personally, I'd like to try printing out plastic molds of brains from MRI data. I don't need to own my own printer at home though. I will probably pay membership at a local group that offers shared printer access when I'm ready.

Anonymous said...

Siri's Founder Dag Kittlaus Predicts The Next Big Things...3D printers. And no – not the ones that exist right now where you need inputs. My simple mathematical brain thinks you need inputs to get output – at least on the atomic level. He takes that up to another level. He sees 3D printers working where energy is the input. That means, if you have a favorite lamb dish made by, let’s say Anthony Bourdain, then you could just “print” out that dish at home on your printer. It comes out hot, medium rare just as you like it, with a side of mashed potatoes made by Masaharu Morimoto.

kudzu bob said...

"The street finds its own uses for things."

Anonymous said...

http://barelyablog.com/glenn-beck-awakens-to-the-color-of-hate-crime-but-fails-to-credit-those-who-went-before/

Luke Lea said...

Let's see, could you print a life-like bust of yourself or your loved ones.? Those things are hard to come by otherwise.

sunbeam said...

I think I would find a 3d printer useful.

Have you ever wanted a certain kind of screw? And had to make a special trip to get it? For a lot of applications (not all of course) a plastic screw would work just fine.

Plus there are all kinds of other weird little parts that are difficult to find, or they charge way too much for it.

I fixed my washing machine once, and lost a little plastic part. The parts place wanted 20 dollars for another one.

My washing machine has been running without it ever since. I would prefer to have replaced it, but I wasn't paying that much for something like that.

Anonymous said...

A number of internet jewelers use them to make custom jewelry. They take the CAD file for the setting, plug in the parameters for ring size and stone dimensions and print out the wax mold for casting the piece to the exact specifications of the customer.

Anonymous said...

How do you use these things in metalwork?

Do you first create the prototype in plastic?

And then you make a mold of the plastic prototype with clay?

And then you superheat the clay mold in a kiln?

And then you pour molten metal back into the clay-ceramic mold?

Because my general impression was that plastic tended to melt when heated.

agnostic said...

"Glock made polymer pistol frames famous."

Yet another marvel of 1980s technology.

wren said...

The lower receiver is what the ATF considers the "gun"--it's got the serial number and it's the piece that has all the paperwork attached to it. The rest of the parts--the barrel, bolt, bolt carrier, trigger, and so on--are unregulated parts you can buy from Amazon. Once you have the lower receiver it can be assembled with some wrenches and punches.

Anyone who wants a lower receiver without the paperwork can find one, legally, by googling "80% lower receievr" and then follow the directions to finish it up on a drill press.

This is completely legal.

in the US.

For now.

agnostic said...

"As long as 3D printers can't fabricate those materials, they won't be able to do any better than create second rate knockoffs of many of the commonplace consumer items we find in stores today."

Sadly, that actually sounds like a selling point in today's culture. Commonplace consumer items, the kind that you can just go into a store and buy (not search for and order online), keep getting junkier and junkier.

You mean I can buy an eraser that's made out of non-eraser material from that guy down the street, who prints them off of his 3D printer -- and for only 5 cents?! Well, who cares if the material won't erase -- it's only 5 cents! It's the eraser that the government and corporations don't want you to find out about. It'll put them out of business.

I'm sure there are a few exceptional items, but the average person has come to demand such low-quality junk -- as long as it's cheap. It's another return to the mid-century mindset, i.e. of rational efficiency experts taking over all areas of life, driving down quality, and of consumerist consumers eating it all up.

Anonymous said...

These machines cost millions of dollars (though that will likely come down as they become more common) and use a laser or electron beam to fuse together particles of metal. The resulting parts are just as strong as forged components.

Laser sintering is the term I believe. Works for metal and plastic. Whether it will ever be cheap enough for home use - who knows. Maybe for small parts though?

Developed through govt funding by white guys. Just the sort of thing that current billionaires, liberals and many libertarians hate to hear about.

Hepp said...

"I'm sure there are a few exceptional items, but the average person has come to demand such low-quality junk -- as long as it's cheap. It's another return to the mid-century mindset, i.e. of rational efficiency experts taking over all areas of life, driving down quality, and of consumerist consumers eating it all up."

Who the hell cares? Let people balance quality, price, and convenience how they want. It's harder to fool people on run-of-the mill consumer goods than anything else. I've seen food snobs before, but having aesthetic preferences about household items is really unnecessary.

Mr. Anon said...

"Hepp said...

Who the hell cares? Let people balance quality, price, and convenience how they want. It's harder to fool people on run-of-the mill consumer goods than anything else. I've seen food snobs before, but having aesthetic preferences about household items is really unnecessary."

It's not aesthetic preferences that are at issue, and "Agnostic" was dead-on right. A lot of things now are so shoddy, that they break soon after purchase. I once bought a "never-kink" garden-hose (made in China, of course) that was kinked right there in the f**king store when I bought it. What was I to do? All the hoses in Home Depot were the same. If I had gone to the Lowe's (right next door), they would have been the same as well. Those are the only home-supply places in town. People nowadays seem quite happpy to buy crap, as long as it's cheap. And because people like that have driven the market to producing crap, crap is now all there is to buy.

And, by the way, what's up with rival retail outlets now being opened right next to each other? One home-supply store invites another. If there's a home-depot in your town, you can almost guarantee that there will be a Lowe's (or a Menards, or an Orchard Supply) right next door. If there is a Walgreen's on a given corner, you can bet there will be a CVS or a Rite-Aid right across the street. There is one intersection in my city that has three mattress stores, all within 50 yards of each other. Is this really good for business?

TGGP said...

Kudos to Whiskey. He made a sensible comment. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

“Let's see, could you print a life-like bust of yourself or your loved ones.? Those things are hard to come by otherwise.”
“Rubber women who look like anyone you want, and without the embarassment of ordering.”
As a matter of fact, small (10 inch or so) replicas of first users of those machines are rage in England according to local media. Resemblance is reportedly shocking.
“I'd like to try printing out plastic molds of brains from MRI data.”
“If you have a favorite lamb dish made by, let’s say Anthony Bourdain, then you could just “print” out that dish at home on your printer.”
Why not fuse these two technologies together and print replica brains?
Also, in 30 or so years, I can imagine what your vengeful or bored or just lazy household robot will be doing when nobody´s home – comes afternoon, he will be playing golf with robotic cadies while poor replica would have to put up with your bitchy 90 years wheel chair bound mother in law.
In much shorter time, it could be aps revolution revisited. Smart guys from anywhere (well, mostly Chinese and Russian Jews) making many selling their designs via cell phones.
And of course “Dildos, bro. Dildos.”

goodgod said...

Shame on TGGP. He read a Whiskey comment. Stop it.

Anonymous said...

"I've seen food snobs before, but having aesthetic preferences about household items is really unnecessary."

Let me guess, a single guy living with milk crate end tables and an electric wire spool coffee table.

Anonymous said...

And, by the way, what's up with rival retail outlets now being opened right next to each other? One home-supply store invites another. If there's a home-depot in your town, you can almost guarantee that there will be a Lowe's (or a Menards, or an Orchard Supply) right next door. If there is a Walgreen's on a given corner, you can bet there will be a CVS or a Rite-Aid right across the street. There is one intersection in my city that has three mattress stores, all within 50 yards of each other. Is this really good for business?

The clustering of like-bidnesses within cities is a fascinatingly counterintuitive yet doggedly persistent micro-phenomenon which is entirely analogous to Steve's observations about the macro-clustering of elite labor talent at the regional and national level.

If I had a mattress store, then I wouldn't want to be within ten miles of another mattress store [thinking in terms of micro-local exclusivity], but, hey, what do I know?

Maybe these guys figure that it's better for them to chase the customers than to force the customers to chase them?

I.e. you rob a bank because that's where the money is, and you build a mattress store on "Mattress Boulevard" because that's where the mattress customers are?

Still, though, I'd prefer exclusivity.

Steve Sailer said...

See the movie "A Beautiful Mind" for John Nash's explanation of retail clustering.

Big Bill said...

3D printers are the technological equivalent of the TRS-80 computer in 1978: cute toys, something to fiddle with, something to stimulate dreams and ambitions, something to achieve social status with in amateur technical circles, but not particularly useful beyond that (i.e. part-making).

They are a crude solution in search of a problem, a stepping stone to something better.

Radio Shack ads back in the day (1978) touted using the TRS-80 to store recipes for cooking or to do homework. Most women laughed. $1000 for a recipe "book" that takes ten minutes to "open" and a husband to operate?

But you need early adopters and dreamers to stimulate technology, to imagine the problems that could be solved "if only ... ". The diddly 3d printers sold for home/hobbyist use serve to create that mindshare--the social, mental collective space--and get likeminded individuals talking, dreaming, and comparing ideas.

Things are proceeding apace. We now have laser sintered powder metallurgy "3D printers" that can make precision steel parts. Service bureaus across the USA have these machines and are offering their services. Prices will inevitably drop and production machines will be purchased by local hobbyist clubs and individuals.

Big Bill said...

Sadly, the Indians who come here lack the native curiosity for making and using machines. Tinkering is low caste activity. It is degrading to any Indian with money and religious/social status. One gets one's servants to fix things. And the servants, of course, are kept poor.

Caterpillar uses Indian CAD jockeys, but they are not designers, thinker, dreamers.

They keep clean and make money pushing a mouse dragging a cursor around the screen, but they don't have that farm-boy agricultural engineer's tactile knowledge and years of farm experience of just working with things, fixing things, figuring out how to make something better.

Pity the Indians picked a religion that for 2000 years has degraded, repressed and impoverished people who work with their hands. They are still paying the price.

No bicycle mechanic in India could ever have dreamed of building a flying machine. No Brahmin, even if he dreamed, would ever have permitted himself to dirty his hands building one.

And that is why they come here.

Cail Corishev said...

Any time you need a small tool or replacement part you'll use the printer instead of heading to the store.

I think I'm like Steve: I keep hearing how important this is, but all the examples I see are purely ornamental, and frequently look like they were made out of papier mache. So here's a real-life example: this weekend I needed a 1/4" brass compression nut. Can I produce one of these myself on a 3D printer, assuming I have the design spec? If not real brass, can it produce something hard enough to do the job?

Shlomo ben Levi said...

I'm getting one for my hobbyist machine shop. I think I can print out molds for injection molding and sand casting.

Just Another Guy With a 1911 said...

To some extent - the whole reaction by the political class to 3-D gun printing is really predicated on a profound ignorance regarding the truth about guns. Fist, despite the mass introduction of plastic framed auto pistols to the buying public and law enforcement by Gaston Glock (although the H&K VP-70 preceded it by over a decade), the basic technology (as opposed to materials and/or manufacturing process) has not altered significantly since John Browning added an external extractor to the P-35, along with its 13 round double stack mag (designed by a Beligium FN guy). Heck, John Browning designed a striker fired pocket pistol in the early 1900's. Honestly, with the exception of Keltec maybe, it's really is just the same old same old packaged in different materials. Probably will be until we get our Phasors

Second, the reality is that you really CAN make a shotgun or zip gun with Home Depot parts. I remember my Dad telling me how they used to make them in 1950's using radio antennas and .22 LR. It's not that complicated. If you want to move to something a little higher end, you can find .pdf plans by a British inventor, P.A. Luty, on the internet for building a working 9mm sub machine gun.(It worked so well, in fact, he was sent to jail).

I also believe a working 3D printed polymer AR lower is NOT that far away either. You can already buy a manufactured New Frontier LW-15 polymer lower. But as noted above, you can buy an 80% lower now.

And Whiskey does nail it re: MIM parts for 1911's. They work fine. And, man, you cannot imagine the high dudgeon 1911 snobs (or purists) work themselves up into over MIM parts on their beloved hunks of steel. (It's funny - when I first saw MIM in a gun related forum, I thought it meant Made in Mexico, because guitar snobs will sneer in contempt at Mexican made Fenders all day long). The reality is you can get a Rock Island Armory 1911 for less than $500 that will run just fine. If you want something a little nicer then get a Ruger SR 1911. You can always go nuts with the Brownell's catalog when you got the money. Of course, if you can afford it, go with the Les Baer. After all style and aesthetics do matter, but don't ever expect a gun that costs $2000 more than a lower end model to shoot 2000 percent better.

As a lot of iStevers noted - it is early days.

Back in the day, when I was waiting 10 minutes for my clicking, whirring and blinking C-64 1541 drive to boot up "The Last V-8" or waiting for my hissing, screeching, and clicking modem to log onto a local BBS at the lightning speed of 1200 baud, I had little inkling that I was staring as through a mirror dimly at the shape of the world to come.

Anonymous said...

I know Steve is old enough to remember attitudes about the PC thirty years ago. Who would ever want one of those in the home? What would you use it for?

Does the phrase "For a few, skilled percent of the population, this will be somewhere between a small business and a high end hobby." not sound familiar? Come on... are you *trying* to make one of those quotes that everyone can laugh at in a few decades?


Mike in Boston said...

My employer, a high-tech company, wanted some custom plastic enclosures to hold the circuit boards and associated hardware to demonstrate a prototype product. Had to be just the right size, shape, holes in all the right places, etc. And they were needed in 48 hours. 3-D printing was the only way to get that fast a turnaround.

pat said...

The funny thing about all the frou-ha-ha about using your home computer to make a plastic pistol with which to make mischief is that the detailed plans for making such a gun were already revealed in a big Hollywood film years ago.

"In the Line of Fire" in 1993 Clint Eastwood protects the President from John Malkovich who has made a plastic handgun.

In case you missed the film - here are some of the technical points. First of all you must use a low power cartridge like a .22 LR. Any standard pistol cartridge like a .9mm Luger would burst the chamber. Secondly you should make your assassin's weapon so it doesn't look like a gun at all. It should be like the pistol that Scaramanga uses in "The Man with the Golden Gun" - assembled from pieces at the last minute.

As Lee Harvey Oswald proved a pistol is a poor choice for President shooting. Almost every pistol wielding assassin has failed but snipers with sniper rifles are one for one. One suspects that the Secret Service doesn't give a hoot about those who try to shoot the President with any kind of pistol - much less a low powered smooth bore like a plastic gun made at home.

If I were the Secret Service I would worry about weaponized drones. They are readily available and easy enough to fly. Grant Imahara has been showing us how on 'Mythbusters" for years.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

PC: why would I need a computer at home, I have a typewriter (they're also expensive!)

Laptop: why would I need to take my PC with me?(they're also expensive!)

Internet: it's slow and I don't need to be connected to people I don't know, I have diskettes (it's also expensive!)

Mobile phone: why would I need to be reachable everywhere. They can send a letter or call me (they're also expensive!)

Ipad: why would I need a tablet, I have a laptop (they're also expensive!)

And so on.

PS This is what PCs were like:
http://crabbyoldbugger.com/Images/Altair_8800.jpg

map said...

I think yu guys are misunderstanding something critical about the 3D printers. You are not just printing a shape. You can print in one pass a complex machine with several moving parts.

The company stratasys sent me this sample part:

http://www.stratasys.com/contact-us/get-a-sample-part

It comes printed like that in one pass. That includes the container, thread and cap.

You could conceivably 3d print an entire working gun, like a 1911.

Anonymous said...

The 3 d printing is good in some respects there was an article on a small toy manufacturer that came from Europe to New York City, about 10 years ago a lot of manufacturing in New York employed illegal Chinese to sew just like they employed immigrant Jews in Milton Friedman's mother day. Now, with the 3-d printing of the toys you see a white guy working. The wages are more of a clerical worker but it seems the workers can also sell online and get commission, so traditional factory jobs are becoming clerical and online sells, granted not everyone likes sell.

Anonymous said...

3D printers have an edge over CNC machines for certain tasks because they don't have to switch tools; there's only one tool and it doesn't wear down anything like the expensive chisels, drills, and the like used in a subtractive CNC cell. Also, if the engineering office says there needs to be a change in the design you don't have to stop and retool the whole assembly line, just upload a new CAD file.
Thanks for the info, I was not a machinsts and the manufacturing jobs I did were similar assembly and that was over 20 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Right. For a few, skilled percent of the population, this will be somewhere between a small business and a high end hobby. But for inept doofuses like me, well, it's seldom that I say, when thinking about the present v. the past: these days, manufactured stuff costs too much and home delivery has gotten too slow.
Lots of stuff is sold on the internet today and people are not worried usually if it takes a few days unless its very necessarily.

8/18/13, 5:29 PM

gwood said...

"How do you use these things in metalwork?"
Print an object in a water soluable plastic like PVA and make your mold from that. Flush out the plastic and pour in the metal.

anony-mouse said...

The question is whether there's a 3-D printer capable of making a 3-D printer.

peterike said...

Apparently, one can use such gizmos to create art forgeries.

http://www.wired.com/design/2013/08/watch-a-robot-that-forges-paintings-with-algorithms/

Not a 3-D printer per se, but a similar animal.

Hepp said...

Regarding similar businesses winding up next to each other, Google "Hotelling's law"

Anonymous said...

> "Print an object in a water soluable plastic like PVA and make your mold from that. Flush out the plastic and pour in the metal."

Huh?

Power Child said...

1. Maybe between now and the time everyone has a 3D printer on their desk at home, there'll be 3D Kinkos, or Home Depot will have a 3D printer in the back of the hardware section.

2. Is it easier to print small? Maybe home 3D printing will create the most dramatic change for MEMS innovators. Could even turn modeling and testing into one extended process.

(For all I know, this has already happened. I have no idea, because I'm not even an engineer, let alone a MEMS engineer.)

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

How do you use these things in metalwork?"

There are 3-D printers for making parts out of metal, using laser or e-beam sintering, but they are quite expensive and well beyond the reach of the typical home hobbyist, at least for now.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous Hepp said...

Regarding similar businesses winding up next to each other, Google "Hotelling's law""

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, with the exception of Keltec maybe, it's really is just the same old same old packaged in different materials. Probably will be until we get our Phasors

One of the interesting thing about guns is the intersection between firearms design and manufacturing methods.

Back in the late 19th century and early 20th they were machined steel works of art with a high labor content. It took a lot of man-hours on manually operated lathes and milling machines to make the parts.

During WW2 and the Cold War design for manufacturing was the by-word. Mass armies needed arms cranked out fast. So firearms designed for steel stampings like the Sten, StG-44, Grease Gun, AK-47, and G3 became widespread. The guns were designed to the manufacturing methods that were conducive to mass production, usually with frames made of stamped steel.

In the 80's we got plastic framed pistols, and in the 90's CNC machines hit in a big way. You could crank out the parts for a 1911 by pushing a button at night, coming back the next morning, and unloading a pallet of new 1911 frames or slides, all with more precise tolerances than you could get back in the early 20th century. The same thing happened to AR-15 parts. You didn't need a big metal stamping infrastructure or a factory floor full of machinists running milling machines, just a CNC machine set up to make parts. Right now AR-15s are being manufactured at a rate that's in the same ballpark as rifle production in the US during WW2: probably well over half a million AR-15 rifles per year, vs. something like a million or so M1 carbines per year during WW2. During WW2 they needed to spin up major manufacturers like GM, Rock-Ola, International Harvester, IBM, Remington-Rand, and Underwood to make firearms. Today similar numbers are being made in a few nondescript industrial park buildings that have all the lights switched off at night while the CNC machines work.

The next big step will be the interaction between design and manufacturing techniques for firearms with 3D printing. Someone will design firearms optimized for 3D printing manufacturing techniques.

Eric said...

I think part of the novelty stems from the fact few people have the slightest idea how stuff gets made anymore. Go into a modern manufacturing facility and you will find loads of 3D printers. They are just called CNC machines and they have been around for years.

Yep. You can buy a three axis CNC machine for about $3,000 and make yourself a heavy machine gun. If you're a handy type you can make the CNC machine yourself for about $600.

The most challenging component of a home-made gun is the ammunition.

I've been wondering how much trouble caseless ammo would be to manufacture at home. Bullets are easy to cast if you have lead - it's the brass that's the problem.

The big drawback to caseless ammo is heat, but if you're making a low-tech firearm that might be a problem you're willing to live with. Or you could make an extra heavy barrel.

Big Bill said...

A big problem in the intermediate range is better (automated) communication between 3D printing service bureaus (who can afford the expensive machines) and the end user who wants a part made.

The trays that laser sintered parts are made on are quite large-16 x 16 inches or so.

If you are a company that makes parts, the more parts you can cram on a tray, the lower your cost.

I see websites that will let you upload your digital part model and will automatically place it in a production queue, scheduling it for a particular machine and time of production.
GE gets 50 of their fancy blades made for big bucks, and the computer fits your little widget into an unused corner of the tray.

GE pays the big costs for running hte machine, and the service bureau lets the little guy "ride along" getting his replacement titanium nut made almost for free.

The gaps on the tray between adjacent GE parts would be otherwise wasted, so they fill those gaps with little jobs.

hadley said...

Perhaps there will be "aggregator companies" first. I.e. companies that take orders for parts from anyone, then do the tray arranging and then contract with machine owners to make an entire tray of, say, titanium parts. The benefit for the machine owner is that he does not have to deal with the onesies and twosies customers.

If his machine is underutilized (for example, a big order fell through at the last minute) the machine owner can bid on a tray of parts to keep his machine fully utilized.

Once this one off tray of parts is made, the machine owner throws them in a bag and sends them to the aggregator. The aggregator then sorts them out and sends them off to the folks that ordered them.

There are so many business models and configurations the industry is going to take as it matures.

Some company in California is halfway there already. You create a blueprint using their web-based CAD software. You send it to them. Their computer automatically generates a quote. YOu give them your credit card number and press "OK". All without human interaction. All done over the web. But if the part is complex (tight tolerances, special machining, tapped and drilled holes, etc.) this quickie automated model breaks down. A machine cannot do the estimating.

With powdered metal sintering, however, they can make almost anything in this automated fashion.

Anonymous said...

By way of comparison in terms of manpower required to make guns then vs now, LAR Manufacturing is one of the biggest makers of AR-15 lower and upper receivers. They produce somewhere on the order of a third of the lower receivers in the US. Here's a photo of their factory:

http://goo.gl/maps/sb0Af

Linkedin says they have 10-50 employees.

In comparison here's a photo of _part_ of the old Colt factory complex in Hartford, CT. Much of it has been torn down:

http://www.gm2inc.com/buildings/photos/colt-1.jpg

That's not entirely fair, since I don't think LAR is making barrels and many other parts, and they're not doing assembly work. But the difference is striking: there aren't hundreds of people streaming out the factory gates at shift change. That's the impact of CNC machines on the industry.

Anon87 said...

Power Child said...

1. Maybe between now and the time everyone has a 3D printer on their desk at home, there'll be 3D Kinkos, or Home Depot will have a 3D printer in the back of the hardware section.


Already happening. Kinkos and other stores allow you to submit CAD designs and pick up the finished product.

Anonymous said...

I think what one can do is make the ban on new full-automatic weapons brought to us in the McClure-Volkmer gun law a dead letter.

What I would like to see is a massive proliferation of full-automatic conversion selectors for Glock handguns become a project for home machinists as well as 3-D printers.

The US Judiciary has continually upheld the ban on new full auto weapons as to be legal in direct contravention of the Second Amendment.

Use the Bing search engine for pictures for "Glock full auto" to see what I am talking about. This will be the equivalent to the manufacture of Stenguns in Holland to the Cosmopolitans.

Anonymous said...

> "Print an object in a water soluable plastic like PVA and make your mold from that. Flush out the plastic and pour in the metal."

>Huh?

This sounds so similar to the Ruger method of using a wax shape in sand (pour molten metal into the wax and the metal will assume the shape of he original wax) that I wonder if you can do exactly the same with the 3-D model and come out with the same result.