3D Printing is Way Scarier Than Plastic Guns, By Shelly Palmer is a must read article. I have a very short excerpt below:
Now that you know what a 3D printer is, you must also understand that 3D printers are not limited to printing in plastic. There are 3D printers that print in wood (a mixture of wood particles and binding agent that dries as wood) ceramic, carbon fiber, bronze, iron, steel, cellulose, human tissue (certain body parts for human transplant are grown using 3D printed frameworks) … there are limitations to the range of additive manufacturing materials, but the technology is evolving rapidly.
As for guns … CAD/CAM files (the computer files that 3D printers transform into physical objects one layer at a time) for the .45 caliber M1911 or the 1911A-1 single-action, semi-automatic pistol have been online for years. In fact, you can find all kinds of CAD/CAMs for all kinds of gun parts, bomb parts, bazooka parts, rocket launcher parts and other deadly weapons online. These are computer files, like songs or movies or documents or images, they cannot be protected or digitally rights managed (DRM) any better than the entertainment industry has done with its intellectual property. A file is a file is a file, if someone wants to copy it – it will be copied. You can’t tell what the file contains unless you open it and, most importantly, there is no way to ban or prohibit the transfer of files. In this case, the genie is out of the bottle, you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, the ship has sailed – the files are out there.
Plastic guns? Seriously. How about guns printed in steel, guns printed in carbon fiber, guns printed in, you name it – there’s a 3D printer that can print in the medium. In a world of 3D printers, there is no such thing as gun control – people who are so inclined will print all the guns and ammo they need – untraceable, no serial numbers, no markings about point of origin, no trade marks, nothing!
That’s the dark side of this technology. However, the benefits of 3D printing are overwhelmingly positive.