The replicators on Star Trek can’t be far now, except it’s not food the budding tinkerers are thinking about making, it’s guns:
HaveBlue’s custom creation is a .22-caliber pistol, formed from a 3D-printed AR-15 (M16) lower receiver, and a normal, commercial upper. In other words, the main body of the gun is plastic, while the chamber — where the bullets are actually struck — is solid metal.
The lower receiver was created using a fairly old school Stratasys 3D printer, using a normal plastic resin. HaveBlue estimates that it cost around $30 of resin to create the lower receiver, but “Makerbots and the other low cost printers exploding onto the market would bring the cost down to perhaps $10.” Commercial, off-the-shelf assault rifle lower receivers are a lot more expensive. If you want to print your own AR-15 lower receiver, HaveBlue has uploaded the schematic to Thingiverse.
HaveBlue tried to use the same lower receiver to make a full-blown .223 AR-15/M16 rifle, but it didn’t work. Funnily enough, he thinks the off-the-shelf parts are causing issues, rather than the 3D-printed part.
While this pistol obviously wasn’t created from scratch using a 3D printer, the interesting thing is that the lower receiver — in a legal sense at least — is what actually constitutes a firearm. Without a lower receiver, the gun would not work; thus, the receiver is the actual legally-controlled part.
Yes, it’s technically an illegal gun until he registers it. But as inventors like this keep pushing the boundaries of possibility in DIY weaponry, attempts to regulate and control firearms have definitely run into a new wrinkle.
For ways to have your own Maker Bot to construct future guns for you, just follow the handy instructions. I’m guessing we’ll eventually get around to the replicators that take voice commands for food only after we’re able to shoot them if they don’t comply (or tries to poison us).