The rising threat of 3D printed guns – NEWS.com.au


December 12, 2016 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ 3D Printed Articles


For the first time police in Victoria have seized 3D printed guns.

AUSTRALIA has strict gun laws but the advent of revolutionary 3D printing technology has emboldened criminal gangs to make their own makeshift firearms.

Authorities have warned of the potential threat of homemade weapons as the technology becomes more accessible.

Over the weekend a 3D printer allegedly used to print guns was seized in police raids on a Melbourne organised crime syndicate.

Seven men and two women were arrested, while 14 guns, two stolen vehicles, cash and drugs were allegedly seized during the raids.

“We’ve also seized a 3D printer which was used to manufacture some of those firearms, highlighting a significant risk to the community,” Superintendent Amy Gledden told reporters on Sunday.

“It’s relatively new technology and it’s been tested in forensic areas in different police agencies and this is one time we’ve actually seized them in Victoria.”

It comes just weeks after police in Queensland charged five people after finding homemade machine guns and what police described as a weapons factory in a property on the Gold Coast.

Authorities are trying to stem the flow of these homemade weapons while politicians seek to address the security issues posed by things like 3D printing technology becoming more available.

A year ago, NSW passed Australian-first legislation which included a ban on possessing files used to 3D print guns which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

“A person must not possess a digital blueprint for the manufacture of a firearm on a 3D printer or on an electronic milling machine,” the law states.

But how easy is it to actually 3D print a workable gun?

It’s been more than three years since a company called Solid Concepts printed the world’s first all metal, all 3D firearm.

At the lower end of the scale the technology is not quite there yet, “but things are moving quite fast,” says Thomas Birtchnell, a senior lecturer at the University of Wollongong who specialises in 3D printing and manufacturing.

“It’s been proven that you can manufacturer on a 3D printer a workable metal firearm of professional quality,” he told news.com.au. “The problem there is that the cost of those printers is $500,000 to $1 million so they are out of the league of most criminal gangs and organisations,” he said.

“So it depends really on what kind of 3D printer it is, what kind of firearm you want to produce and whether it’s cost effective.”

The Liberator is a common plastic 3D printed gun. NSW Police has even produced some of the weapons themselves.

The Liberator is a common plastic 3D printed gun. NSW Police has even produced some of the weapons themselves.Source:Supplied

He said the weapons seized in the Melbourne raid appear to be of low quality, and expressed doubt over the accused’s ability to produce a firearm of genuine sophistication.

Most likely they were attempting to manufacture plastic handguns by using a conventional desktop 3D printer known as a fused deposition modelling (FDM) printer which extrudes thermoplastic into a desired shape.

Of the plastic-based guns that can be created with such machines the most well known is a gun called The Liberator which has design files all over the web, he said. Such handguns can be quite dangerous to use because they can be unreliable, backfire and explode.

“Those kinds of handguns are what would be termed Saturday night specials, basically cheap backyard handguns,” he said.

For people who are competent at downloading torrents and finding certain files online, plastic guns like The Liberator can be fairly easy to create if they have the knowledge to assemble and handle the gun.

But the real game-changer is if, or when, metal 3D printing becomes cheap enough to be more readily available at a consumer level, Mr Birtchnell said.

“We will see a step change if metal 3D printing becomes consumer level. It’s a debatable question but certainly the technology is coming down.”

In fact an Australian company called Aurora Labs is among those pioneering cost-effective metal 3D printing and have even been in talks with NASA about using its tech.

In the past it has had a crowd-funding campaign to sell a $100,000 metal 3D printer.

“I mean $100,000 is probably accessible for a well-funded criminal gang … So you are starting to see that kind of activity going on,” Mr Birtchnell said.

“Metal 3D printing really is the Holy Grail for industry so on the back of that it would be really beneficial for criminal gangs as well.”

For the first time police in Victoria have seized 3D printed guns.

AUSTRALIA has strict gun laws but the advent of revolutionary 3D printing technology has emboldened criminal gangs to make their own makeshift firearms.

Authorities have warned of the potential threat of homemade weapons as the technology becomes more accessible.

Over the weekend a 3D printer allegedly used to print guns was seized in police raids on a Melbourne organised crime syndicate.

Seven men and two women were arrested, while 14 guns, two stolen vehicles, cash and drugs were allegedly seized during the raids.

“We’ve also seized a 3D printer which was used to manufacture some of those firearms, highlighting a significant risk to the community,” Superintendent Amy Gledden told reporters on Sunday.

“It’s relatively new technology and it’s been tested in forensic areas in different police agencies and this is one time we’ve actually seized them in Victoria.”

It comes just weeks after police in Queensland charged five people after finding homemade machine guns and what police described as a weapons factory in a property on the Gold Coast.

Authorities are trying to stem the flow of these homemade weapons while politicians seek to address the security issues posed by things like 3D printing technology becoming more available.

A year ago, NSW passed Australian-first legislation which included a ban on possessing files used to 3D print guns which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

“A person must not possess a digital blueprint for the manufacture of a firearm on a 3D printer or on an electronic milling machine,” the law states.

But how easy is it to actually 3D print a workable gun?

It’s been more than three years since a company called Solid Concepts printed the world’s first all metal, all 3D firearm.

At the lower end of the scale the technology is not quite there yet, “but things are moving quite fast,” says Thomas Birtchnell, a senior lecturer at the University of Wollongong who specialises in 3D printing and manufacturing.

“It’s been proven that you can manufacturer on a 3D printer a workable metal firearm of professional quality,” he told news.com.au. “The problem there is that the cost of those printers is $500,000 to $1 million so they are out of the league of most criminal gangs and organisations,” he said.

“So it depends really on what kind of 3D printer it is, what kind of firearm you want to produce and whether it’s cost effective.”

The Liberator is a common plastic 3D printed gun. NSW Police has even produced some of the weapons themselves.

The Liberator is a common plastic 3D printed gun. NSW Police has even produced some of the weapons themselves.Source:Supplied

He said the weapons seized in the Melbourne raid appear to be of low quality, and expressed doubt over the accused’s ability to produce a firearm of genuine sophistication.

Most likely they were attempting to manufacture plastic handguns by using a conventional desktop 3D printer known as a fused deposition modelling (FDM) printer which extrudes thermoplastic into a desired shape.

Of the plastic-based guns that can be created with such machines the most well known is a gun called The Liberator which has design files all over the web, he said. Such handguns can be quite dangerous to use because they can be unreliable, backfire and explode.

“Those kinds of handguns are what would be termed Saturday night specials, basically cheap backyard handguns,” he said.

For people who are competent at downloading torrents and finding certain files online, plastic guns like The Liberator can be fairly easy to create if they have the knowledge to assemble and handle the gun.

But the real game-changer is if, or when, metal 3D printing becomes cheap enough to be more readily available at a consumer level, Mr Birtchnell said.

“We will see a step change if metal 3D printing becomes consumer level. It’s a debatable question but certainly the technology is coming down.”

In fact an Australian company called Aurora Labs is among those pioneering cost-effective metal 3D printing and have even been in talks with NASA about using its tech.

In the past it has had a crowd-funding campaign to sell a $100,000 metal 3D printer.

“I mean $100,000 is probably accessible for a well-funded criminal gang … So you are starting to see that kind of activity going on,” Mr Birtchnell said.

“Metal 3D printing really is the Holy Grail for industry so on the back of that it would be really beneficial for criminal gangs as well.”

Source from..

Comments