August 7, 2012

We Are Now in "The Diamond Age"

You may have noted in a reading of my biography over there to the left that I am a fan and admirer of Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age. I mentioned the "NeoVictorians" (in your heart, you know they're right!) and another aspect of the book that expanded my mind was the notion of computer-controlled manufacture, molecule-by-molecule, of practically anything.

Well, this ain't that but it's close enough to be a complete game changer:

A Working Assault Rifle made With a 3-D Printer:

An amateur gunsmith, operating under the handle of "HaveBlue" (incidentally, "Have Blue" is the codename that was used for the prototype stealth fighter that became the Lockheed F-117), announced recently in online forums that he had successfully printed a serviceable .22 caliber pistol.

Despite predictions of disaster, the pistol worked. It successfully fired 200 rounds in testing.

HaveBlue then decided to push the limits of what was possible and use his printer to make an AR-15 rifle. To do this, he downloaded plans for an AR-15 receiver in the Solidworks file format from a site called After some small modifications to the design, he fed about $30 of ABS plastic feedstock into his late-model Stratasys printer. The result was a functional AR-15 rifle. Early testing shows that it works, although it still has some minor feed and extraction problems to be worked out.

(Note, it is not a sturmwehr, you dopes!)

Okay, this tech has already been around for a little while, but this brought it into focus for me; think about the possibilities. What is going to happen when you can print household appliances, kitchen knives, shovels, coffee cups , WHATEVER, at home for 10-50% of the cost of buying crap at the Big Box? Much less guns.

I want to print a lot of things. I suppose the tech will just get better and it'll be Stat Trek-lite soon.

That will be an economic game changer, and in a short time. I am sure someone in the Gummint will try and ban it to protect the rent-seekers, but you might as well try and ban lathes, saws and chisels.

What would you like to print?

Technology Posted by Ellis Wyatt at August 7, 2012 7:03 PM

"Computer: print - tea, Earl Grey, hot."

Kidding aside, there's one flaw here: according to the fine details, he fabricated a plastic lower receiver for an AR-15. That's not the whole weapon, not by a long shot, and includes no metal parts. He gets points for making a working part to excellent tolerances, but - NOT a complete worknig firearm.

That doesn't mean I'm averse to the technology; it may be the only way I'll ever have a Shelby Cobra or a midbulk transport. We're not there yet, but to quote someone greater than myself: faster, please.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at August 7, 2012 7:42 PM

On the other hand, when it can be used to manufacture me a Mark VII Iron Man suit, call me.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at August 7, 2012 7:49 PM

Behold: Metal!

Posted by: Ellis Wyatt at August 7, 2012 8:09 PM

My inner software guy wants to print money.

Not currency, but this technology will free a lot of smart people to make money selling designs without a lot of infrastructure. iPhone App guys of today will be selling guitar designs tomorrow.

And that gun is the calendar out of the dot matrix printer. Materials and resolution will explode.

But, yeah, I'm with Brother Keith. Print me a Breve Cappuccino, super dry -- and I will stock up on cartridges.

Posted by: jk at August 7, 2012 8:16 PM | What do you think? [4]