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UK Ballistics Scientists: 3D-Printed Guns Are 'of No Use To Anyone' 490

Posted by Soulskill
from the might-hurt-if-you-throw-them-at-somebody dept.
New submitter graveyardjohn writes: "The BBC has a short video about why the U.K.'s National Ballistics Intelligence Service thinks 3D-printed guns are 'of no use to anyone.' They show a 3D-printed gun being fired in a test chamber. The barrel explodes and the bullet flops forward a few feet. They say, 'without additional expertise and the right type of ammunition, anyone attempting to fire one would probably maim or even kill themselves.'"
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UK Ballistics Scientists: 3D-Printed Guns Are 'of No Use To Anyone'

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  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30, 2014 @02:35PM (#47130675)

    I'm fucking sick of seeing 3D printers associated with guns.

    • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

      by phantomfive (622387) on Friday May 30, 2014 @02:48PM (#47130803) Journal
      At this point it's still cheaper to buy a gun than a 3-D printer
    • IM not because it forces people to confront the edge-case uses of this tech. Better now than later.
    • As the company Solid Concepts discovered, 3D printing metal guns demonstrates the ability to create fined machine parts that are also durable.
      • by beelsebob (529313)

        Similarly, Koninsegg 3D printing the entire gearbox (gears included, already printed inside), and turbo housing (again, turbo fans and compressors already included inside the housing) for the new One:1 car. Also showing that 3D printed materials can indeed stand up to repeated high temperatures and pressures.

    • Are people afraid that criminals will stop using their cheapo stolen guns and start buying 3D printers so they can manufacture their own weapons?
      --
      Sounds like the UK thugs are way ahead of the U.S. thugs in technical and computer expertise.
      Perhaps this is part of the difference, in the UK they are waiting to get a good 3D print while the lazy US thug just 'borrows' a gun and gets to doing what he does best.
      USA! USA!
      Probably the wrong cheer, more like Chicago! Chicago!

    • by ganjadude (952775)
      good, let them keep thinking this. Take the heat off of us who find this to be a very interesting time and case study.
  • But... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Richy_T (111409) on Friday May 30, 2014 @02:37PM (#47130677) Homepage

    But we're always being told the criminals will grab the guns and use them against us.

    So this is a win.

    • by timeOday (582209)

      But we're always being told the criminals will grab the guns and use them against us.

      What gun? This is the UK where guns are more restricted. Their firearm-related death rate [wikipedia.org] is 0.25, vs. 10.3 for the US. That is, our death rate from guns is 41 times higher. Printed guns mean something entirely different in a nation that isn't already awash with them, where you can't just go to walmart and buy one.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Runaway1956 (1322357)

        http://www.politifact.com/trut... [politifact.com]

        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new... [dailymail.co.uk]

        When you start comparing crime rates, violent crime rates, gun deaths, or any other socially important data, you really need to pay careful attention to terminology. It matters little that the UK may experience only 1% of our gun deaths, if they also experience 800% of our violent crime rate. After you are mutilated or dead, is it really going to matter to you that you were killed with a gun, or a knife, or a stone, or you were choked to de

        • by fredrated (639554)

          So where are the statistics you tout? They must not be favorable to your position or you would have included them rather than write a post based completely on speculation.

        • Re:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by timeOday (582209) on Friday May 30, 2014 @03:52PM (#47131471)

          Violent crime is violent crime.

          Baloney. Every nation defines it differently, just as your link states, which is what makes it convenient for spinning fanciful narratives like yours.

          Try comparing something more clear-cut: murder rates [wikipedia.org]: it is 4x higher in the US. So you tell me, if you believe your fictional statistic about 8x the violent crime in the UK, but only 1/4 as many people die, that means "violent" crime is 1/32 as lethal in the UK vs the US. I.e., their "violent crime" is 97% less lethal than ours. And then you use that to argue the type of weapon doesn't matter, or that guns reduce suffering. Please.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DamnOregonian (963763)
          You didn't actually read that politifact link, did you?

          You missed the big blaring "false" thingy on the meter.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by flyingsquid (813711)

          When you start comparing crime rates, violent crime rates, gun deaths, or any other socially important data, you really need to pay careful attention to terminology. It matters little that the UK may experience only 1% of our gun deaths, if they also experience 800% of our violent crime rate.

          That's not true. The homicide rate in the United Kingdom is 1.2 per 100,000. The homicide rate in Canada is 1.6. The homicide rate in Australia is 1.0 And the homicide rate for the US is 4.8 per 100,000. You can look it up on Wikipedia if you're so inclined ("List of Countries By Intentional Homicide Rate") but it's clear you've already made up your mind and are simply going to ignore any facts that don't support your preconceptions. Yes, the human tendency to murder other humans is a powerful force, and so

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Dan East (318230)

            The GP did not say murder rates. He said violent crime rates. Even the most conservative comparisons I can find, which attempt to compare like types of crimes in UK and USA (because they are classified differently), shows at least 200% more violent crime in the UK compared to the USA.

            http://www.politifact.com/trut... [politifact.com]
            http://blog.skepticallibertari... [skepticallibertarian.com]
            etc, etc.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Dude - both of your links state that the 200% claim is bogus and that the violent crime rates in UK/US are closer than thought.

              I understand why you've failed to grasp this - you only skimmed the headline - but both articles aim to discuss that claim, and both end up refuting it.

              Thanks for arguing our case for us though.

        • by dmatos (232892)

          Jesus Christ, American! You've got guns, and it's not stopping your government from oppressing you.

          Pick up some of your goddamn arsenal and do what you keep telling us you're going to do! Put up or shut up!

        • by ganjadude (952775)
          And to add: "gun deaths"(such a stupid artificial line item because i dont care if someone kills me with a gun a knife or a shark with lazers, im still dead) in america also include suicides where as they are not counted ass gun deaths in the UK. So take away all suicides by gun in the US

          also gang violence, does anyone really care if a gang member takes out another?
        • Specifically, when discussing gun death rates, a common tactic is to include suicide rates. When someone does that, you know that they are either trying to trick you or don't know anything about statistics (a common problem among politician, who always use this kind of statistical data).
        • Re:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by locust (6639) on Friday May 30, 2014 @06:37PM (#47132713)

          Your guns are going to mean precious little in a few years. Ask any Afghan. Almost everyone has an AK-47. Predator drones don't care. It will be the same here in the good old US of A. Drones will be used in police actions internally in the US because they are cheaper to replace & train than en-vivo police officers.

          Today, arming the population, means teaching them math, science, technical skills, and the civics to know when to put them to use against the government of the day.

  • by schwit1 (797399) on Friday May 30, 2014 @02:39PM (#47130705)

    3D printed guns are in their infancy and already quite capable according to these tests in Wired [wired.com].

    • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Friday May 30, 2014 @02:49PM (#47130811)
      Why even bother printing guns when you can just buy a legally unregulated upper, a trigger assembly, and an 80% lower reciever blank then just mill the blank and assemble a fully working, untraceable and unserialed AR-15?
      • by Richy_T (111409)

        And when you can't buy a legally unregulated upper, a trigger assembly, and an 80% lower reciever blank then just mill the blank and assemble a fully working, untraceable and unserialed AR-15?

      • umm, because the things you listed are hard, while anybody can download a file to make a gun and print one out? that's why it's called 3-D printing?
      • by nurb432 (527695)

        Why do that when you can buy a blob of raw aluminum and make it all from scratch? Or ever better, recycle the aluminum from scrap in a furnace. I can do it, why not you?

        Once you figure out the answer to that question you will understand why your statement was ludicrous, and bordering on trolling.

        • by Nidi62 (1525137)

          Once you figure out the answer to that question you will understand why your statement was ludicrous, and bordering on trolling.

          So it's borderline trolling to assume that someone with the income and the inclination to get in on 3-D printing at the hobbyist stage and who also is interested in manufacturing their own firearms cannot afford or learn how to use a milling or CNC machine?

          • by nurb432 (527695)

            Yes. For 2 reasons:

            1 - CNC is on the order of a magnitude more expensive than additive 3D printing, which will only go down further in cost as technology advances. CNC, well, its already advanced to the point i dont see any reduction in costs. Non CNC hardware would be less costly, but would require an even higher investment in education ( see point #2 )

            2 - 3D printing requires no special skill or knowledge, unlike subtractive machining. You load it with plastic or resin ( a simple operation ) and hit the

        • If you are suggesting casting it from an aluminium alloy then your "I can do it" is an empty and overconfident boast based on ignorance. An aluminium-silicon barrel would be a brittle thing that would give you a fragmentation grenade with no delay in the shape of a gun. The alloys used in aircraft/bikes/etc get their strength from rolling, age hardening etc and are soft weak things when initially cast. Even cast bronze barrels had serious problems (which meant a lot remelted immediately after casting) an
      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        Because you can't buy all that stuff legally in the UK. Also, most people don't have a mill or milling skills, and in the UK most don't have a clue what you are talking about.

      • Why even bother printing guns when you can just buy a legally unregulated upper, a trigger assembly, and an 80% lower reciever blank then just mill the blank and assemble a fully working, untraceable and unserialed AR-15?

        Why even bother printing documents when you can just buy blank paper, pens, and a ruler then just copy the document by hand?

    • by fredrated (639554)

      Yep, I would trust my life to Wired rather than the National Ballistics Intelligence Service.

  • by BoberFett (127537) on Friday May 30, 2014 @02:39PM (#47130709)

    It's a good thing technology never moves forward. This issue can now be put to bed.

  • Others exist (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30, 2014 @02:40PM (#47130731)

    Yet others have been fired multiple times, successfully.

    Either the UK-NBIS sucks at 3D printing, or this is disinformation.

    • by quantaman (517394)

      It's not disinformation it's a PSA.

      The clue is at the end of the summary:
      "without additional expertise and the right type of ammunition, anyone attempting to fire one would probably maim or even kill themselves."

      I.e. you've seen all those cool videos about printing 3D guns? Well here's what happens if you try to make one without really knowing what you're doing.

      And the media shouldn't freak out because they're of no use to criminals. Any criminal with the expertise to make one of these would have a much eas

  • by bytethese (1372715) on Friday May 30, 2014 @02:40PM (#47130733)
    Thanks a lot U.K.'s National Ballistics Intelligence Service, way to throw down the gauntlet and challenge folks...
  • What about in the future, after more iterations of design and better 3d printers?

    If they ever get reliable enough to be a problem I wonder how much of a high powered laser would be needed to damage the barrel enough to render it useless.

    Though I guess a flamethrower could be used in a pinch.

    • by saider (177166)

      Most of these studies focus on implementing a semi-automatic. Here the problem is going to be the higher case pressures of modern ammunition. If they made a 3D gun to an older spec (e.g. 45 Colt revolver cartridge instead of 45 ACP) they would probably have better results.

      • by mlts (1038732)

        It depends on use. A criminal could be well off with a small caliber firearm because the threat of the weapon is what he needs more than actual firepower. A legal owner is going to expect that what he has is going to last through thousands of rounds. A crook just needs it to fire a few times, and if it is used for firing, it will be at point-blank range.

        • by Jmc23 (2353706)
          Because plastic guns in Fisher-Price blue always strike terror in the hearts of men.

          You want threat, just buy a plastic replica.

      • by Jmc23 (2353706)
        Yes, but then the radical gun nutters who absolutely NEED the ability to decimate large quantities of 'enemies' in rapid succession, in the name of freedom and some such clause on a piece of paper you know, would not be interested.
  • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Friday May 30, 2014 @02:42PM (#47130759) Homepage

    There are several commercially successful makes of polymer AR lowers.
    In AR-land, the serial is on the lower.
    A 3d printed lower gives you the ability to print a non serial numberd AR. Which is legal (US federal. YMMV) because home-made guns don't have to be serialized.

    • by redmid17 (1217076)
      Yep, people have already fired larger caliber handgun and some types of rifle ammunition from 3-d printed firearms hundreds of times with no failure. Just because they sucked at it doesn't mean the people developing them (like Defense Distributed) suck at it too.
    • by Nidi62 (1525137)

      A 3d printed lower gives you the ability to print a non serial numberd AR. Which is legal (US federal. YMMV) because home-made guns don't have to be serialized.

      You can already purchase 80% milled metal reciever blanks and mill them yourself. No serial numbers or anything. I would trust that more than a 3D printer polymer lower. That being said, I own a polymer AR-15 (Carbon-15) rifle, and I love how light it is, but I haven't put enough rounds through it to know it's durability.

    • what's the difference between a lower and an upper? which part has the barrel? or the trigger and "chamber"?
      • by PseudoCoder (1642383) on Friday May 30, 2014 @03:08PM (#47130985)

        what's the difference between a lower and an upper? which part has the barrel? or the trigger and "chamber"?

        Barrel, chamber and bolt assembly go on the upper receiver. The trigger, magazine, stock and serial number on the lower receiver.

      • by maliqua (1316471)

        Upper is the top part of receiver it connects to the gas system and the barrel

        lower is ... the bottom part of the receiver it contains the trigger group

        this is a very simplified explanation but should suffice

      • by gandhi_2 (1108023)

        the upper of an AR platform (based on the Stoner design) mounts the barrel and houses the bolt and bolt carrier.

        the lower has the magazine well, mounts the trigger mechanism, and houses the buffer and buffer spring housing (around which, the stock is mounted).

        the chamber is an area of the barrel that holds the cartridge for firing.

        I think you need to go shooting with your friends some time.

        http://www.fulton-armory.com/%... [fulton-armory.com]

      • This is the lower for an AR-15

        http://www.aimsurplus.com/prod... [aimsurplus.com]

    • Yes, the New Frontier ones are pretty good. I have two of them and they're pretty sturdy. I've heard of one that broke right outside the stock tube thread on the top, but I hear mostly good reports from these. The stock joint is the critical load point on these; not loads regarding the cartridge firing, but the load the user puts on the stock when they fire to manage the recoil, as low as it is. But NF receivers are fiber-filled polymer, as far as I can recall, and that is not achievable in Joe Blow's g

    • by geekmux (1040042)

      There are several commercially successful makes of polymer AR lowers. In AR-land, the serial is on the lower. A 3d printed lower gives you the ability to print a non serial numberd AR. Which is legal (US federal. YMMV) because home-made guns don't have to be serialized.

      On top of that, after you've printed your (non-serialized) lower, you can order the rest of the parts over the internet with ease, and no further requirements for registration are necessary.

      This is about the only valid issue that I think gun-fearing goofs will want to address today, even though milling machines have been around for decades, and Cavalry Arms was making plastic lowers long ago.

      The UK tests were rather pointless. Even a moron should understand plastic isn't going to support the pressures in th

  • The BBC has a short video about why the U.K.'s National Ballistics Intelligence Service thinks 3D-printed guns are 'of no use to anyone.' They show a 3D-printed gun being fired in a test chamber. The barrel explodes and the bullet flops forward a few feet. They say, 'without additional expertise and the right type of ammunition, anyone attempting to fire one would probably maim or even kill themselves.'

    In a related story, the U.K. Horse and Buggy Registration Service thinks the automobile will be 'of no use to anyone.' They show a vehicle being driven on a test track. It travels a short distance at 10 mph, then the engine blows a rod and one wheel falls off. They say, 'without additional expertise and the right type of petrol, anyone attempting to drive one would probably main or even kill themselves."

    • Simple formula. To disprove something someone else did, make it yourself badly, and video tape it failing. Therefore the thing you is proven a failure, thus, nobody else anywhere can make it work.

      Because just look at all the fools in the late 1800s who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars combined to create a heavier than air flying machine. We all know that one would have to be a brilliant engineer with millions of dollars to make something like that! What, you think a couple of bicycle mechanics co

  • Yes, I do, in fact expect the plastic ones to disintegrate under the typical chamber pressures that come from firing a round. The plastic 3D printers are the ones everyone is gushing about in the sensationalist news sites everywhere and that are practical to be widely available to the everyman. The metal deposition, selective laser sintering types that make metal parts are much more costly and not nearly as widely available, but those can, depending on the material and method) make viable gun parts that will withstand the loads for several rounds before succumbing.

  • by LuxuryYacht (229372) on Friday May 30, 2014 @03:00PM (#47130917) Homepage

    It's sad that 3D printing had become synonymous with FDM or glorified glue guns (GGG). There are lots of different technologies that fall under the umbrella of 3D printing.

    Here's a gun that was 3D printed using DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering) for the metal parts and SLS for the grips. It's both durable and viable.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]
    http://www.engineering.com/3DP... [engineering.com]

    Here's a few other 3D printing processes that are not FDM glorified glue guns:

    SLS
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]

    DMLS
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D... [wikipedia.org]

    LOM
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... [wikipedia.org]

    SLA
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]

    • by Plazmid (1132467) on Friday May 30, 2014 @03:45PM (#47131397)

      Well technically 3D printing refers to the process of using an inkjet, the very same inkjet from a regular printer, to deposit a binder on a layer of powder. 3D printing is just one Additive Manufacturing process.

      Now DMLS and Laser Sintering(SLS is a trademark of a particular company) aren't quite yet ready for consumers yet.

      Laser sintering of plastic requires inert gas, messy plastic powder, and messes up if temperature varies even a tiny bit(sintering scales with T^4). Messy doesn't even begin to describe how dirty these machines are. You can almost taste the powder in the air near these machines.

      DMLS uses explosive metal powder, requires inert gas, and a pretty dangerous laser. But the real kicker to DMLS that makes it ill suited for the consumer market is the support removal. In order to prevent the printed parts from deforming and to dissipate heat, one has to print supports in. In other words, after printing you have to go in and do a bunch of sanding and dremeling to remove METAL supports from the part!

      LOM is pretty much just for making stuff out of paper, so one probably wouldn't be able to make a very good gun with it.

      SLA can really only do plastics and ceramics. And doing ceramics requires a special kiln.

      However, SLA might be coming to the consumer market due to it's simplicity, speed(there's indications these machines could print very fast), and resolution.

  • Since they have found these guns are completely useless, then hopefully they won't enact legislation to require all 3d printers have crippling DRM that makes it impossible to print guns.

    Or maybe they might, but given that they now have a government study that say these guns are useless, it's gonna be a lot harder(I hope) for scare-mongering politicians to cripple or ban 3d printing

  • You in fact SHOULD be concerned about this technology now, even if it's currently ineffective...because it won't be ineffective or useless forever.

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      I don't live in a place where I have reason to fear my neighbors.

      If I did live in such a place, guns would probably still be the least of my worries.

      The paranoid narcissism of liberal busybodies would be funny if it weren't sad and anti-social.

  • Clueless BBC Video (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MrSteveSD (801820) on Friday May 30, 2014 @03:14PM (#47131037)
    In slow motion you can see that the bullet barely travels any distance at all. - Quote from the video

    What we in fact see is that the object that "barely travels any distance at all" is the spent shell casing. This is completely fine as the aim is not to magically embed the spent shell casing into the target. That is what the projectile part is for. The projectile is likely to have whizzed off as expected, albeit not with great accuracy.

    As for the general usefulness of plastic firearms, even if they can only fire a few shots, there are clear advantages.
    1. You can obtain a firearm without it being registered to you or exposing yourself to criminal firearms dealers/police sting operations.
    2. They are less detectable.
    3. You can melt and/or burn the murder weapon with ease.

    The tone of the video is a bit odd. It's comes across like a video trying to convince kids not to play with fireworks. It's not as if we all have loads of ammunition laying about here in the UK just waiting for a 3D Printed gun to come along so we can finally have some fun. Making something that can fire a bullet (at least here in the UK) is not the main obstacle to a working firearm. The main obstacle here is obtaining the ammunition.
  • "anyone attempting to fire one would probably maim or even kill themselves "

    Well, that itself could be pretty useful.

  • Even if true (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Friday May 30, 2014 @03:16PM (#47131063) Homepage Journal

    I suspect the test was setup to fail, to prove a predetermined agenda, but even if it was 100% true, we are just starting out with this use for printed materials, and it takes time to perfect new technologies. Even if it *never* becomes viable, it still helped push the limits of the technology and will benefit other uses.

    Pretty sad when if people were to operate that way " well, it doesn't work so no point in trying"... If that was always the case, we would still be living in caves hoping we dont get eaten.

  • by Virtucon (127420) on Friday May 30, 2014 @03:17PM (#47131067)

    Sex Toys! Yes, Sex Toys are the real 3D Printing market! [pinkrocket.co.uk]

  • 'without additional expertise and the right type of ammunition, anyone attempting to fire one would probably maim or even kill themselves.'

    The same could be said about metallurgy, cnc mills, caustic chemicals, drugs (legal or illegal), a 1 year old and eating utensils. The list goes on and on and on. Just because something requires knowledge to be done safely doesn't mean people shouldn't have the freedom to explore such things at their own risk.

  • You'll shoot your eye out!

"Mach was the greatest intellectual fraud in the last ten years." "What about X?" "I said `intellectual'." ;login, 9/1990

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