Ever since Cody Wilson and Distributed Defense produced the Liberator – the world’s first working firearm made completely from 3D printed parts – there has been palatable fear about the technology and the impact it might have. But as predicted, the Liberator was not the last of its kind, as other groups around the world are rallying to see what is possible with additive manufacturing.
Recently, German federal police began producing their own printed guns, mainly to see just how dangerous they can be, but also for the potential purpose of using them. According to GigaOM, German police agencies admitted to buying a 3-D printer “in order to see whether homemade 3-D printed guns are really a threat,” and more specifically, if those plastic guns could be sneaked onto a plane.
However, the Bundespolizei (BPOL) also indicated that they are interested in determining whether or not 3-D printed guns might be a useful addition to the force’s arsenal. Apparently, this was the result of their agency liaising with with Australian police about the matter, who as it turns out, have also been conducted tests on 3-D printed weapons.
In their case, they conducted extensive tests on the $35 plastic Liberator firearm, the pride and joy of Wilson and his libertarian organization. But what they found was the firearm exploded when they test fired it. Not an encouraging end to the weapon that garnered so much controversy around the world, but it hardly means the issue is settled.
As the designs of individual firearms and printers improve, and given the difficulty of censuring design plans on the internet, 3-D printed guns are likely to proliferate. So it makes sense for police to adopt a investigative and experimental attitude so they can see how useful the weapons are and just how far the technology goes.
Much in the same way police agencies around the world were forced to adopt cyber divisions to contend with the digital revolution, it seems only natural that they would adopt an Additive Manufacturing Division (AMD) or a 3D Printer Division (3DPD) to address the revolution being spearheaded by 3D printing technology.
I can see it now! Amongst their responsibilities would be tracking designs on the internet, liaising with cyber divisions to see who downloaded specs, and reverse engineering weapons to come up with a design signature for different printing operations. Could make for a good police drama…