Update: 3D-Printed Gun Faces Crackdown

defense-distributed-liberator,Z-M-383602-13Just a few days ago, Defense Distributed announced the creation of the world’s first gun that is made entirely out of 3D-printed parts. And as anticipated, it didn’t take long for a crackdown to ensue. The group’s leader Cody Wilson, after conducting the first successful firing test of “The Liberator”, claimed that the blueprints would be uploaded to the open-source website Defcad so they would be available to anyone.

Yesterday, less than a week after the announcement was made, Mr. Wilson claimed that Defcad is “going dark” at the request of the U.S. Department of Defense Trade Controls. Defense Distributed runs the website, which has been a provider of weapons-related 3D printer blueprints since the group was founded.

Defense Distributed new magazines

As of yesterday, the site contained only a brief message explaining why it the Liberator blueprints were no longer available:

Defcad files are being removed from public access at the request of the U.S. Department of Defence Trade Controls. Until further notice, the United States government claims control of the information.

The group’s twitter feed also contained the following message:

#DEFCAD has gone dark at the request of the Department of Defense Trade Controls. Take it up with the Secretary of State.

The weapon itself was the result of eight months of research and testing on behalf of Wilson and his group. In that time, the group has become a source of controversy due to their dedication to making blueprints for printable gun parts available online. These include components for AR-15 assault weapon and extended magazines for an AK-47 assault rifle.

defense_distmagHowever, the Liberator, named in honor of the single-shot pistols that were dropped on France during the Second World War, was the first set of blueprints that was made entirely out of ABS plastic, making it the first open-source “Wiki-weapon” that would be available to anyone with the means to print it.

As a result of their commitment to open-source weaponry, Defense Distributed has become the subject of penalties and restrictions. In fact, Defcad was created after Makerbot Industries chose to purge all of the group’s gun blueprints from the website. Shortly after they test-fired an AR-15 that included printed parts, Wilson and his associates also had their 3D printer, which they had been leasing, seized.

defense_dist1This latest decision targets their activities at their source. However, the decision to take the plans off of Defcad did not present an estimated 10,000 downloads. However, it is not clear if those who obtained the plans will be able to print them off at their local printing shop. Only those who already possess a 3D printing unit, which is likely to run them between $1000 and $3000 dollars will be able to produce their own version of the Liberator.

In short, this issue is not yet resolved. Knowing Wilson and his admirers, open-source, printable weapons are likely to remain a contentious issue for some time to come…

Source: cbc.ca

The World’s First Completely 3D-Printed Gun

liberatorSince it’s inception, 3D printing has offered people a wide range of manufacturing possibilities, ranging from the creation of intricate prototypes to drugs and even human tissue. However, one of the most controversial manufactured items to come from the technology has been what the Texas-based organization known as Defense Distributed refers to as “Wiki-weapons”, guns that can be made by anyone using downloaded blueprints and a public printer.

DD_gunsNot long ago, the group announced that they had successfully created a working AR-15 assault weapon using some printed parts. This drew sharp criticism from advocates of gun control, in part because the same weapon was used in the Newton, Connecticut school shooting. However, Cody Wilson, founder of DD, announced that they would continue to pursue their goal of making printed guns, stating that their commitment to the 2nd Amendment took precedence over a single tragedy.

And now, it appear that they have gone a step further, unveiling the world’s first fully 3D-printed weapon. Save for a nail which is used as the firing pin, the gun is made up entirely of printed parts, can fire normal ammunition and is capable of making it past a metal detector. It’s called the Liberator, the product of eight months of labor by Cody and his group, and named in honor of the one-shot pistols that were airdropped by the Allies on France during the Second World War.

DD_liberatorIn an interview with Forbes, Cody and his group demonstrated their first test firing, which was a success. He also claimed that the Liberator will be capable of connecting to different barrels, allowing it to fire various calibers of ammunition. He also plans to publish the files necessary to print it at home as well as details on its operation so that anyone can produce their own.

This is all in keeping with Cody’s vision – being a hardcore libertarian and anarchist – to create a class of weapon that anyone can produce, circumventing the law and the regulatory process. At the same time though, Distributed Defense did decide to include a small chunk of metal in the final design to ensure that the gun couldn’t pass through a metal detector undetected. This is in compliance with the Undetectable Firearms Act, and may have been motivated by the group’s sagging public image.

Defense_DistributedHowever, this has not stopped the group from obtaining a federal firearms license this past March, making it a legal gun manufacturer. And once the file is online, anybody will be able to download it. What’s more, all attempts to limit DD’s activities, which include printing firms purging gun parts from their databases, has made Cody even more eager to pursue his aims. In a statement made to Forbes magazine, he said:

You can print a lethal device. It’s kind of scary, but that’s what we’re aiming to show… Everyone talks about the 3D printing revolution. Well, what did you think would happen when everyone has the means of production? I’m interested to see what the potential for this tool really is. Can it print a gun?

Well, Mr. Wilson, we’re about to find out! And if I were a betting man, I would say it the “potential” will include more unregistered firearms, a terrorist act or shooting that will involve a partially printed weapon, and Wilson’s continued intransigence to reform his ways, citing the 2nd Amendment as always. Libertarians are nothing if not predictable!

Sources: tech.fortune.cnn.com, forbes.com


3D Printed Androids, Embryonic Stem Cells, and Lunar Housing

Alpha Moon Base at http://www.smallartworks.ca
Alpha Moon Base at http://www.smallartworks.ca

It’s no secret that in recent years, the technology behind 3D printing has been growing by leaps and bounds, and igniting a lot of imaginations in the process. And it seems that with every passing day, new possibilities are emerging, both real and speculative. Some are interesting, some are frightening, and some are just downright mind-blowing. Consider this small sampling of what’s emerged most recently and decide for yourself…

First off, it now seems that there is a design for an android that you can download, print and assemble in the comfort of your home – assuming you have access to a 3D printer. Designer Gael Langevin, who calls his project InMoov, has spent the last year perfecting the concept for a voice-controlled android that can be constructed from parts generated by a 3D printer. And not only that, he has made the entire project freely available via open source so that any DIY’er can print it on their own.

Starting with the android’s right hand, Langevin’s idea quickly took off and morphed into a the full-body concept that is now available. Designing the bot with Blender software and printing it on a 3D Touch using ABS plastic as the material, the end product is a fully animated machine that responds to voice control and can “see” and hold objects. And as you can see from the video below, it looks quite anthropomorphic:

Then came the announcement of something even more radical which also sounds like it might be ripped from the pages of a science fiction novel. Just yesterday, a team of researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland announced that they used a new printing technique to deposit live stem cells onto a surface in a specific pattern. This is a step in the direction of using stem cells as an “ink” to fashion artificial organs from a 3D printer, which is their ultimate goal.

3dstemcellsThe process involves suspending the cells in a “bio-ink,” which they were then able to squeeze out as tiny droplets in a variety of shapes and sizes. To produce clumps of cells, they printed out the cells first and then overlaid those with cell-free bio-ink, forming spheroids, which the cells began grouping together inside. Using this process, they were able to create entire cultures of tissue which – depending on the size of the spheroids – could be morphed into specific types of tissue.

In short, this technique could one day be used to print out artificial tissues, such as skin, muscles and organs, that behave like the real thing. It could even serve to limit animal testing for new drug compounds, allowing them to be tested on artificially-generated human tissue. According to Jason King, business development manager at Roslin Cellab and one of the research partners: “In the longer term, [it could] provide organs for transplant on demand, without the need for donation and without the problems of immune suppression and potential organ rejection.”

ESA_moonbaseAnd last in the lineup is perhaps the most profound use proposed for 3D printing yet. According to the European Space Agency, this relatively new technology could turn moon dust into moon housing. You read that right! It seems that a London-based design firm named Foster+Partners is planning to collaborate with the European Space Agency to build structures on the Moon using the regolith from the surface.

The process is twofold: in the first step, the inflatable scaffolding would be manufactured on Earth and then transported to the Moon. Once there, a durable shell composed of regolith and constructed by robotically-driven 3D printers would be laid overtop to complete the structures. The scheme would not only take advantage of raw materials already being present on the lunar surface, but offers a highly scalable and efficient model for construction.

3dmoonbaseShould the plan be put into action, a research expedition or colony would first be established in the southern polar regions of the Moon where sunlight is constant. From there, the scaffolding and components of the printing “foundry” would be shuttled to the moon where they would then be assembled and put to work. Each house, once complete, would be capable of accommodating four people, with the possibility of expansion should the need arise. For now, the plan is still in the R&D phase, with the company looking to create a smaller version using artificial regolith in a vacuum chamber.

Impressed yet? I know I am! And it seems like only yesterday I was feeling disillusioned with the technology thanks to the people at an organization – that shall remain nameless – who wanted to print out “Wiki-weapon” versions of the AR-15, despite the fact that it was this very weapon that was used by the gunman who murdered several small children in the town of Newton, Connecticut before turning the weapon on himself.

Yes, knowing that this technology could be creating life-saving organs, helpful androids and Lunar housing goes a long way to restoring my faith in humanity and its commitment to technological progress. I guess that’s how technology works isn’t it, especially in this day and age. You don’t like what it’s being used for, wait five minutes!

Source: IO9.com, ESA.int, Popular Science.com, Foster and Partners.com

Should We Be Afraid? A List for 2013

emerg_techIn a recent study, the John J. Reilly Center at University of Notre Dame published a rather list of possible threats that could be seen in the new year. The study, which was called “Emerging Ethical Dilemmas and Policy Issues in Science and Technology” sought to address all the likely threats people might face as a result of all developments and changes made of late, particularly in the fields of medical research, autonomous machines, 3D printing, Climate Change and enhancements.

The list contained eleven articles, presented in random order so people can assess what they think is the most important and vote accordingly. And of course, each one was detailed and sourced so as to ensure people understood the nature of the issue and where the information was obtained. They included:

1. Personalized Medicine:
dna_selfassemblyWithin the last ten years, the creation of fast, low-cost genetic sequencing has given the public direct access to genome sequencing and analysis, with little or no guidance from physicians or genetic counselors on how to process the information. Genetic testing may result in prevention and early detection of diseases and conditions, but may also create a new set of moral, legal, ethical, and policy issues surrounding the use of these tests. These include equal access, privacy, terms of use, accuracy, and the possibility of an age of eugenics.

2. Hacking medical devices:
pacemakerThough no reported incidents have taken place (yet), there is concern that wireless medical devices could prove vulnerable to hacking. The US Government Accountability Office recently released a report warning of this while Barnaby Jack – a hacker and director of embedded device security at IOActive Inc. – demonstrated the vulnerability of a pacemaker by breaching the security of the wireless device from his laptop and reprogramming it to deliver an 830-volt shock. Because many devices are programmed to allow doctors easy access in case reprogramming is necessary in an emergency, the design of many of these devices is not geared toward security.

3. Driverless zipcars:
googlecarIn three states – Nevada, Florida, and California – it is now legal for Google to operate its driverless cars. A human in the vehicle is still required, but not at the controls. Google also plans to marry this idea to the zipcar, fleets of automobiles shared by a group of users on an as-needed basis and sharing in costs. These fully automated zipcars will change the way people travel but also the entire urban/suburban landscape. And once it gets going, ethical questions surrounding access, oversight, legality and safety are naturally likely to emerge.

4. 3-D Printing:
AR-153D printing has astounded many scientists and researchers thanks to the sheer number of possibilities it has created for manufacturing. At the same time, there is concern that some usages might be unethical, illegal, and just plain dangerous. Take for example, recent effort by groups such as Distributed Defense, a group intent on using 3D printers to create “Wiki-weapons”, or the possibility that DNA assembling and bioprinting could yield infectious or dangerous agents.

5. Adaptation to Climate Change:
climatewarsThe effects of climate change are likely to be felt differently by different people’s around the world. Geography plays a role in susceptibility, but a nation’s respective level of development is also intrinsic to how its citizens are likely to adapt. What’s more, we need to address how we intend to manage and manipulate wild species and nature in order to preserve biodiversity.This warrants an ethical discussion, not to mention suggestions of how we will address it when it comes.

6. Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals:
Syringe___Spritze___by_F4U_DraconiXIn developing nations, where life saving drugs are most needed, low-quality and counterfeit pharmaceuticals are extremely common. Detecting such drugs requires the use of expensive equipment which is often unavailable, and expanding trade in pharmaceuticals is giving rise to the need to establish legal measures to combat foreign markets being flooded with cheap or ineffective knock-offs.

7. Autonomous Systems:
X-47BWar machines and other robotic systems are evolving to the point that they can do away with human controllers or oversight. In the coming decades, machines that can perform surgery, carry out airstrikes, diffuse bombs and even conduct research and development are likely to be created, giving rise to a myriad of ethical, safety and existential issues. Debate needs to be fostered on how this will effect us and what steps should be taken to ensure that the outcome is foreseeable and controllable.

8. Human-animal hybrids:
human animal hybrid
Is interspecies research the next frontier in understanding humanity and curing disease, or a slippery slope, rife with ethical dilemmas, toward creating new species? So far, scientists have kept experimentation with human-animal hybrids on the cellular level and have recieved support for their research goals. But to some, even modest experiments involving animal embryos and human stem cells are ethical violation. An examination of the long-term goals and potential consequences is arguably needed.

9. Wireless technology:
vortex-radio-waves-348x196Mobile devices, PDAs and wireless connectivity are having a profound effect in developed nations, with the rate of data usage doubling on an annual basis. As a result, telecommunications and government agencies are under intense pressure to regulate the radio frequency spectrum. The very way government and society does business, communicates, and conducts its most critical missions is changing rapidly. As such, a policy conversation is needed about how to make the most effective use of the precious radio spectrum, and to close the digital access divide for underdeveloped populations.

10. Data collection/privacy:
privacy1With all the data that is being transmitted on a daily basis, the issue of privacy is a major concern that is growing all the time. Considering the amount of personal information a person gives simply to participate in a social network, establish an email account, or install software to their computer, it is no surprise that hacking and identity theft are also major conerns. And now that data storage, microprocessors and cloud computing have become inexpensive and so widespread, a discussion on what kinds of information gathering and how quickly a person should be willing to surrender details about their life needs to be had.

11. Human enhancements:
transhumanismA tremendous amount of progress has been made in recent decades when it comes to prosthetic, neurological, pharmaceutical and therapeutic devices and methods. Naturally, there is warranted concern that progress in these fields will reach past addressing disabilities and restorative measures and venture into the realm of pure enhancement. With the line between biological and artificial being blurred, many are concerned that we may very well be entering into an era where the two are indistinguishable, and where cybernetic, biotechnological and other enhancements lead to a new form of competition where people must alter their bodies in order to maintain their jobs or avoid behind left behind.

Feel scared yet? Well you shouldn’t. The issue here is about remaining informed about possible threats, likely scenarios, and how we as people can address and deal with them now and later. If there’s one thing we should always keep in mind, it is that the future is always in the process of formation. What we do at any given time controls the shape of it and together we are always deciding what kind of world we want to live in. Things only change because all of us, either through action or inaction, allow them to. And if we want things to go a certain way, we need to be prepared to learn all we can about the causes, consequences, and likely outcomes of every scenario.

To view the whole report, follow the link below. And to vote on which issue you think is the most important, click here.

Source: reilly.nd.edu