Critical Making – a 3D Printed Gun

The maker revolution has promised utopia, while delivering a lot of really fun plastic objects and throwaway toys. The big projects, such as open source farm machinery, are occurring but they are much harder to access than tips on printing high definition Yodas. But I think a definition of utopia might be a society that competes over who can make the best replication of a Star Wars character.

Then someone, Cody Wilson in this case, comes along and really disrupts the system. His company, Defence Distributed, released designs for a working hand gun that can be completely printed from a 3D printing machine. I assumed he was an angry crank looking to disrupt the system, but in the interview above it is remarkable how self aware, articulate and deliberate his actions are. And it is remarkable how confused and conflicted I am from what I am hearing.

In essence, if anything can be made, what is the role of centralized control? What does this disrupt, what does this enable? I can not wrap my head around it.

Matt Ratto runs the Critical Making lab at the University of Toronto, where they explore a wide array of fantastic concepts and he is interviewed as the “counter-argument”, but in reality he is also in an interesting situation of having to agree with some of the principles of autonomy and manufacturing. Matt is working with local authorities to help reveal the complexities and consequences involved. In Canada there is a specific law on guns having a certain amount of metal in them so that they can be found through metal detection. A plastic printed gun is therefore illegal for being undetectable, and yet obviously difficult to trace.

I thoroughly recommend setting some time to listen to the full interview, it is highly revealing. It will take me quite a while to fully process the implications of what is emerging.