Lab tests show 3D printed guns can be useless -- and dangerous

But the Liberator 3D gun maker calls the tests propaganda

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Wilson said that perhaps the best clue comes from a video released by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The ATF, he said, used ABS-based VisiJet filament from 3D Systems "and some kind of acrylic springs.

"The dirty secret about these police tests is that Liberator springs don't even work in the weaker materials that would make the gun explode. So you're getting hybrid guns built expressly to destruct for maximum spectacle," Wilson said.

Wilson pointed to a video of a test conducted by the ATF. It demonstrated in at least one video that the gun could sometimes be fired safely. Overall, however, the tests showed the gun to be unsafe.

The ATF demonstrated The Liberator 3D printed gun could be successfully fired.

"Police agencies and governments have been testing the gun for over a year now and invariably there's an interest in showing it fail," Wilson said. "But if made to the specifications that come with the files, the gun never fails catastrophically and each barrel can shoot a number of rounds before needing to be replaced. This is a case of convenient disinformation...."

The 3D printer that makes plastic guns uses a process known as fused filament fabrication where layer after consecutive layer of thermoplastic filament is laid down on a platform. A motorized extruder is controlled by CAD designs as it lays down the heated plastic.

3D printing services company Solid Concepts last year demonstrated a .45 caliber metal gun that functioned exactly as a standard pistol would. That gun was created through a 3D printing technique known as laser sintering.

Solid Concepts' 3D printed replica of the storied M1911 semi-automatic, which served as the U.S. military's standard-issue sidearm, blew through thousands of rounds. Yet, the weapon was printed on a machine that costs tens of thousands of dollars , took days to create and required hand finishing.

Defense Distributed's Wiki Weapon project

Lucas Mearian covers consumer data storage, consumerization of IT, mobile device management, renewable energy, telematics/car tech and entertainment tech for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at  @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

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