Publication Details

Birtchnell, T. (2016). A licence to print: how real is the risk posed by 3D printed guns?. The Conversation, 28 November 1-5.

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3D printed guns are back in the news after Queensland Police reported last week that they had discovered a 3D printer in a raid on what appeared to be a "large-scale" weapons production facility as a part of Operation Oscar Quantum. According to police, the raid uncovered homemade weapons and ammunition in a workshop manufacturing facility "containing equipment used in the production of fully automatic machine guns, including a 3D printer, lathes, drill presses and other tools". The Gold Coast Bulletin reported that Detective Superintendent Jon Wacker, of the Drug and Serious Crime Group, said the "Uzi"-style guns, thought to be made with the help of a 3D printer, were "fairly close" to factory quality. One of the home made weapons was captioned in one media report as being a "3D-printed submachine gun". This could certainly raise alarm and hint at a new era of disorganised and decentralised weapons production, and a burgeoning "reshoring" of weapon manufacturing as an alternative to importation from overseas. But the fact is that 3D printing technology is not yet at the stage where it can readily produce weapons. Although it can be used to help rogue gunsmiths work their shady trade.