THE BLOG

3D Printers in the Home? Absolutely, But Not in a Gangster's Crib

14/01/2014 10:37 GMT | Updated 15/03/2014 09:59 GMT

Las Vegas was THE place to be last week for those who had even a small passing interest in technology as the City of Sin became the City of Sim for a few days, playing host to CES 2014 (Consumer Electronics Show.)

The headline grabbers were mainly the smaller, portable handheld devices, from the in-vogue wristband which tells you how many calories you burn and how little sleep you are getting to flying cameras and desktop touchscreen PCs.

But whilst many of these devices will not be ready for the consumer until 2015, the one revolutionary instrument which is gathering most of the Press attention is the 3D Printer.

The reason is that whilst 2013 showed us how amazing the technology is, 2014 assures us that it is not just for the Universities, laboratories and offices, but that the 3D Printer will become a common feature in people's homes. Similar to how you now see a printer, scanner or iMac in the corner of a living room or someone's study as the norm.

So this is the first myth which I have to dispel today. That the 3D Printer is not just for geeks or techy's; but will be purchased and used by everyone from a mother of three young children to an apprentice plumber.

The second myth to dismiss is that a fully functional armoured weapon or gun can be made from a 3d Printer, despite numerous articles during the last few months stating the reverse.

I have been working over the past couple of years on developing a 3D printer capable of all rapid prototyping demands and can be used as an assistant to repairing home fixtures or even printing plastic children's toys.

A 3D printer is essentially two machines. One is the Robot. Capable of manipulating the Extruder very accurately according to the required design. The other is the extruder. This is the Printing part. Currently the extruders that have been tested are successful through differing methods such as; printed Skin Cells - for burn victims, Tarmac - for potential pot hole filling on the move, Metals, Plastics, Bone substitutes, Dental Substitutes to name a very small few.

It is also called additive manufacturing as everything that is 3D printed, is used. So there is no wastage which ultimately leaves less carbon footprints than the traditional paper printer.

We have only just begun sales and the biggest surprise is the wide range of customers which we have already established. A commercial farmer and a model train enthusiast are just two examples of people putting 3D printing to great use.

So for those 'technology experts' who have been telling me that I have jumped the gun and am too early for the 3D Printer to be a consumer product, I urge them to visit a farm in North Devon where one sits proudly in a farmer's living room, surrounded by sheepdogs.

Leading on from my 'Jumping the Gun' analogy - I am constantly fielding the 3D Printer Gun question, most recently with Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2.

Put simply, producing a 3D printed gun is akin to making a ladder from dried pasta. It IS possible but totally impractical. There are very affordable, easily available machinery and parts from retailers such as B&Q that could contribute to the manufacture of a firearm far more efficiently. Guns are not hard to make and we haven't sold a single 3D printer to a gunsmith, as they are not particularly useful to the trade. CNC - (Computer Numerical Control) machines are completely unregulated and are responsible for the manufacture of most modern day firearms. These machines start with a block of steel and cut away from it with superior accuracy as opposed to additive manufacturing.

The majority of press on 3D guns has been about 'parts'. You can certainly print parts in plastic, but they will be dangerous and far inferior to the genuine shock resistant parts and obviously require a genuine firearm to fit them to.

I know my guns, I hold a gun licence and shoot regularly. I am stating that any barrel holding a bullet would disintegrate and explode.

It is also worth mentioning that anyone wishing to produce a 3D gun would need to obtain live ammunition to fire from these 'guns'. If they can do that, then they can source a genuine firearm from the same contact and it will cost him far less than a 3D printer and is a product that will actually be a deadly weapon.