Debunking “Alternative Facts”about 3D Printing

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The media has started turning their recent flood of alternative facts to taking cheap pot shots at 3D printing. These articles have shown that technical incompetence and click-bait fear mongering rule the commercial media.

Here I’ll list some of the alternative facts that have been presented about 3D printing, and I’ll follow with just the facts.

Alternative Fact 1: A teen in England was killed by a fire caused by a 3D printer.

Just the Facts 1: The teen did die in a tragic fire that happened in his house, which happened to have a 3D printer in the same room. The inquiry about the matter determined that the fire was caused by an explosion from  improperly stored flash paper (gun cotton) that was in the room. The paper could have ignited from any source of ignition in the room. There was no evidence in the inquiry that the 3D printer was the source of ignition.

Alternative Fact 2: A couple died from CO poisoning from a 3D laser printer.

Just the Fact 2: There are 3D printers, and there are laser cutters, but there are not 3D laser printers that work in a home. No desktop 3D printer burns a fuel source to produce CO.

It is possible that the couple had a home laser cutter, which does require ventilation to safely operate. It is also possible that there was a faulty furnace in the home that caused the CO poising. Anyone who re posted this bogus news is at best just being a bot, at worst they are spreading lies about 3D printing intentionally.

Alternative Fact 3: You can legally 3D print a gun.

Just the Fact 3: Just because you possibly CAN do something, does not mean everyone does. 3D printed guns are not reliable, and I found the hard way  that they difficult to produce. In the USA it is far easier and faster to buy a gun (legally or illegally) then it will ever be to 3D print and assemble a functioning gun. Many 3D printers will not print a gun because it is a waste of time and filament.

In the USA it is legal to make your own gun, as long as you do not sell it.

3D printed guns are a engineering challenge and a test of the skills of the printer, but they do not pose a major threat to national security. The greater danger in the USA is our major gun-related homicide rate from commercial guns.

Under CA law, the 3D printed revolver (bottom) has to meet the same labeling standards as the commercial revolver (top). Authors photo from a previous blog

Alternative Fact 4: Criminals will make 3D printed guns

Just the Facts 4: Printing a gun is time consuming, and by no means a reliable way to produce an illicit weapon. There have been a handful of 3D printers and printed guns seized in drug raids in Australia, a country with strong gun control laws. In truth criminals will make weapons out of anything. The security threat from a 3D printed gun is minimal  given the easy access to illicit guns around the world.

The Luty SMG that is NOT 3D printed, but drilled from commercial metal tubing.

Alternative Fact 5: 3D printing is a fad technical industry.

OBI developed wheelchair

Just the Fact 5: 3D printing is a emerging industry. Certain visible companies like Makerbot and Peachy Printer have failed in the market, but other companies are showing strong growth . Just because an individual company fails in a emerging market, that does not mean the whole market is in a tail slide.

Its important to see that major global companies like GE and Airbus are expanding their 3D printing capabilities, and new markets in medical fields and contour crafting (home printing) hold promise for new domestic markets.

Alternative Fact 6: There are no laws governing 3D printing.

Just the Facts 6: In fact there are already applicable laws that can or are already applied to 3D printing. ITAR is being applied to govern the trade of digital gun files.

Copyright law is is being expanded to include 3D printable objects.

Consumer safety laws can apply to the quality and safety of 3D printers.

Alternative Fact 7: You need a lot of specialized training to have a 3D printer.

Just the Fact 7: Having a technical background helps, but it is not required. Using free CAD programs anyone can draft the digital file needed to 3D print an item. In the USA our education system needs to expand our Science Technology Engineering Art and Math (STEAM) curriculum to include more CAD and 3D printing skills.


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  1. mperkins37 says

    thanks for the info

  2. jvastine says

    The whole “people can illegally 3D print a gun” thing is part of the fear-mongering strategies trying to get the public behind the governments to enact stricter gun regulations and get one step closer to disarming the people in accord with the UN’s agenda. Just like all of the rhetoric around “assault” rifles of which there is no such thing. An assault is an action that one individual perpetrates upon another regardless of what they may use to assist them in carrying out that action. If you buy into the lie then there would have to be legislation which controls everything that can be picked up, everything that can be used to make something, all raw material, and everything in existence which can be used to kill which is absurd! We need to educate the public to think which will be difficult due to the media’s onslaught against consciousness.

  3. [email protected] says

    Thanks for sharing this information. The media needs to get their facts straight.

  4. mperkins37 says

    Could print some pretty cool looking gun furniture I guess though, HAndguards etc. Pistol grips . Probably magazine bodies also

  5. Tom Baxter says

    Until the media machine has an incentive to print the truth instead of whatever garners the most attention, it will be hard to change the narrative. I have a 3D printer in my home and the scraper used to remove the prints is a more dangerous weapon than anything I have printed!

  6. Richard Bynum says

    Great article! Thanks for correcting the wrong that’s out in the public media. I will be sharing this on social media after writing this. I have only been into 3D printing a little over a year and before that, I have to admit, I was worried people could print gun parts and get past security at airports. Now I realize that if they were able to get in the plane the gun would come apart and shatter after the first shot!! IF they made it that far in the 3D print and building of the gun. But it’s a minimal chance! That’s the only thing I can think of that’s bad about 3D printers (The “one shot gun”). And as far as 3D printing being a passing fad, it has SO much support around the world and in big fortune 500 companies, I don’t think it’s ever going away. There’s so much good that comes with it. That wheelchair is super nice! I’m paralyzed (T4 para) and use a wheelchair. I would be a happy camper in that chair!!

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