October 2, 2012
3D Printer Maker Takes Machine Away From Rogue Gun Manufacturer
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
A group which calls themselves “Defense Distributed” had big plans, plans to create and freely distribute schematics for a single-use gun which could be printed using any 3D printer by anyone who wants one.
Using very careful wording (for example, they took great care to mention they are not a company) Defense Distributed says in their introductory video that the intent of this group is to make information freely available through the Internet. In order to do this, the group started an online campaign to raise $20,000 to purchase a 3D printer (to test prototypes) and begin perfecting the plans for this single-use, plastic gun, which they would then send out freely across the World Wide Web.
Now, according to a Wired report, Cody Wilson, director of Defense Distributed, has run into some troubles with his plan. Namely, the manufacturer of the 3D printer they planned to use has now seized the leased machine.
“They came for it straight up, I didn´t even have it out of the box,” said Wilson, speaking to Wired. A second-year law student at the University of Texas at Austin, Wilson has been working his way around the tricky legalities of this project which could effectively bypass gun laws as well as tack on restrictions and regulations on 3D printers.
Stratasys, the maker of the 3D printer Wilson had rented and planned to use, had sent a team to take their printer from Wilson´s house before he could get to work.
According to Wired, Stratasys last week sent an email to Wilson, saying they wanted their printer returned. Wilson refused, saying he believed he was in the legal right to use the machine to print firearms with regard to the at-home weapons manufacturing regulations.
Wilson then received a letter from the company, a letter which he´s posted on the Defense Distributed Tumblr.
“It is the policy of Stratasys not to knowingly allow its printers to be used for illegal purposes. Therefore, please be advised that your lease of the Stratasys uPrint SE is cancelled at this time and Stratasys is making arrangements to pick up the printer,” wrote Stratasys. The company made good on their promise as hired contractors showed up to Wilson´s house in a rental van the next day to pick up the printer.
“Stratasys reserves the right to reject an order. Members of Defense Distributed, like any US citizens, are able to follow the well-established federal and state regulations to manufacture, distribute or procure a firearm in this country,” said a spokesperson for Stratasys in a statement to Wired.
“Of course I´m scrambling now. I´m trying to figure out, well, how can I rent an object from another party or a capital group?” said Wilson, undeterred. “In the meantime, I´m doing everything else. It´s just added stress.”
Following this little repossession, Wilson visited his local ATF field office in Austin to ask about the legal issues which surround the WikiWeapon project. According to Wired, he was then taken into a room and questioned, where he was told he was currently under “investigation.” His apartment was also set to be investigated by the ATF.
Wilson and Defense Distributed has faced legal troubles in the past, as one might expect. Earlier attempts to raise $20,000 were stalled when the crowdsourcing Web site Wilson was using to host his campaign pulled the fundraiser, saying company policy restricted the fundraisers for the sale of firearms. Wilson and his team eventually raised the rest of the money using the online, digital BitCoin currency.
“We want everyone else to not have to do these things, so fine, we´ll do them, we´ll fool around with it, we´ll pay the thousands of dollars per year,” said Wilson.
“It´s just disgusting. I hate that that´s the way it is, but that´s apparently the regulatory landscape.”