Both sides of the gun control debate and the 3D printed gun debate, more specifically, could discuss the issue all they wanted in a theoretical framework until now.
Cody Wilson, the UT Austin law student who made a lot of press regarding the controversial development of 3D printed guns (starting with an AR-15 lower receiver), has printed his first successful gun in the way of a single shot pistol named Liberator. He posted a Youtube video demonstrating the firing of the gun as well as promotion of his Defense Distributed organization’s 3D design sharing site, defcad.org .
It is difficult to imagine the academic purpose for printing a weapon, but I am sure we will work with university administration if/when a 3D printer is added as a production service on campus to prohibit such creations. For context, the current CTLT printers (two Solidoodle printers and one Makerbot printer) are not going to be used to print a weapon, and more importantly, it should be noted that anyone with a low-cost printer should refrain from printing or trying to use a 3D printed gun. If nothing else, the manufacturing tolerances for low-cost 3D printers is insufficient for producing anything more than a deathtrap for the operator let alone anyone in the line of fire.
Furthermore, our research into online printing services such as Shapeways and i.materialize show that their sites prohibit such weapons.
Of course there have been ways for people to make firearms without a factory for hundreds of years, but 3D printing is reducing the barriers to fabrication. The prediction is that 3D printing will become more commonplace, cheaper, more reliable, and more accurate. Therefore, Mr. Wilson has opened up a can of worms that needs to be addressed as this test demonstrates a time in the near future when people will be able to 3D print fairly dangerous objects.