It has emerged that German police have invested in a 3D printer to create, test, and potentially use their own 3D guns. Printer cartridges, 3D bar codes, and aircraft wings are also being printed using 3D printers.
When it comes to emerging technologies, the prospect of 3D printing in the home is one that genuinely peaks our interest. As an emerging technology, the possibilities and applications remain somewhat limited and largely untested, but 2013 has certainly seen the concept break through into the mainstream.
Deskptop 3D printers have gone on sale already at the likes of Amazon and Staples, and they’re not as expensive as you might think. These printers enable owners to print items up to around 20cm in size by layering plastic according to 3D maps created on the computer. Maps for a variety of items including chess pieces, homeware, and of course guns have already been released.
A 3D print design for a gun was released earlier this year and immediately caused an uproar. The US government had the original plans removed and testing showed that it was almost as likely to explode in the user’s face as it was to actually fire but the threat is being taken seriously.
During parliamentary questions, it emerged that German police had invested in a 3D printer of their own. Their intention is to test the device themselves to determine how much of a threat it poses and whether it will be possible to create guns that could be easily smuggled onto aircraft. However, they will also be testing whether 3D printed guns could be a viable source of weapons for use by the police themselves.
Of course, 3D printing isn’t all about guns.
Two researchers have devised what are effectively invisible barcodes whereby every single printed version of an item would be slightly different. The differences would only be visible via terahertz imaging which would negate the need to print barcodes on items but would allow for easy stock management and inventory tracking.
Inkfactory.com has test printed ink cartridges using the technology. These cartridges are based on Kodak cartridges and would greatly reduce the cost of filling your printer. Users would still need to purchase the ink separately but it would cost a matter of pence for the plastic printing material rather than the £20 or more that cartridges currently cost.
BAE have also been busy, but they are looking to advance the technology rather than use it. Current technology means that items are printed in plastic which would not prove beneficial for use in the manufacture of plane parts. However, the aeroplane manufacturers have devised a 3D printing technique that reduces the stresses in printed metal so that you could one day be flying on a plane that has been printed, rather than manufactured!