A gun made from a high-tech 3D printer has sparked a whole new debate about gun regulations. A YouTube video has surfaced showing an assault rifle, allegedly made with parts printed from a 3D printer.
We found a similar printer at Neometrix Technologies in Lake Mary. The engineering firm does 3D scanning and printing, making plastic prototypes. We watched as they made a 3D model of a handgun.
"We downloaded a 3D model of a handgun from the Internet and plugged that into the printer. It will make it layer by layer," said Dan Perreault, President and CEO of NeoMetrix Technologies Inc.
The high-tech printer costs over $200,000 and makes the piece 1/1000th of an inch at a time, laying curable resin with each pass. Two hours later, I was holding a physical gun model in my hand. This gun didn't have moving parts and obviously isn't shooting anything.
Perreault said that the idea of a fully plastic gun shooting bullets, like the one posted on YouTube, is far-fetched.
"I imagine that possibly some components on it were probably printed 3D, but I would very much doubt the entire gun was 3D printer," said Perreault.
According to experts, it's hard to imagine plastic parts replacing metal pieces like bullets, cartridges and springs. That said, the technology has grabbed the attention of some in Washington, with a New York congressman calling for the renewal of the Undetectable Firearms Act.
The act expires at the end of the year and makes it unlawful to manufacture or sell any firearm that doesn't have a certain amount of steel and can't be picked up by X-ray machines. The experts we spoke with said you need to be able to separate 3D fact from fiction.
"3D printing is something that people need to be aware of, they need to be aware of the facts, as opposed to the hype they see on television shows," Perreault said.
It's hard to grasp the 3D printing technology right now. Just last week, researchers created a "cell printer" that spits out live embryonic stem cells. The new method could be used to make 3D human tissues.