Starts by blocking Defense Distributed’s gun files
July 1, 2013
A Danish 3D printer company has developed an algorithm that would prevent independent 3D printer owners from being able to print gun part files, adding fuel to the demonization and censorship campaign already being waged against the incredible technology’s powerful potential.
In a press release last week, Create it REAL announced they had created “a smart software which recognizes if the user wants to 3D print a firearm and can hereby prevent printing of guns.”
“Upon opening a 3D file, the smart software scans the model and tries to match its characteristics with the characteristics of a firearm,” the company explained. “If certain features align, the software will not allow the user to view and print the model.”
The company cites Austin, Texas 3D printing firm Defense Distributed’s efforts to conceive and upload controversial gun part files for distribution freely online as the reason for developing the application, but says its primary concern is your safety, not keeping guns out of peoples’ hands.
“As proven by the Australian police, those homemade firearms are highly dangerous and, in many countries, illegal,” the company said, referencing an instance earlier this year where police in Australia attempted to discourage would-be small scale gun manufacturers from re-producing Defense Distributed’s Liberator gun design by stressing how an improperly printed firearm is not only illegal, but could explode in its users’ hands. They touted their efforts not as gun control, but as a public safety precaution.
Their demonstration came days after Fox News published parts of a DHS bulletin warning that “Limiting plastic guns may be impossible,” and that 3D guns pose “public safety risks.”
According to Create it REAL’s CEO Jeremie Pierre Gay, his company’s line of 3D printers will be sold with the software already loaded that will block files recognized as gun part components before they’re printed – so far namely those needed to assemble the Liberator or Defense Distributed’s lower receiver – although the company specifies that “For safety reasons, there are no models of firearms stored on the user’s computer but rather a list of its characteristics.”
“In our case, if you wanted to print on our printer then you have to use our software,” Gay told Ars Technica. “[Firearms are] only blocked for our printer—if you had another printer then you will be able to print [a gun]. Everything can be broken, but the goal is that the average user won’t be able to by mistake print a gun.”
Gay says his software is not a gun control measure, but revolves around minimizing liability risks for 3D printer companies. “If a buyer wants to print a gun, we want to be sure the 3D printer makers are not the ones responsible for it,” he said.
Defense Distributed’s front man Cody Wilson told Ars he has no problem with the company’s software. “In a free market, anyone should be able to purchase this software if they don’t want their kids to print guns,” Wilson said. “My question for this gentleman is: [which company] will [promote] this software first?”
To answer Wilson’s question, at least two 3D printing companies come to mind, Stratasys and MakerBot. Both already have a history of suppressing firearms manufacturing.
Stratasys Inc. was the 3D printer manufacturing company that first thwarted Defense Distributed’s research and development by taking back their printer after Wilson had leased it. Once Stratasys caught wind of how Wilson intended to use their printer, they seized it from his apartment. As Wilson put it, “They came for it straight up…I didn’t even have it out of the box.”
MakerBot Industries, the creator of one of the most popular desktop 3D printing platforms, also played a role in retarding Defense Distributed’s progress.
Following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, MakerBot blacklisted files recognized as gun parts on their exclusive Thingiverse 3D print file search engine, citing a violation of their Terms of Service which states users shall not “collect, upload, transmit, display or distribute any User Content… that…promotes illegal activities or contributes to the creation of weapons.”
Last month, in a merger of two of the largest companies in the 3D printing industry Stratasys Inc. acquired MakerBot Industries. However, if Stratasys moves to incorporate this type of software in their machines, the hypocrisy would be readily apparent. Soon after the seizure of Wilson’s printer, Wired wrote about how Stratasys was already “working with some of the world’s top firearms-makers today,” such as Knight’s Armament Company and Remington Arms, to produce various firearms parts.
It’s unclear how effective Create It REAL’s attempt to stifle the 3D gun market will actually be. At least one Twitter user claims he’s already come up with a way to bypass software aimed at blocking firearms.
— RJ Miller (@StateExempt) June 26, 2013
As noble as the endeavor to keep 3D printed firearms out of children’s hands is, these early efforts to regulate the industry will likely only spur more companies to follow suit by developing and incorporating similar gun-blocking programs.
Wilson and his gun printing entourage are quickly becoming martyrs of the war aimed at opensource Internet information crusaders, much like Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, Reddit Co-founder Aaron Swartz and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Given those revolutionaries’ fates and the fact that the state department has already issued a take-down notice of many of their gun files, it would not be surprising to see Wilson targeted and entangled in a future legal battle.
As Wilson expressed on Defense Distributed’s Tumblr page, “A police state capable of stopping the Liberator is a greater threat than terrorism itself.”
Update: Of the gun-blocking software, Cody Wilson had this to say to Infowars: “One step behind. We can make any shape into a gun. The community will for the fun of it make such software an annoyance to use.
But more power to them.”