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3D-Printed Firearms Could Be Deadlier for Shooters Than for Targets

Despite fears that guns made with 3D printers will let criminals and terrorists easily make untraceable, undetectable plastic weapons at home, my own experience with 3D-manufacturing quality control suggests that, at least for now, 3D-printed firearms may pose as much, or maybe even more, of a threat to the people who try to make and use them.

3D-printed guns might only fire “five shots [before] blowing up in your hand.” A weapon with a design or printing defect might blow up or come apart in its user’s hand before firing even a single bullet.

As someone who uses 3D printing in his work and researches quality assurance technologies, I’ve had the opportunity to see numerous printing defects and analyze what causes them. The problem is not with the concept of 3D printing, but with the exact process followed to create a specific item. Consumer 3D printers don’t always create high-quality items, and regular people aren’t likely to engage in rigorous quality assurance testing before using a 3D-printed firearm.

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