Dan Lieberman, press secretary at Sen. Yee’s office, issued this statement to IBTimes: “While Senator Yee is looking into the matter of guns manufactured by 3D printers, he is not, nor does he intend, to push for the registration of 3D printers. The quote in the CBS piece was referring to the guns lacking background checks and serial numbers.”
In the wake of the first fully-functional 3-D printed gun, more lawmakers are proposing regulations to prevent these weapons from reaching dangerous hands. Sen. Leland Yee (D-Calif.) went a step beyond other proposals by calling for laws that would track the 3-D printers themselves as well as people with access to them, out of concern that someone who uses the technology could create a gun.
“Terrorists can make these guns and do some horrible things to an individual and then walk away scot-free, and that is something that is really dangerous,” Yee told CBS Sacramento.
Yee joins two other Democrats, Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), in leading a leading a charge to regulate 3-D-printed guns. Israel and Schumer called for a renewal of the Undetectable Firearms Act, which expires this year, and to add new language that bans plastic guns created with 3-D printing.
After successfully firing the first 3-D printed gun last week, named the “Liberator,” designer Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed uploaded the blueprints online for anyone to download for free. This prompted action from the State Department, who ordered the files to be removed after plans for the Liberator had been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times.
While politicians like Yee, Israel and Schumer maintain that this technology is dangerous, supporters of the Liberator say restricting the gun violates Second Amendment rights, while trying to censor the blueprints from the Internet infringes on the First Amendment.
Others say that regulation on 3-D printers like Yee proposed isn’t eve possible. The RepRap project, for example, involves creating self-replicating 3-D printers. For the same reason that 3-D-printed guns are untraceable, so are 3-D printers made from a 3-D printer.
At the same time, the White House is expanding investment in 3-D printing technology. Last week, the Obama administration pledged $200 million for a competition to create three new manufacturing innovation institutes. This competition is a continuation of a pilot competition in 2012, which awarded $30 million to the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) in Youngstown, Ohio.
3-D printing, the layman’s term for additive manufacturing, is a process where a device creates objects from a digital blueprint by layering micrometer-thin layers of plastic on top of each other. The technology has been around for over 20 years, but is now affordable for average consumers. Some modern 3-D printers cost less than $1,000, which adds to the fears that they will be used by dangerous people to print guns.
It took an $8,000 printer to create the Liberator, though Defense Distributed plans to adapt gun designs for cheaper 3D printers.
Should politicians regulate 3-D printers, or just ban 3-D printed guns? Or are attempts to do either examples of government over stepping its authority?
There has been plenty of hype recently about the wonders of three-dimensional printing — a fast-emerging technology that one day may be able to reproduce any object, from an instrument for sublime music (a Stradivarius violin) to a potential weapon of death (a bullet-firing gun).
But 3-D printing machines can do more than produce objects. They could change the future of the world’s cities, perhaps dramatically. With 3-D, cities may well once again be the world’s manufacturing workshops.
In a sense, 3-D manufacturing could take us back even further — to echoes of village life in the preindustrial era, when blacksmiths or seamstresses or carpenters created everything needed locally and towns were far more self-sufficient.
How could today’s 3-D printing, still in its infancy, actually produce such startling change? And trigger change as profound as the steam engine, the light bulb, atomic energy, the microchip?
I rely on research by Banning Garrett, senior fellow for innovation and global trends at the Atlantic Council, by Thomas Campbell of Virginia Tech, by analysts at the National Defense University and several of their colleagues.
They show how once there’s a computer file summarizing the 3-D layers necessary to create any object — from a wrench to an iPhone — the file can be transferred to a sophisticated printer a few feet away, or by Internet around the world, in seconds.
The printer creates the object by layering on the varied materials, one thin layer at a time.
And 3-D printing creates its final product in one process — unlike conventional manufacturing, which often demands extensive casting, forming and molding and assembling up to thousands of parts, some from distant locations.
That means products can be printed on demand, obviating large inventories (or waiting for a missing part to be delivered from afar).
A single manufacturer can print a huge range of products. Increasingly, today’s production and distribution of products could be de-globalized.
This could spell big cutbacks in massive container ships and their ports, together with fuel-guzzling truck rigs crisscrossing continents. The United States’ heavy reliance on overseas manufacturing, especially from China, could be cut back dramatically.
The carbon footprint of today’s manufacturing and transport could be reduced substantially. 3-D involves dramatically reduced waste and use of toxic materials in manufacturing, and can ease the demand for such nonrenewable resources as rare earth minerals.
The price of 3-D printers has now dropped so dramatically than any inventor with an idea can immediately design it, produce it, test until he or she is satisfied, and then (if the product is a good one) start selling units. And then get instant customer feedback.
“Inventor, entrepreneur, manufacturer, and marketer — they can all be in one person,” notes Garrett.
The model lends itself exquisitely to urban settings, in which creative people typically congregate in coffee shops, exchange ideas — and if they need some extra skills, can pick them up at a local university.
The 3-D printing plans may become as ubiquitous as the apps today’s young people so effortlessly produce and circulate.
With 3-D, as contrasted to mass manufacturing, the customer becomes part of the process. And products improve: for example, shoes with an image the customer picks and an insole that fits exactly.
In disasters such as Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, when all sorts of equipment and machinery break down, 3-D practitioners can print out spare parts or scan a broken item, fix the image, and then produce it — a huge advance in recovery steps.
Garrett describes an especially appealing 21st-century 3-D-enabled vision: A far more decentralized, resilient world in which many products are made (and can be customized) locally.
Foods are produced locally with vertical farms, even 3-D meat (built up from cell cultures of animals). If a person needs a new liver, it can be created using his own cells.
And with 3-D’s efficiency and lack of waste, dependence on materials such as steel and titanium can be radically reduced.
Yet while a 3-D world can be decentralized and thus especially resilient, Garrett adds that people will remain very connected to the world economy — the global village the Internet provides, with the best ideas (and 3-D files) flowing in from near and far.
One has to like this glowing vision — even though 3-D threatens, inevitably, dramatic numbers of routine factory jobs (except, perhaps, in plants producing standardized items in vast numbers).
Other downsides: 3-D will likely make it easier to counterfeit goods, and perhaps to steal intellectual property.
Still, there’s rarely been a disruptive technology with such positive implications for the welfare and progress of the cities and surrounding regions destined to be mankind’s home through this century and beyond.
A new report released by the Brookings Institution points to the disproportionate impact of manufacturing on the U.S. jobs market. It employs 35 percent of engineers, accounts for more than two-thirds of private-sector spending on research and development, and produces fully 65 percent of all U.S. trade. “After 30 years of being told that the U.S. was resigned to be a post-industrial economy,” write Bruce Katz and Peter Hamp, “we are suddenly realizing that our future lies in the interplay of production and innovation, and of domestic markets and global demand.”
“Manufacturing matters because it’s simply impossible to have a vibrant national economy without a healthy, globally traded sector,” says Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. “And manufacturing is America’s most important traded sector.”
Atkinson is buoyed by the Obama administration’s call for a network of manufacturing hubs. If and when they become fully formed, the hubs could be remembered as a signature achievement at the intersection of jobs, innovation and trade. Still, Atkinson says the federal effort remains well short of what the country needs, which he describes as “meaningful innovation-based investment in conjunction with the states, massive cuts in corporate taxes, a national strategy for innovation-based manufacturing and a major effort to level the playing field when it comes to mercantilist practices” by trading partners and other national governments.
States and localities have a vital role in thinking locally about trading globally. Atkinson argues that they can bring geographically focused knowledge and commitments to manufacturing, but worries that state and local government often see their choices only in terms of “going it alone or looking at themselves as passive recipients of what happens in Washington.” He wonders whether they’re ceding their own interests by not making a “real effort to lobby for a true national growth and innovation agenda.” The Association of 3D Printing feels that “you can create jobs, but can’t legislate them.”
There are inherent risks and challenges to 3D printing technology, but it is unlikely that regulators around the world will decide to fully regulate the sector until there is a 3D printer in every household.
Governments have generally started addressing the potential regulation of 3D printing technology amid fears triggered by 3D printed guns. In the United States, under the Undetectable Firearms Act, it is now illegal to manufacture firearms which cannot be detected by a metal detector. The Act was extended for 10 years in December 2013. In the United Kingdom, the UK Home Office revised its firearms policy in November 2013 to include language that made the manufacture, sale, and possession of 3D guns illegal.
In the European Union, several MEPs have recently addressed the risks of 3D printed guns. The obligations for the manufacture or acquisition of weapons by private individuals are regulated under the Firearms Directive. The European Commission has also said that consultations with experts have taken place, and that possible vulnerabilities will be considered in the evaluation report on the Firearms Directive scheduled for 2015, which may lead to amending proposals of such Directive.
The implications for intellectual property have also been addressed by some governments. In the UK, the Intellectual Property Act which will come into force in the autumn has aimed to create new protections and introduced a number of key policy changes, including the creation of a criminal sanction for intentional copying of a registered design; helping businesses assess their IP before undertaking costly and lengthy legal proceedings; or the ability of the UK Intellectual Property Office of sharing information on unpublished patent applications with other national patent offices. William Dante at the Association for 3D Printing feels that “regulation is a good thing, provided the regulators understand the 3D Printing Industry.”
Regulatory standards for parts, processes and safety that apply to 3D printers, materials, or digital software used, need to be created and enforced in order to protect the safety of consumers. Sooner or later, governments and regulators will address other misuses of 3D printing rather than the dangers of 3D printed guns or the implications for intellectual property. However, there is generally a lack of knowledge among policy-makers about the great potential and repercussions of this technology.
But without regulatory intervention, in the long-term there may be a lack of public trust, lack of resources and materials, as well as high barriers to market entry. In this sense, the 3D printing industry has at present the opportunity of engaging with governments and giving them the necessary technical information in order to set the basic standards to regulate the sector, which would pave the way for long-term innovation in this field.
Politics, as we’ve learned, is woefully unprepared to handle major technological advancement. While Israel means well, his ability to keep an 3D model off of Google is laughable at best and dangerous at worst. As a gun control proponent, I know that now, more than ever, we need sane and effective controls on weapons in our country. As a believer in the unfettered growth of technology, on the other hand, I will defend Defense Distributed to the death while hating their crass methodology. Israel’s efforts only serve to give the DD kids a frisson of the martyr while avoiding the real problem of non-3D printed guns that are far more prolific and far easier to obtain.
The danger in legislating 3D printers is that it is on one hand impossible and on the other hand potentially damaging to a nascent industry. We have no idea what these printers will be able to do in the future and the best a home 3D printer can do, really, is punch out something like this handsome Nokia case. That will soon change. Again and again I equate this technology to the way dot matrix printers eventually begat the desktop publishing features available to even the rankest of amateurs today. However, a printed page can never be used to kill someone. But cad software is another story.
To use a 3D printer is to understand the current limitations of the platform and the potential inherent in the technology. It is a wonderful feeling to watch a Makerbot churn out a little plastic figurine and I want my kids to understand this fascinating technology from the very start. The potential damage that could be wrought by 3D-printing legislation could, potentially, destroy the industry but I doubt it. In fact, I’d say it would do the opposite. Technological advances usually route around damage and, in this case, legislation is damage.
But DD is going to keep at their project and benighted congress members will keep thinking they can, quite literally, nip this problem in the bud and they will be wrong. Whatever comes next for 3D printing, I doubt it will be very pleasing to those who are more worried about defending free inquiry
Can USPS Deliver on the Promise of 3D Printing?
The imminent 3D printing revolution “might be a huge opportunity for the [U.S.] Postal Service,” an in-depth study says. But, as usual with the USPS, where there are opportunities there are also caveats and hurdles.
As far as 3D Printing, how is it being used? Best known for creating rapid prototypes and personalized knick-knacks, 3D printing is also producing replacement parts for jet engines, industrial tools, orthodontic devices, and even prosthetic limbs, says the report. It’s best suited for small, lightweight items that need to be customized or produced relatively quickly in small quantities.
So what’s the big deal about 3DP? “A sweeping 3D printing revolution could radically change how some industries function, potentially transforming the notion of warehousing, removing some of the need for long-haul shipments, and bringing more manufacturing jobs back to the United States. In such a world, consumers might come to demand the customization enabled by 3D printing that they cannot get from today’s mass production techniques.” And even more important, for those of you who follow the latest business buzzwords, is that “3D printing has the potential to be amazingly disruptive.”
How big will 3D printing be? Despite some “unrealistic hype” about 3DP, the report cites a credible study projecting the industry will grow from $2.5 billion in 2013 revenue to more than $16 billion by 2018. And that may be just the beginning.
What does this mean for the USPS? “The Postal Service’s ubiquitous delivery network and its strength in handling lightweight goods” position it to benefit from the growth in purchases of 3D-printed products. “Other delivery firms often use the Postal Service for last-mile delivery. In fact, nearly two thirds of lightweight, commercial packages are delivered to their final destination by the Postal Service.” The most likely scenario is that 3DP will increase USPS’s commercial package volume by 18%, which would translate to $485 million annually based on FY2013 volumes, according to a consulting firm hired by the IG’s office.
Are there other revenue opportunities? The report envisions several. “The Postal Service could market itself as a logistics partner for 3D printing businesses located near Postal facilities, giving them a streamlined way to ship products quickly.” With “more than 60 million square feet of excess space nationwide, much of which is in mail processing centers,” the agency could lease space to such 3DP businesses as well. USPS could play a major role in the storing, shipping, and recycling of equipment and supplies for 3D printing. “The Postal Service could also help protect copyrighted or sensitive digital design files by providing a trusted online marketplace for transmission of designs.”
Could 3D printing help the Postal Service’s operations? USPS “could use 3D printers to create replacement parts for its vast fleet of aging delivery vehicles or its wide array of mail processing equipment. In some cases, the companies that originally designed the machines are no longer in business and are therefore unavailable to provide spare parts. This makes it costly and time-intensive for the Postal Service to fix the machines and it is likely that these repairs could be faster and cheaper with 3D printing.”
William Dante, at the Association for 3D Printing sees seven distinct 3D Printing Challenges for USPS:
Delivery network: “The Postal Service’s benefit from 3D printing will be tied to the strength of its network. Weakening of the network — through reductions in important features like service frequency, number of delivery points, tracking and tracing services, or pick-up options — could result in the Postal Service forgoing new opportunities in 3D printing.” Pressed by declining demand and Congressional accounting gimmicks, USPS may be forced to cut back on the frequency and speed of delivery before 3D printing’s benefits can start kicking in.
Delivery vehicles: “A 3D printing revolution could greatly exacerbate the need for redesigned, more parcel-ready vehicles,” the report says. But USPS’s aging fleet is hardly up to the task of handling current volumes. The agency is past due for replacing the majority of its 180,000-plus delivery vehicles, but cannot even start the process of doing that because it is basically insolvent.
Sensitive materials: 3D printing typically involves spraying heated resins or powders through a nozzle, making it ill suited to producing some items, the report notes. “For example, a dashboard GPS mount printed with plastic can become soft or melt down entirely in a vehicle left in the hot sun.” So what will happen to 3D-printed items sitting for hours in a postal delivery vehicle with no air conditioning in 110-degree weather?
In-home 3D: “Much of the buzz around 3D printing is based on the idea that people could one day use affordable, high quality in-home printers to make many, if not most, of the items they now purchase from retailers.” Though “improbable,” the report says, such a scenario “would be massively disruptive to the retail supply chain. It could lead to big cuts in brick-and-mortar and e-commerce sales, and a corresponding drop in the number of commercial packages shipped.”
Mindset: Can a government agency that runs on rules, regulations and adversarial labor-management relations be nimble enough to thrive in a growing, unpredictable industry? After living hand-to-mouth for several years, can the Postal Service think in terms of investing, long-range planning, taking risks, and being willing to make mistakes? Can an agency that sees “penalties as a revenue stream” build the kind of business partnerships that may be necessary to carry out the Inspector General’s vision?
Lobbying: If there’s profit to be made from providing real estate and logistics services to 3D printing, you can bet that private businesses will try to block “unfair” competition from the Postal Service.
More lobbying: Perhaps USPS can make money from 3D printing in ways that private enterprise cannot – such as from deliveries to residential areas and acting as a trusted intermediary. But if 3D printing really starts disrupting major industries, you can bet that the likes of Walmart and ToysRUs will not sit by idly while a government agency aids and abets that disruption. 3D Printing Lobbying will grow and grow.
Now, picture the following scenario:
You get a full 3 dimensional scan of your complete body geometry. One day there is an accident and unfortunately you lose an ear or some other part of your body. Still, nothing that you really should worry about: Your doctor opens up your unique body geometry back up file, selects the exact specs on the missing body part and prints out a brand new ear which is virtually identical to the one you just lost. This may well be the future of organ and body-part replacement technologies produced by the latest breakthroughs in reconstructive medicine and bio-printing. Is there a 3D Printing Chamber of Commerce?
Police told media in Japan that Imura was not aware that it was illegal to produce the guns, even though no bullets were found for the guns. The 3D printer was purchased online for 60,000 yen (600 USD) and the blueprints for the guns were found on an overseas website. According to ANN News, Yoshitomo Imura allegedly downloaded gun blueprints from a foreign site and then printed the resin guns with his 3D printer. Imura had apparently uploaded videos to YouTube in which he fired off what looks to be a 3D printed pistol. Last month, police seized five 3D printed guns from Imura’s Kawasaki City home.
The Japanese government did not give 3d printing lobby an official comment yet.
Is there a chance? Will 3D printing take everyone out of business? Here are two industries that are worth examining.
Not only companies like UPS, FedEX and DHL will need to pay close attention, but container cargo shipping companies like NYK, Evergreen Marine, and CMA-CGM need to watch out as well. As 3D printers creep their way into homes, businesses, and office supply stores, while the technology quickly advances, there will come a time when it may be cheaper to simply download a file off the internet, and have a product printed at home or a local 3D printing hub. Naturally this will cut down, perhaps significantly on the number of items being shipped. We would become a society demanding raw materials, rather than one demanding finished goods. The main shipping companies, like FedEx and UPS can expand their in store 3D printing facebook page offerings to try and counter some of these changes. Container shipping companies will likely need to concentrate on the shipment of raw materials, but ultimately they will suffer the most, as the market for such materials pales in comparison to that of finished good.
2) Specialized Retail/ Department Stores
What happens when you can print out a toilet brush, picture frame, or trash can at home instead of having to run to Walmart, Target, or one of the dozens of other chain department stores? What may be good for the consumer, may be a nightmare for the shareholders and management of the various department stores and specialty stores out there. Eventually there will come a time when nearly anything can be produced from a 3D printer. When that time comes, how retail stores adapt will be key to just how severe a loss we could see across the entire retail industry. Companies can adapt, but ultimately money will be lost. What we could see are retail outlets setting aside areas within their stores to set up customization hubs. Within these hubs costumers can, with the help of specially trained service personnel, customize virtually any object they want and have it printed out while they are shopping. In this model we would see traditional retail outlets become hybrid stores/service bureaus.