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3-D Printed Guns Are Officially Affordable

Steve Heller
May 22, 2013

If you thought it was impressive and unsettling when Defense Distributed manufactured the "Liberator," a functional 3-D printed plastic gun, earlier this month with the help of anĀ $8,000 Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS) industrial 3-D printer, wait until you see what a hobbyist created with an off-the-shelf, $1,725 consumer 3-D printer and $25 of materials.

Dubbed the "Lulz Liberator", the gun's parts were printed on a $1,725 Lulzbot AO-101 3-D printer and the plastic barrel lasted eight rounds before needing to be replaced for the ninth fire. Surprisingly, the at-home version of this gun preformed better than the original Liberator, which needed a replacement barrel after each fire. The anonymous creator of the Lulz Liberator believes that the ABS plastic he used was stronger than the plastic used in making the Stratasys Liberator. Even with this advantage, the Lulz Liberator still managed to misfire on several occasions and the spent round had to be removed with a hammer.

Printing Pandora's box
Before the Lulz Liberator was born, some critics dismissed the threat of 3-D printed firearms, citing a lack of practicality and a high barrier of entry associated with purchasing an $8,000 industrial-grade 3-D printer. Naturally, this argument isn't holding as much water now, given the fact that anyone with the right grade of ABS plastic filament and access to a consumer 3-D printer under $2,000 can in theory start making firearms.

Here's looking at you, 3D Systems
Of the publicly traded 3-D printing companies, 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD) has the biggest interest in the consumer-oriented 3-D printing segment with its Cube line of 3-D printers. Starting at a palatable price of $1,299, it