VIDEO-Police warn public over 3D printer guns - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Updated May 24, 2013 23:08:00

New South Wales police have warned the public against trying to manufacture plastic guns using new 3-D printers. Authorities around the world are trying to stop computer models of hand guns being distributed over the internet but files have already been downloaded by over one hundred thousand people.

John Stewart

Source: Lateline | Duration: 3min 43sec

Topics:computers-and-technology, nsw


EMMA ALBERICI, REPORTER: New South Wales police have warned the public against trying to manufacture plastic guns using new 3D printers.

Authorities around the world are trying to stop downloadable blueprints of handguns being distributed over the Internet.

But the online plans have already been acquired by over 100,000 people.

John Stewart reports.

JOHN STEWART, REPORTER: It's called the liberator. A plastic gun made by a 3D printer. 3D printers cost under $1,500 and work by spraying down layer upon layer of plastic to form an object. Plans of the objects can be downloaded over the Internet. The model of this handgun has been obtained by more than 100,000 people around the world.

ANDREW SCIPIONE, NSW POLICE COMMISSIONER: That weapon cost us approximately $35 to make. We made that on a base entry-level 3D printer.

JOHN STEWART: The New South Wales police today warned the public against making or using plastic guns.

ANDREW SCIPIONE: Make no mistake about it, not only are these things undetectable, untraceable, cheap and easy to make, but they will kill.

WAYNE HOFFMAN, DET INSPECTOR, NSW POLICE: It penetrated approximately 17 cm into the gelatine block which is about six-and-thee-quarter inches and that would've been a fatal wound if it was pointed at someone.

JOHN STEWART: Police have received information that plastic bullets can also be made by 3D printers and say that making or using a plastic gun in Australia is illegal.

ANDREW SCIPIONE: If you are thinking about even considering making one of these weapons you need to understand that not only are they illegal, but they are enormously dangerous.

JOHN STEWART: The Liberator is only a single shot handgun but the plastic guns are difficult to detect and are becoming a threat to airport security. Authorities are concerned that gun owners may modify bigger weapons, making firearms fully automatic by printing their own gun parts.

Home-made plastic landmines or grenades may also become a security problem. As 3D printers begin to simplify weapons production.

BRUCE JACKSON, 3D PRINTING SYSTEMS: Simplification, that's all that 3D printing is bringing to the party, is a simpler way of making parts, whether it's a gun or whether it's a landmine or whatever type you shape you use, it's determined on the materials you use and the processes so yes it does make it easier.

JOHN STEWART: Bruce Jackson operates a 3D printer business in Australia and New Zealand.

BRUCE JACKSON, 3D PRINTING SYSTEMS: This is gonna be printing a bearing. So what you see on the computer screen, that's what it's gonna print. It's gonna print all the balls inside the bearing race and it will come off the printer just like that and it will be a working bearing.

JOHN STEWART: He says the vast majority of objects being made by 3D printers are beneficial to society, from human body parts used by doctors to spare parts for consumer goods.

BRUCE JACKSON: I fixed my dishwasher at home. A plastic clip had broken, a 10-year-old dishwasher. I can't find that part any more. Just drawn it up, printed it out, very easy to do. And it's - and it works and it only cost me $1.20 to make that part.

JOHN STEWART: More expensive are the new 3D titanium printers, which can make complex metal objects.

Bruce Jackson says they cost about $1 million. Fortunately, the printers are still too expensive for those in the market for cheap, home-made guns.

John Stewart, Lateline.