3-D Printer Threat - KAUZ-TV: Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

3-D Printer Threat

3-D Printer Threat

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3-D printing technology is quickly becoming more and more advanced. Today these printers are able to create everything from food to make-up. Medical doctors are currently testing the technology to make spare human organs.

However, some are using the new machines to create their very own firearms. Special Agent Chris Amon works for the The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Special Agent Amon says there is nothing illegal about making a firearm for personal use. It's a problem when when someone starts manufacturing and selling the weapons without ATF approval.

"If it comes to the point where you're engaged in the business of manufacturing, sale or distribution of firearms, you must be licensed by the ATF," said Special Agent Amon.

Just a year ago the issue of 3-D printed firearms was addressed by the U.S. Congress. It was decided that a minimum 3.7 ounces of metal must be present in any firearm that is ever produced.

"It's kind of a complicated way of saying that it has to be detectable by a metal detecting technology," said Amon.

There are still other aspects about the new industry that worry the ATF. Last year the bureau did field testing of various plastics that could be used to make a 3-D plastic gun. Multiple plastics were used with various results.

"The Visijet family of plastics exploded upon firing," said Amon. "ABS family of plastics were able to fire a total of eight rounds of  380 ammunition. At that time we stopped the test and the firearm was still intact."

The 3-D printers can be purchased online. Many major retailers are selling the products including Best Buy. Amon says that if people are purchasing the products to produce weapons they should be careful.

"Any technology has the ability to be dangerous. You can use this type of technology in education," said Steve Haviland of Think of IT.

Haviland says that there is a lot of good that can come out of this technology. In the future Haviland envisions the printers being as commonplace as their paper printing counterparts. One day schools could take advantage of this technology.

"This great pyramid of Giza model are educational. You can have kids hold it, feel it, see what it's all about," said Haviland.

Only time will tell if the good of this technology outweighs the negative impacts it could have.

Jack Carney, Newschannel 6