3D Printing

3D-printed pistol survives test firing

3D-printed pistol survives tes...
The 3D printed single-shot Liberator pistol in test fire mount (Photo: Defense Distributed)
The 3D printed single-shot Liberator pistol in test fire mount (Photo: Defense Distributed)
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.38 caliber Liberator barrel after firing (Photo: Defense Distributed)
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.38 caliber Liberator barrel after firing (Photo: Defense Distributed)
The plastic parts for the Liberator pistol before assembly (Photo: Defense Distributed)
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The plastic parts for the Liberator pistol before assembly (Photo: Defense Distributed)
Liberator pistol following test firing (Photo: Defense Distributed)
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Liberator pistol following test firing (Photo: Defense Distributed)
Upper Liberator exploded when fired with a 5.7x28 rifle cartridge (Photo: Defense Distributed)
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Upper Liberator exploded when fired with a 5.7x28 rifle cartridge (Photo: Defense Distributed)
The 3D printed single-shot Liberator pistol in test fire mount (Photo: Defense Distributed)
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The 3D printed single-shot Liberator pistol in test fire mount (Photo: Defense Distributed)

The potential for 3D-printed guns has (unsurprisingly) generated a great deal of controversy, and the Liberator is no exception. Named after the WWII single shot pistol, this 3D-printed .380 caliber pistol is made almost entirely of plastic and looks more like a nozzle for a water hose than a gun. The weapon has survived multiple firings with very little damage, inspiring enough confidence that designer Cody Wilson has now tested the gun by hand.

The Liberator has 16 parts, 15 of which are 3D printed in ABS plastic by a Stratasys Dimension SST printer. (Stratasys took the step of seizing a printer leased to Wilson's group last year when it was made aware of what the printer was being used for, stating in a letter, "it is the policy of Stratasys not to knowingly allow its printer to be used for illegal purposes.") The 16th part is a nail, which serves as a firing pin. At present, only a precision 3D printer can form parts with the tolerances and precise temperature control needed to produce a gun that can survive multiple firings.

Liberator pistol following test firing (Photo: Defense Distributed)
Liberator pistol following test firing (Photo: Defense Distributed)

The design requires that the parts be printed in various orientations to take advantage of the directional strength of 3D-printed plastic. This means, for example, that a barrel is printed with the bore pointing along the growth direction, while an assembly pin is printed on its side, so it has maximum strength along its length.

The bore of the Liberator is treated with acetone vapor, which softens the surface enough to smooth the bore. Another important process condition is that the print chamber is heated to improve resiliency.

Upper Liberator exploded when fired with a 5.7x28 rifle cartridge (Photo: Defense Distributed)
Upper Liberator exploded when fired with a 5.7x28 rifle cartridge (Photo: Defense Distributed)

There are, of course, limits to material strength when one is restricted to ABS plastic without fiber reinforcement. The Liberator functions well with the .380 barrel, but an attempt to substitute a 5.7 x 28 rifle cartridge caused the gun to explode – perhaps not a surprising result considering the 5.7 x 28 round has 2.5 times the chamber pressure of the .380 cartridge.

Adding to concerns over what are effectively undetectable and untraceable guns, Wilson's Defense Distributed group is now trying to adapt the Liberator design to entry-level 3D printers. The editors at Wired take the potential disruption of these so called "Wiki weapons" seriously enough to name Wilson among the 15 most dangerous people in the world.

The gun can be seen in use in the video below.

Update 05/10/13: At the request of the US Department of State Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, the Liberator 3D print files have been removed from Defense Distributed's Defcad.org website (Source: Forbes)

Source: Defense Distributed via Forbes

Liberator - Dawn of the Wiki Weapons

26 comments
Paul van Dinther
"...among the 15 most dangerous people in the world." That is crazy. There is no security in obscurity. If anything Wilson makes the world a safer place to show how an undetectable gun can be made using a simple 3D printer. Besides, a stronger gun can be made using plastics and more conventional production techniques already.
Daishi
With a draft out there I am sure people will have improved versions floating around in a couple weeks. It would probably hold up for a while to 22LR rounds.
Threesixty
Details such as the projectile material and weight, and muzzle velocity, will give a more complete picture as to how dangerous this thing really is. Simply going 'bang' will no doubt scare many people, and I would not want to be at the receiving end even if the projectile was made of wax. A metal liberator or zip gun can be made for a fraction of the cost of a 3D printer, but people today are more conversant with computers and software than hacksaws and files.
GrantH
This really annoys me! I don't want 3D printers to be regulated. When 3D printers become common in peoples homes, people will be going to the stores less and less as they print the things they need. How many people must be hoping for that to never happen? Printing guns just gives the powerful and greedy the excuse they need to end what could be the start of an enormous and much needed change to the global economic structure.
Roy Murray
This and haemorrhoid transplants will surely be known as towering achievements of mankind. Remember, guns don't kill people but printers will.
Edgar Castelo
"...among the 15 most dangerous people in the world." So Drug Cartels being supplied Firearms by Eric Holder was what, a joke?
Edgar Castelo
The Liberal Nonsense about guns: -They cannot eliminate Black Market, nobody can; So they just IGNORE Black Market. -They never admit Criminals have access to the best Guns in the Market, because they won't admit there are Criminals! -But any newfangled 3D printed Gun will instantaneously make a HUGE Army of gun-toting Maniacs. -Why? Because If it's not on the Net, it doesn't exist! LOL Well, the future of Clandestine Gun-making is not toys made from Plastic, but the Guns Criminal are NOW making, in large numbers, with 19th Century Hobby technology.
Nathan Jeffree
just think...If the whole world had no guns if the people have the need to rise up against their Government. Now they have the means to do it if that time comes.... Personally i hate war and violence. Guns ARE bad. But like all thing. There is a time and a place.
William Carr
"So Drug Cartels being supplied Firearms by Eric Holder was what, a joke? Edgar Castelo" Drug Cartels were, and ARE, buying guns by the case. The ATF and the FBI were limited to watching, helplessly; Bush instituted a Federal "gun-tracking" policy but Arizona Law allows anybody to buy all the guns they want as long as they promise not to resell them. Of course, the "Straw Buyers" immediately did that. Finally, somebody in the Arizona Bureau cracked and tried "gun walking", injecting a few guns into the endless stream and tracking them with the vain hope of catching the end buyer. Don't pretend this had any effect on the ability of drug lords to get guns. You'd make a fool of yourself that way. And don't pretend Eric Holder had anything to do with it. He was cleared in the subsequent investigation, although the panel slammed him for letting agents go rogue.
BeWalt
This is neither changing anything nor making it impossible to outlaw guns, which, by the way, they should be. Over one million people shot dead with guns since 1980 in the U.S., whom are we kidding? Guns can be made on metal lathes that can be found in many hobbyist's garages. But nobody would outlaw metal lathes. Just outlaw guns! It can be done as many other countries in the world prove. Two-shot hunting rifles, fine. But anything else, go away. Move to Somalia, you'll need a gun there. Gun clowns love it there, and nobody has to pay taxes. Bombs can be made from fertilizer but nobody would outlaw fertilizer. Just bombs are illegal. Seriously, it can be done!