10 Ways 3-D Printing Could Change the World



Walter Klassen holds a fantasy gun that actually fires blanks, which he created on his 3-D printer. © David Cooper/ZUMA Press/Corbis
Walter Klassen holds a fantasy gun that actually fires blanks, which he created on his 3-D printer. © David Cooper/ZUMA Press/Corbis

In 2013, an activist in Texas with anarchist philosophical views made headlines by creating a 3-D-printed handgun called the Liberator and successfully firing it at a private range. The maker was careful to include a metal part to comply with a federal ban on plastic handguns that might slip through airport security. Nevertheless, the Liberator seemed intended to demonstrate the ultimate futility of government-imposed gun control, in a future in which it would be easy to distribute blueprints for DIY weapons via the Internet [source: Silverman].

Indeed, just a year later, authorities in Japan—a country with restrictive gun control laws—arrested a 27-year-old man for allegedly possessing five plastic handguns, created from plans he had downloaded off the Internet [source: Kravets]. Wired reported in 2014 that DIY gun makers had learned to use 3-D printing to create "powerful, military-grade firearms, and that it would be "only a matter of time until fully-printed guns are equally durable and deadly" as those made in conventional factories.

Author's Note: 10 Ways 3-D Printing Could Change the World

I think 3-D printers will revolutionize our society, in part by decentralizing manufacturing and speeding innovation. Already, in communities across the country, it's possible to join a "maker space," AKA "hacker space" or "hacklab," a sort of co-working space in which people who want to make their own products can share 3-D printers and other industrial-grade equipment.

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3-D-Printed Houses Could Revolutionize Affordable Housing

3-D-Printed Houses Could Revolutionize Affordable Housing

HowStuffWorks checks out technology firm ICON and nonprofit New Story, who have developed a low-cost 3-D-printed house.