We’ve recently seen media attention given to 3D printing of firearms, yet the overwhelming majority, including legislators, are clueless as to what 3D printing is. So, before we start proselytizing and jumping out of tall buildings. I’d like to give you a layman’s understanding of this impressive technology.
Today most designers use CAD (computer aided design) software to develop the drawings and projections needed to produce a prototype and eventually a full blown production piece. In the past, drawings and projections were given to a machine shop so that molds, tools or what have you could be fabricated. As the technology progressed CAD drawings could be directly converted to machine language and loaded directly into say a CNC machine.
Today, a CAD drawing with its numerous layers (dimensions) can be printed on a 3D printer. Unlike conventional printers, the 3D printer does not use paper, instead it uses a polymer. Its output is an object, the exact representation and dimensions created in the CAD drawing, as opposed to a sheet of foil or paper.
Recently, young entrepreneurs have been diligently working on producing 3D printed firearm parts, accessories, components and complete functional firearms.
The technology has enormous potential especially in prototyping. 3D printing can literally reduce the time and cost to prototype by factors of ten. However, 3D printing is manufacturing, and manufacturing of a firearm requires special attention and adherence to National Firearms Act and other ATF administered regulations.
If you intend to manufacture firearms (as defined by law), as a business, you must obtain the appropriate Federal Firearms License (FFL). If you are manufacturing a firearm for yourself you must comply with NFA regulations and submit the appropriate paperwork to the ATF for approval. Failing to do that is a criminal offense.