3D printers manufacture three-dimensional products by laying down a series of thin plastic or metal in one layer at a time. The 3D printing technology is stunning in its potential to empower individuals. Unfortunately the state knows its power as well. The race is on.

Whose Hand Will be on the Power?

On February 1st, Ars Technica ran the headline, “Robohand: How cheap 3D printers built a replacement hand for a five-year old boy.” Two men – one in Washington State and the other in South Africa – used open source software to design a series of mechanical hands for a boy whose family could not afford a commercial prosthetic. The men published the design as a digital file to be used by 3D printers in order to benefit others in need.

As generations of 3D printers improve in quality and decrease in cost, average people will become private manufacturers who fill their own needs. One need might well be a gun, which could make gun control all but impossible to enforce efficiently. Indeed, a group called Defense Distributed have already “printed” a plastic high capacity ammunition magazine (pictured here) – the sort the government is threatening to ban; the group claims to have successfully fired at least 86 rounds through it.

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