In separate developments during the last week 3D printers have been demonstrated to print both guns and drugs. I just want to make it clear that this isn’t one super GTA: Vice City in-real-life enabling 3D printer but two ingenious uses of this new printing technology.
In the first reported use of a 3D printer to create a working firearm, HaveBlue, a member of gun forum AR15, showed off his handiwork, said to have fired over 200 rounds of live ammunition and still be fully operational. He used an old Stratasys 3D printer from the 1990s to create the .22 calibre machine pistol, pictured below. Following this successful test the same user built the upper half of a rifle of a similar calibre. He chose gun designs that are known for imparting little force to the gun construction elements while firing. Designing an unsuitable style of gun or making errors in the printing and finishing could cause the gun to explode in your hand, not nice. We recommend you don’t try this at home.
Professor Lee Cronin leads a team of 45 researchers at Glasgow University in aiming to perfect a 3D printer that could print out any drug we need. The “chemputer” the team use for their testing is based upon a £1,200 3D printer which uses a bathroom sealant base material upon which to print the chemical drug ingredients. Prof Cronin says “With a printer it should be possible that with a relatively small number of inks you can make any organic molecule”. The inks are simple organic molecules which can be used to make up different, more complex, organic molecules. In the future people will be able to download a recipe/blueprint/template/app for the required drug and print out what is required.
The Glasgow team is currently working on the chemical app for Ibuprofen. In chemistry there are more factors to consider than simply the ingredients; heat, pressure and light can be important factors in a reaction. Resultant drugs will have to be quality checked and the machine maintained to a high degree to prevent misprints… A printer head blockage could potentially be fatal. A packet of 16 generic Ibuprofen tablets in supermarkets is currently only 30p.