Defense Distributed is already controversial for its plans to release 3-D printable gun part templates as freely as possible, but the non-profit has now added another level of intrigue to its operations: It’s going to announce a spinoff startup company, hosted at Defcad.com, that will, for profit, create a searchable 3-D gun parts database.
The intention, cofounder Cody Wilson revealed at SXSW, is to directly enable home-based 3-D printing enthusiasts to create their own gun parts. Defcad.com will also play host to non-gun 3-D printing templates, but the gun designs are an example, the company hopes, that demonstrates the anti-censorship stance Defcad will take.
Thingiverse, the 3-D model repository hosted by market-leading 3-D printer firm Makerbot, decided in late 2012 that it would not allow models for real firearms into its database and moved to delete some that were already hosted. Driven by moves such as these, there are already discussions in Congress about potentially regulating the 3-D printing industry, although the exact mechanism for this remains unclear.
Is this printable guns move a brave, disruptive trick by a company working at the cutting edge? Or is it an irresponsible move? How will customers respond in the post-Newtown era?