Local makerspace executive director reacts to 3D printed gun controversy

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- There’s a lot of conversation surrounding 3D printed guns. Earlier this week, a company was planning to upload a blueprint people could download to print the weapons.

A judge put a restraining order on the plans, but there are more court hearings later this month on the issue.

At Forge Greensboro you can really get creative. They offer the tools people can use from metalworking, to sewing, 3D printing and much more.

“We often have people come in here and they see the 3D printer, or the CNC tools, or the laser tools and it’s almost like magic,” Forge Greensboro Executive Director Joe Rotundi said.

There are four different 3D printers available for people to use there. They are different styles and some are more expensive and advanced than others. Using them is not as easy as just clicking a print button.

“You start with a CAD, a computer aided design, and you design a three-dimensional image, and then you put that into a CAN program, which translates that three-dimensional image into something that the machine can read and work off of,” Rotundi said.

It’s a complicated process that takes a lot of skill.

Joe says when you’re trying to print something potentially dangerous like a firearm, it needs to be precise.

“The most likely scenario of someone making their own firearm is that they just created a little hand grenade that may injure them, even if they’re not using it for nefarious reasons,” he said.

Part of the problem is the material. It’s printing with plastic that was heated up in order to create the object.

“When you make an explosion you’re heating something up, it damages that material,” Rotundi said.

Damaging the material could wind up leaving you seriously injured.

“If you don’t make it right, it can blow up in your hand and seriously injure you and the people around you. So we don’t want to be held liable for that sort of occurrence,” he said.

Rotundi says for people who want to create a firearm on their own, there are other safer and legal options out there.

“For 30 years people have been able to make firearms in their home, relatively easily with some machining equipment,” he said.

Overall, Rotundi says 3D printing a weapon could be dangerous and it’s not a very reliable way.

At Forge, there are rules in place limiting members from making any weapons or something potentially dangerous.