When the world’s first 3D-printed gun was successfully demonstrated and then uploaded to the Internet last May, the reactions were even more polarized than the usual gun control debate: Firearm fans were so excited they downloaded the printable gun, dubbed the Liberator by its creator Cody Wilson, 100,000 times in two days. The State department tried–and mostly failed–to pull the blueprints off the Web. Congressmen declared it a terrorist threat that requires new legislation.
Kyle McDonald’s take on the Liberator was rather different: He turned it into a teapot.
Earlier this week McDonald, a Brooklyn-based artist and a member of the hacker art collective Free Art and Technology Lab, revealed a collection of “absurd variations” on the 3D-printed gun that he says are meant to undermine its grave depictions as either a security threat to be feared or a tool of liberation to be championed. “My motivation was basically to break down the fear with humor, to get people to kind of remember that this file is out there and that everyone has access to it, that we can take it into our own hands,” he says.
Anyone, after all, can download the Liberator file, alter it, and print it with whatever tweaks they please, whether that’s adding rifling to the gun’s barrel or converting it into a crucifix, as McDonald did in with one design. He writes in a blog post about his project that “there’s nothing sacred or singular about ‘that 3d printed gun file’… it’s something that can be remixed, appropriated, redirected, repurposed…treated critically, carefully, humorously, seriously.”
Here’s the original Liberator, along with a few of McDonald’s creations.
McDonald’s full collection is here.
He says he plans to upload the full set to the 3D-printing file repository Thingiverse, so that anyone can download the designs or continue to remix them. But McDonald warns that some of the files may not be easily printable due to their strange geometries. And Thingiverse may also remove the files; Makerbot, which owns the site and was acquired by 3D printing firm Stratasys earlier this year, started enforcing a policy in late 2012 of purging Thingiverse of all gun and gun component files.
McDonald isn’t the first to remix the Liberator, either. Others have shown in photos and YouTube videos that they’ve adapted the gun to use different calibers of ammunition and even printed a working firearm on a $1,725 3D printer rather than far more expensive Stratasys Dimension SST Wilson used. But McDonald, who says he’d rather “live in a world where no one owns or has an incentive to own a weapon,” hopes that his redesigns will defuse the idea of 3D printed guns, not improve them.
“We [at the Free Arts and Technology Lab] should have made this three years ago and released it as something both dangerous and humorous,” says McDonald. “Instead we waited for someone who’s radically pro-weapon to take control of it to the extent they have…So we want to take control a little bit and guide the conversation.”
McDonald also downplays the practicality of anyone actually printing and using the Liberator for real violence, noting the technical expertise required to assemble the gun and pointing to a test by Australian police in which the gun exploded when fired. ”Technically, 3D-printed guns are problematic,” he says. “But they are a cultural provocation, and that’s how we should engage with them.”
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Andy Greenberg, Forbes Staff, “ Here Are Five Absurd Redesigns Of The 3D-Printed Gun ”, Technology|Security, Forbes
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